I just got back from a mission trip with a group from church. We traveled even further Up North to a very cool part of the country. There were plans to take two 15 passenger vans, a 7 passenger minivan and a cargo van for our luggage. But, a day or two before we left, the rental company realized they wouldn't be able to get us a 2nd 15 passenger van, so they offered us 2 minivans instead. So we ended up taking 5 vehicles on this trip.
Picking them up was quite a fiasco, too, because it took them longer than they expected to get the 15 passenger van to the office where we would be picking them up. We were to pick them up a week ago Saturday, and the company is only open until noon on Saturdays. However, it was also the weekend of our big community festivities, and there was a parade and our mission trip group was supposed to walk in the parade and we needed to be lined up by noon. Finally, even though they didn't have the 15 passenger van, we drove up to their office (in a suburb about 20 minutes up the road) and one of our drivers (my good friend Mr Too Cool) ended up having to ride with one of the rental company employees to another suburb even further up the road to get the 15 passenger van. Which meant that he was not back with anywhere close to enough time to watch the parade with his family. But, we got the vans and they were all here in enough time for us to load our bags into them at about 4pm that afternoon.
We ended up leaving a week ago today at about 5 in the morning. Although we didn't take into consideration that we'd be crossing over a time zone and therefore losing an hour in our trip. So we cut it a lot closer than we would have preferred. But, we ended up arriving right before supper started, and we lugged all of our bags into the church where we'd be staying, and then sat down for a meal of pizza, where the mission site staff challenged the three church groups that were there by saying no group had ever eaten all of the pizzas on the first night. Well, that was all the encouragement my group needed and, wouldn't you know it, we totally devoured all of the pizza. There are several young people in my group who are notorious for their eating ability. One of them even beat one of the staff members to a Lil' Smokey eating contest later in the week.
We were all split up into seven different work crews and our time was split between work sites, which included helping out at the local Salvation Army, or several nursing homes, or helping with odd jobs at various peoples houses, and most of us got the opportunity to help out at an afternoon program for neighborhood kids. One of the work sites that my crew went to was to help paint the house of a man named Chuck. He was an older gentleman who quickly became one of my favorite people. You see, we hadn't been planning on going over to his house to work. It was expected that the work crew that had been at his place on Monday and Tuesday would finish up all the painting, but one day it rained and washed away quite a bit of their progress. And, due to the schedule set up by the organization, they were needed at the afternoon program for the kids on Wednesday and Thursday and were therefore unable to get back to finish up their work. And since they thought it would only take two days to finish, no one was scheduled to come to his place the next two days. Well, my crew finished our work earlier than expected, so we ended up going over to Chuck's before lunch on Thursday. We told him we already had our lunches, but before we knew it, he was pulling into the driveway after going to pick us up several pizzas. And then he brought out some homemade rhubarb crisp and strawberry shortcake (made with homegrown rhubarb and strawberries), and some soda pop. He apologized and said that was all we got when we got there on such short notice. We told him it was great, and more than we were expecting!
I ended up helping to paint his front stairs, and he pulled up a lawn chair to sit in the shade of the tree in the frontyard, and we got to chatting. Chuck is a great man with a big, generous heart. He grows tulips in his yard, and ends up clipping them all and taking them to several of the nursing homes in the area. He's got a massive garden in his backyard, and most of the produce is given away. I told Mr Too Cool that I was going to start a garden in my yard next year and that he and Mrs Too Cool were going to help me with it. I think he agreed.
Chuck also had a great sense of humor. The two girls on our crew got a little crazy with the paint, and one of the girls ended up having a leg painted entirely blue. Chuck came up to her and said, "You know that's latex paint. Good luck getting that off." The girl's jaw dropped. The girl next to her looked with horror at the paint on her arm. I chimed in, "Yeah, it's gonna look like you have leggings on for a while." Then, the girl with the paint on her arm started to rub her arm and said, "No it's not, it's coming off right now!" Chuck's mouth spread into this immense grin and we both started laughing. As we were leaving he told one of our boys to not do "any of that beat boxing" on the way home, for the sake of the other people in the van.
This was the largest crew that our church has brought on one of these mission trips. In the past three years that we've been doing them, the group has gotten progressively larger. There was talk that, for next summer, we'd plan two mission trips - one for our junior highers and one for our senior highers. But we will have to see how that goes.
Anyway, I'm glad to be back, to be able to sit in my living room in front of the air conditioner, to watch TV and get on the internet. But I miss the scenery, the people that I met, and the knowledge that everyday I'd be doing something meaningful and helpful for people. Not that I don't do something meaningful or helpful everyday, but at least on the mission trip there were more quantifiable results. Maybe I need to figure out ways to do things that are similarly helpful and meaningful everyday here in my regular life.