This year’s theme is “The Story/The Stories.” Each week our blog will focus on a story from a youth minister. We hope these stories help inspire you in the great work you are doing, as well as let you know you aren’t alone in the crazy, sweet, often hard to fathom world of youth ministry. This week we are hearing……
The Story of the trip that almost did me in
Felicia Fox is the Associate Pastor of Students & Families at First Baptist Mount Olive. She is a graduate of the M. Christopher White School of Divinity at Gardner-Webb University. She enjoys helping young people see God in their everyday lives, painting, attending roller derbies, and playing with her three dogs.
This is the story of the youth mission trip that almost did me in. It was 2012 and I took a group of 23 youth, college students, and adults to Atlanta, GA for a week of missions. We worked hard, had lots of fun, and experienced God in ways we didn’t expect. Most of the trip was a success but not all of it.
We spent Wednesday morning working at a homeless shelter in downtown Atlanta. We had groups help with food, cleaning cots, doing landscaping, and childcare. I got to witness two middle schoolers on their first mission trip pray and hug a homeless lady whose sister had just attempted suicide. It was a holy moment and one that I will never forget. You could feel the faith pouring out of my students as they truly embraced the woman who just needed to be loved and comforted.
Our next stop for the day was The Breman Museum of Jewish Heritage. We spent the afternoon talking with a holocaust survivor and touring the museum. It was a sobering experience but important for our group as we spend the trip thinking about God’s love for all and social justice issues.
After we left we got stuck in rush hour traffic in our church bus. The longer we sit in traffic the hotter the bus got. It didn’t take us long to figure out the air conditioning in the bus was not working. None of the windows but the driver’s would roll down. It became very hot in the bus very fast. It was almost unbearable.
The next morning after dropping everyone but one adult off at the homeless shelter I took the bus to two mechanics. That’s when I learned that our bus had been damaged. Someone had stolen the Freon from our bus and in the process cracked part of the air conditioning that neither of the mechanics could fix.
We were six hours away from home and suppose to leave the next day to return home. I spent the rest of the day on the phone working out a rental van to take everyone home. The only option for renting to us was the airport since we would not be returning it to Atlanta. That night the youth and I went to a minor league soccer game while other adults when to pick up the rental at the airport. We ended up spending most of the night huddled under bleachers in a rainstorm waiting on the rental. After the rain did stop the game started again. I’ll admit it was a nice break to just have some fun with my students. Laughing in the rain was a nice change to stressing over the bus.
The rental and our back up car was big enough to take everyone home the next day but me and one of the college interns. She and I drove the bus back in July from Atlanta with no air conditioning. The six hour drive took us about eight. We got stuck in construction and had to stop to reload on bottled water and ice cream. It was our only way of staying somewhat cool. I also got to experience what heat exhausting felt like.
That mission trip is one everyone who went will always remember. We framed the rag we found hanging out of the broken air conditioning, a photo of our group, and an extra mission trip shirt in our youth room. I won’t only remember the struggles with the bus but I’ll remember the moments I saw God. It happened as youth prayed, played, and worked with the homeless. It happened as a woman taught my youth to sing an old spiritual song in a food pantry. It happed as we sit in silence in Ebenezer Baptist Church listening to a recording of Dr. King. It happened as youth ate lunch beside men in a recovery program for drugs and alcohol. It happened over and over again on that trip even if it did almost do me in and for that I’m thankful.