In June 2008, twenty-six pairs of tired and excited eyes waited for departure. We circled up to pray for a safe journey and changed lives. Three vans pulled out of the church parking lot around six o’clock that morning to start our thirteen hour drive to Knoxville, Tennessee. We soon discovered what this trip would mean to our group, the things we would enjoy, and what we were able to learn during this week in God’s country.
This mission trip was the most spiritual trip I have participated in. I was privileged to watch God work in the lives of those around me, and in my own heart. We were able to take part in many life changing experiences. This meant getting out of our comfort zone while we served the homeless, and doing something extraordinary when we performed random acts of grace around downtown Knoxville. Our trip to Tennessee meant different things to each person on the trip. The most important thing our group learned was to trust in God. We trusted God when we went rock climbing, when we were white water rafting, and as we drove through the twisting mountain roads every day on the way to our destination. This trip meant trusting God with everything and not holding back.
Just as we held back nothing in our trust of God, we also gave our full effort to the tasks we were assigned. We enjoyed every part of the challenge and excitement that each day held. Our second day in Knoxville we learned that we would be assisting special needs workers at Appalachian Industries. Appalachian Industries gives the mentally handicapped a job to provide them with an opportunity to support themselves. This was definitely out of the comfort zone for many of us. We soon got to know the people there and began to enjoy our time spent with the special needs workers. This was a favorite part of the trip for everyone.
This week was life altering in many ways, but one day stands out more than the others. It was the last full day and we were scheduled to visit a nursing home in Knoxville. When we arrived we did not anticipate anything life changing, but the simple building was deceiving and held more than one could expect. Inside was a room full of elderly people starving for attention. Our assignment was to play bingo with them, but the simple game turned to conversations you would never dream of hearing. I was talking to an elderly woman named Elizabeth. She was in a wheel chair and suddenly she started talking about how she wished she could walk. She told me about when she fell down and broke both her shoulders. She said she had been in bed so long that her legs had forgotten how to walk. This one conversation with an elderly woman was able to teach me to be thankful for what I have. All my life I have been told to be thankful, but in a small room and a single conversation with a woman named Elizabeth, I was able to truly realize how fortunate I am.
This was one week of our lives, but we were able to learn many life lessons. Serving the homeless, helping the mentally handicapped, and spending an afternoon playing bingo have opened the eyes of twenty-six young people to the needs of this world. The lessons learned this week were ones that could not be acquired from someone telling you about them, the only way is to truly experience it yourself.
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