For those of you who were unaware, I had the incredible opportunity to go to New York City for Spring Break with the Wesley Foundation at UGA. To say that God moved would be a severe understatement. Some of you may have received letters giving you a simplified version of our trip, but I will spell out the details here in hopes that it will encourage your hearts even more.
We left Friday, March 11th at 7AM.
I should probably define “we.”
“We” was a group of 15 college-age students. 10 girls, 5 guys (I must say, 2:1 odds is pretty good). To be honest we did not really know each other when we packed ourselves in our 15-passenger van. Sure, we had met weekly throughout the previous months to pray for various things, but we knew little more than the basics about each other. As someone on the trip rightly put it, we had actually come on the trip in pairs; everyone had their friend as a comfort blanket.
So we set out from Athens–all 15 of us with our luggage in a trailer behind the van. We did not have the grand illusion to make the entire trip to New York in one day. We planned to stay the night in Washington D.C. at a church on Friday night then travel the remainder of the way on Saturday.
We pulled into D.C. around 7PM. After 12 hours (plus frequent restroom stops for the girls), we were ready to get out of the van.
There was a funny thing that happened though.
During our meetings leading up to the trip, we never really had a time to “bond” as a team. It just did not work out with everyone’s schedule. Our leaders knew this and persistently asked us to pray for unity for our team on this trip. I actually assumed we would just click, but as we boarded the bus in the early morning I realized it had to do more than click if everyone was going to set foot in New York alive.
Amazingly enough, it happened. We did click.
The first few hours everyone was still trying to feel each other out, what people liked, what people did not like, what annoyed people, what made them laugh. All of these thing were being established by the time we hit North Carolina. The drive and the close proximity to the others around you kind of forced your hand on a lot of things, but we laughed, smiled, nodded, listened, and talked our way through all those hours. We bonded fast and deep.
We made it to D.C. After burrito dinner, we hit the city for some night sightseeing in the Nation’s Capital. And by sightseeing I mean picture excursion that happened to have some national monuments in the background. We walked to the Washington Monument… took pictures. We walked to the Lincoln Memorial… took pictures. See a trend? Wherever we walked, you could hear us coming. 15 people walking, talking, laughing, screaming… just like you would expect best friends to act, even though we had really only known each other for a few hours.
We made the trek back to the church and turned in for the night. The next day we were going to do some daytime sightseeing since we could not check into our hostel in New York until the evening.
Looking back, I know I was still a little skeptical about the trip in general. We were told it was not going to be like traditional mission trips we might have been on in the past. We were not going to a third-world country ravaged by malnutrition, violence, and poverty. We were not going to build houses, infirmaries, or churches. In my head I had this preconceived idea that that was what mission trips were. We (the mission trip-ers) would come in, help those who were already there, get a moral and spiritual adrenaline shot in the arm, play with some kids, talk to some elderly people, gather cool stories, and go back home feeling accomplished. Even from day one, I could tell this was not going to be anywhere close to that picture.
To be honest, I was actually a little wary of actually being in New York. We had a very loose schedule. We were not working with one specific organization. I need structure to function. So, from the start, this trip stretched me. I was flying blind. All I knew was that I signed up to go to New York on a mission trip that was for the people of New York.
As I fell asleep on the floor of that church in Washington D.C., I had no idea what would happen the next morning–much less the next week. A comforting thought though: although I did not know the “plan,” God did. God had been preparing us for this week for weeks. God had been preparing the people of New York for weeks. No matter how lost or confused I felt, God had it all under control.
Looking back, He sure did.