The planning of my summer vacation was a usual routine, but last year, I was a changed live changing lives around me. During the summer I go to the beach daily, help plan the family vacation to the Keys in August, and see what mission trips I can attend during the summer. In the beginning of April 2011, my youth group had started planning for our annual summer trip. This year we would be visiting North Carolina to go white water rafter. We all dreamed about white rapids, crisp and cool flowing water, and steep falls that could tip over even the most advanced rafter.
Everything seemed to come together perfectly, until my youth leader received a call from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Dozens of tornados hit the state and wrecked houses, buildings, stores, offices and many more. Tuscaloosa wanted our help, and it was our mission to go and see what needed to be done. My youth leader told us that our annual summer vacation should be turned into a mission trip. This mission trip meant more to us than anything, and it became an actual “vacation.” Not just another visit to a state to see what help we could offer. This changed our lives in so many ways, and still, to this day, we think of it as our summer vacation.
We left Ormond Beach, Florida on July 15th 2011 to embark on our journey to help people who lost everything but still had hope. When we rolled into the city of Tuscaloosa, our eyes wandered across the streets. Our eyes were watering and all we could see was a beige line that showed where the tornado had left its mark. We arrived at a place where we would be staying for the rest of the week. It was called Green Acres and it had a baseball field, tennis courts, a fitness room, showers, kitchen, and a large room for all of us to sleep in.
Our adventure of helping people started off by meeting Nancy, the lady who was in charge of showing us around town and telling us what to do. She introduced us to a family who had lived in a house with her daughter, son in law, and nieces and nephews. She had both of her legs amputated and we needed to help clean up her new home and build wheel chair ramps for her. Throughout the week we helped this lady and also gave her house more curb appeal.
During the week, Nancy introduced us to a very special lady named Grace. Grace lived in a trailer park during the tornadoes. Her trailer was ripped off of the ground and the only thing left was the toilet and tiles that outlined her bathroom. We sat around her and listened to her horrifying experience about being caught up in the tornado. What she went through was something that I could never image experiencing or even dream about living through. The whole time, Grace wanted to help other people, and not herself. Grace is very humble still to this day, and she has changed the way I look at the world around me.
The vacation and mission trip to Alabama is the best trip that I have ever been on. It has made a huge impact on how I view things in my life. I had the time of my life on the trip, and I would not change a thing about it. I had so much fun, became closer with old friends, saw a new state and discovered a whole new culture called “Southern Hospitality.”
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