5 a.m. crept up on me all too quickly the morning of July 11. I was going to have to run off of around 6 hours of sleep, way the less than my body is used to, especially during the summer. But I felt surprisingly more awake and energetic than usual. The thought of getting ready to head out on my first mission trip was both intimidating and exciting. I arrived at the church and sat down with my familiar small group of friends that were also going on the trip as we listened to the safety and guidelines meeting typical of all organized trips.
Then before I knew it we were loading onto the vans to head out on the 16 hour drive to the still in need, hurricane Katrina ravaged gulf coast of Louisiana armed only with some snacks and of course, my game boy with Pokemon Red Version. My friends and I were lucky enough to all make it into the same van but we had some extra seats. These seats were soon taken by some girls who were the last ones out of the building. None of us had ever met before so naturally, we all politely said hi, and my friends and I all went straight back to playing our games. After about an hour or so we finally struck up conversation with them. Turns out that two of them go to our school and will be just a grade ahead of us as seniors. The trip from there on out was characterized by various antics that honestly were not that safe to do in a van, and bantering back and forth just for kicks.
After nearly a full day of driving we finally made it to where we would be staying during the duration of our trip, McNeese States’ old dorm rooms that we found out were to be torn down when we left. On a happier note, they would be providing bedding for us in the rooms. Apparently their idea and my idea of what “bedding” is are completely different. They were old, musty and the most rickety cots I had ever seen. I laid down in one and instantly feared falling straight through the thin mesh.
The next day the whole group gathered to be assigned to our work projects. Our group of friends, and newly acquired ones, was split up into two groups which was slightly disappointing at first. My group’s assignment was to help replace rotting wood and repaint the home of a family with a son who had down syndrome. The work days were long and sweltering. I spent what seemed like full days up on a latter just to paint a small area of their house. When I called my parents that night I described the day as feeling as though I was sweating my skin off. After each work day we had a decent amount of free time as well, which we used for ultimate Frisbee games and climbing on to the roof of the dorms. As the week went on I created more new friendships and also strengthened older ones. The sense of unity and friendship that comes from working together for the betterment of others is a simply amazing feeling. I will remember that week for the rest of life. The feeling of doing something good for others and making new friends along the way was something I had never felt before.
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