The summer of 2007 – the summer after my freshman year. My youth group at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church decided that we would take our mission trip that summer to the gloriously humid city of New Orleans. I had been on various trips in the past – from Alabama to Michigan to Arkansas – but I had never been to a city that was quite like New Orleans. We arrived at our destination (a mission in the middle of a not-so-nice part of town) around midnight. We scurried into the mission and the manager quickly locked the door. At that moment, we knew we were in for quite an experience.
There were so many amazing things in the city that I had never seen anything like before. We participated in the usual tourist activities, like eating at the House of Blues and driving over the massive bridge over the Mississippi. One of the most exciting experiences I had was the visit to the French Quarter. That place is most definitely one-of-a-kind. We went into shop after shop, bought bright-colored, gaudy Mardi-Gras beads, and saw one too many inappropriate t-shirts. There were magicians, street performers, families, couples, huge groups, children, elderly folks – the most diverse place I have ever been to. At the end of the night, after much exploring and a stroll down historic Bourban Street, we ate beignets with coffee at Cafe Du Monde… and then had a massive powdered suger fight that ended with three broken plates and about ninety powdery, sticky teenagers.
The part of the trip that has stuck with me, however, wasn’t the amazing people, places, or things that I saw – it was the children and families that we helped. The mission that hosted my group ran a Vacation Bible School type program that allowed the neighborhood kids to come get help with their homework and get a free meal while learning about God. Seeing the smiles that we put on the faces of these children who had lost everything in Hurricane Katrina was one of the most gratifying, life-changing moments of my life. Knowing that I made a difference, however big or small, in those children’s lives is one of the best feelings in the world. I hope one day that I can go back to New Orleans, not just as a tourist, but to become a beacon of hope to more children who have no other hope in their life.
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