That Was Unexpected - My Family Travels
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My stomach rumbled with butterflies as my team pulled out of the dark parking lot heading for New Orleans, Louisiana.  Painfully twisting 180 degrees in my seat, I saw my family waving goodbye.  I was nervous and excited at the same time, for it was my first mission trip.  It was 5:30 a.m. on July 11, 2009, the summer heading toward my sophomore year.  Knowing that the trip would take sixteen hours, I had packed my phone, iPod, and a pillow as a way to escape the noise of the road and the bouncing of the van, hardly knowing how sparsely I would use them.  I enjoyed myself to the fullest in the van with my friends.  Stopping every two hours to relieve ourselves, changing seats, watching movies, having discussions, snacking, and trying to catch a few hours of sleep were random occurrences in the vans.  I would never have thought that the trip would make me view the world in a different way like it did and end with me having more friends than I had previously known existed.

â–º  quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship

Once we arrived in New Orleans, I breathed a sigh of relief and excitement.  We woke our sleeping companions and spread the news, only to look out the window to a starry night.  We would have to wait until tomorrow to sightsee.  As I woke up the next morning, I felt wonderful and was excited to go to my first church service in New Orleans, which housed about twenty times more “soul” than my own in Olathe.  Within the first twenty minutes of worship, I felt a warm oh-that-didn’t-just-happen sensation crawling in my seat.  Although I wanted to run to the bathroom and investigate, I had no idea where it was, and I had an idea of what had happened.  The diarrhea stayed with me all week, but fortunately did not interfere with my work projects or other events that I was required to attend.

During our eventful week, my work team painted a house, helped cut down high weeds in apartment lots, provided meals to individuals at a shelter, hosted a block party, and wound up lost many times.  Toward the end of the trip, as I ran out of clean underpants, I was forced to break ties with all my acquaintances I had made during the trip. Although I was forced to leave them, I was also blessed to have made many new friends that I now associate with frequently.  I bonded with my sponsors, friends, and people I met during our work projects.

Throughout the trip, I became stronger physically, socially, and spiritually.  The work projects required and built physical strength and endurance.  I worked with many people there, increasing my social agenda.  (I was a shy person as a freshman, so volunteering to be social was hard.)  To increase my spiritual strength, part of the mornings were spent in devotions and Bible reading.  Part of the evening activities included being accountable to friends, praying, and reflecting on the trip.

On Friday, we sadly departed from New Orleans, Louisiana and headed for home, stopping in Memphis, Tennessee, for the night, just to break up the drive a bit.  We left early the next morning and arrived in Olathe around 6:00 p.m.  Driving home, I was ready to be back, home with my family, in a nice, air conditioned home, but at the same time, wanted to stay another week.  I loved the entire trip and definitely looked forward to the next one, only making a mental note to pack more necessities, of course.


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