Cactus, mountains, and beautiful sunsets: All memories of a trip I took last October. Upon exiting the Phoenix airport, I was immediately immersed into a new world, a new surrounding, and a new culture. As our bus pulled away, my anticipation of reaching our destination of Show Low, Arizona was rising.
Mid March of 2008, I was approached by my mother with the idea of her and me accompanying our church mission’s team on their annual mission’s trip to the Apache Indiana reservation in Show Low. A few months later, my mom and I had received $505 through private fundraising, five dollars exceeding the needed amount. Without any hesitation, we prepared to leave for the experience of my lifetime.
October 11 I woke up bright and early to add the finishing touches to my luggage and get to church to join the mission group. We were off. Five hours later we arrived in Phoenix. The scenery was beautiful! I remember it being bright and sunny, in contrast to the society we were about to spend 7 days with. The next morning we loaded up the van and started off to the reservation. Each day to follow, we would leave early to make the one hour commute to the reservation, and return “home” late in the evening. Hour after hour and day after day we painted walls, spent time playing and teaching children, got to know the local residents, and helped the missionaries with any work they needed done. Though it was exhausting, this work was the most meaningful work I have ever done. There is something about the feeling you get when you are helping other people that makes the work not seem nearly as intense.
Exactly one week later, we sadly said our goodbyes. It was extremely difficult to see the faces of so many unfortunate people begging for you to stay. A man by the name of Rudy came up to us right before we loaded the van and wanted a group picture with us. He said, “I really wish you all could stay longer. I can really see your group has impacted us all”. Rudy’s words stuck with me and nearly brought me to tears. How often does a person make such an impression that he/she is asked to stay in a culture he/she barely knows anything about? Furthermore, how often does a person get moved to tears by that request and know that he/she can never satisfy the wish? Saying goodbye to all the Apache people was one of the most challenging parts of the trip.
After spending the night in Phoenix with the group, I finally arrived back home along with memories that will never be forgotten. I learned many lessons. The Apache people are one of the poorest cultures in the country. With 14,000 people living on the reservation, there is not enough work for everyone. With the poverty rate where it is, comes a sense of little hope. There is a high rate of crime, alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, teen pregnancy, high school drop outs and suicide. This poor and hopeless society helped me understand history’s impact on the Indians. Visiting the Apache people in Show Low, Arizona helped me see that there are people in the United States just as unfortunate as those in other countries, and these people need our help. My outlook will forever be changed, and perspective forever put in place. This trip was an experience of a lifetime, and I encourage all teenagers to take any opportunity to go help a community less fortunate than theirs.
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