For the better part of a school year, I and 17 juniors and seniors from St. Paul VI Catholic High School in Chantilly discussed our expectations and hopes for our summer mission trip to Georgetown, Ky. It would be more than just an adventure or vacation; it would be a transformative experience, one that would completely change our relationship with Jesus forever. We would experience daily Mass, confession and adoration, and journal about Jesus’ love and our day-to-day encounters.
As we took our seats on a charter bus and turned in our phones, we ruminated on our chaplain, Father Stephen Schultz’s homily that morning about the great gift we have to inspire and give to others who are poor in spirit.
Most of the time, our school travels internationally, and the impact made on the villages experiencing poverty that we visit is very visible. This time, we were presented with a domestic challenge. At a glance, there didn’t seem to be much that needed to be done, but a closer look showed that there was room for some good old spiritual love.
We were accompanied by Father Schultz, chaplain; our Youth Apostles, Jeff Badstubner, Gary Bond and Nicholas Zaso; and some deeply faithful adult volunteers from our Paul VI community. On this mission, we were shown that what we were doing went further than just chores. The people we met opened our eyes to the many ways God teaches us to love.
One of the most memorable events of the trip was the Steward Home and School, a residence and school for adults with special needs. We were granted the privilege of observing and assisting with classes there and came back with special memories of the beautiful souls we met.
“Her name was Sharon, and we were talking for a while when she rubbed my nose, and then rubbed hers, and said that we were connected together through love in our new friendship,” said Franny Noory about one woman she vividly remembers. “In our modern world, we do not often get the chance to mingle with people like Sharon, but amid the Steward Home members, we were called by name by the unique people we met and created bonds to last a lifetime.”
Another highlight was a field day we held for the local children. “It was so amazing to see myself and my peers able to bring the kids so much joy through games and especially with the water balloons,” said Travis Perry. Childlike joy is a motive within our faith, and nothing could have been a clearer example of this happiness than that field day. As we held water balloon fights, cooled down with arts and crafts, and played water kickball with the kids, we made friends and memories we will carry with us forever. Being able to give the kids a memorable experience was yet another transformative experience in God’s never-ending love.
As we shared our testimonials and memories with each other on the last night of the trip, we came to the consensus that we had all traveled miles in our religious journeys and that the spiritual bond we had created not just with each other but with God was strengthened beyond measure. Mission trips are so much more than dirt and grime, sweat, and long days of work; it’s about charity, love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, and building a relationship with God.