I have gone on a lot of youth trips. I've had opportunities to serve on Missions teams, serve at camps, go to youth retreats, go on ski trips, conferences and more. Some of them have been short trips and some of them have been longer...
And one thing always seems to be the same: the time tends to fly by. In some ways it feels like just yesterday we were heading down to the Bellingham airport so we could fly to Anaheim for the Youth Gathering. In other ways I feel like it has been a long time (usually when I'm thinking of my family!).
We did a LOT of stuff on this trip. We spent a day at Disneyland... a full day. We pretty much went in when the park opened and didn't leave until just before closing.
We heard a lot of speakers. My personal favorites were Mark Cahill and Mark Yaconelli... but the others were great too.
We had a great band leading us in worship... thanks to Jacob's Well Band for doing such a great job leading our singing.
And we worked... hard... We spent Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at El Modena High School doing all sorts of work. The first day was a bit chaotic but we still picked up a lot of garbage (probably around 7 big garbage cans worth). We also washed a bunch of windows.
On Thursday things were a bit more organized and we started painting the parking lot... We had to paint the curbs, the speed bumps and the lines for the parking spaces. It was hot, sweaty work but we did it. Another group worked at weeding 2 big planters at the front of the school. They were totally overgrown. We also had a group who were helping one of the custodians clean up classrooms. Despite all the work we did by the end of the day I'm not sure that we really felt we had done too much.
Today (Friday) was even better in terms of being organized... some of us were basically working before the whole group was off the bus. We finished the parking lot, cleaned more classrooms and finished weeding. We were able to fill the majority of a garbage dumpster with weeds and garbage from the planters.
From what I hear El Modena is a great school... they are one of the top 100 schools in the States and they have 98% of their grads enter into college or university. However, El Modena (or Elmo as they call it) is in California and this state has been hit hard by the economic downturn. One teacher was saying that she remembers when Elmo had 10 custodians working to keep everything clean and organized. They now have 3... and Elmo isn't the only school they have to take care of.
Many of the projects we worked on were simply too much for the custodians to take on. They are barely managing to keep on top of the day to day items. They were very thankful for how our team was able to help them out. They kept thanking us... but I think I can speak for the team when I say that we are also thankful to them because they provided us with an opportunity to serve.
I have really enjoyed the Youth Gathering. I got to see fellow Youth Pastors who I don't get to connect with very often. I got to serve alongside an awesome group of youth and leaders who never complained once while we worked away painting a parking lot in 30+ degree weather.
Please be praying for us as we travel home... and also pray that the lessons we learrned at YG '11 will sink deep... and we will come home from this trip with a stronger relationship with Jesus Christ.