During the summer of 2008 I traveled to the Choctaw Reservation located in Mississippi. My church goes there every summer to teach Vacation Bible School to the Choctaw children for a week. Before we go we have to raise money, attend meetings, and volunteer. That part alone taught me about commitment and responsibility. Our team was full of bright, young, talented, determined teenagers. The only flaw to our team was the division amongst us. We had one-group verses the other group, which created cliques and a split in our team. We ended up having to work through our differences and worked together in order to make sure that our mission was a successful. If we didn’t work together than all our hard work would have crumbled before our eyes. We wanted to make an impact in these children’s lives not leave them disappointed. After all they looked forward to this all year!
I didn’t realize how lucky I had it until I went to pick up children and teach on the first day. The houses were damaged and even had gaping holes. To be honest it was worse than any other neighborhood I ever been in. It really surprised me how the kids appeared. Most had on a pair of dirty raggedy jeans, messy stained shirts, and looked like they haven’t bathed that morning. They had cuts, bumps, and even bruises that were infected. Some even appeared to have been abused with burns all over their bodies. I soon understood why these children appeared the way they did. Most of the parents were alcoholics, drug addicts, or just didn’t know how to raise or care for their child. The one thing that stood out in those children was their smiles.
These kids taught me how lucky I am to have a secure house full of appliances, clean clothes, running water, and most importantly a loving and supportive family. I will never forget this one little second grade boy in my class who told me, “You’re my inspiration.” I looked back at the classroom of children and said, “You guys are MY inspiration.” These were the strongest kids in my life. Even when people told them that they were going to be failures and never amount to anything. Yet they still strived to do their best at everything.
It really broke my heart when we had to leave the reservation. I wanted to take all the children home with me and give them all the supplies they needed to be a success story. They even desperately pleaded to go home with us back to Florida. Unfortunately we couldn’t, it’s really not as simple as the made it sound.
The experience I had on the Choctaw Mission Trip was one that I couldn’t forget. Who knew that I would learn a few things on the trip from kids younger than myself? I learned to appreciate all the luxuries in life God has provided me with. I will hold that week in my heart always. It was a true blessing I experienced that week in Mississippi. I might not have traveled somewhere far away or fancy, but it was to a place that was life changing.
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