Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mission Trip 2002: Washington, DC

Our Team, just before the Prayer Tour
June of 2002 found 10 members of the student ministry of Wesley Memorial UMC headed north for a mission experience in our nation's capital.  We would be working under the supervision of The Center for Student Missions (CSM), a group I had long been aware of and had used while at FUMC-K in 1999.  CSM was everything I could have hoped for- but that was about the only part of the trip, for better and for worse, that went the way I had in mind.

The first snafu was the location of the trip.  I had planned to take the team to the CSM site in Nashville (where I had been before), but due to some mix-ups (mostly my fault) we moved the trip to DC and shortened it a bit.  Now I don't know how many youth pastors will openly admit to this, but anytime I planned a big trip there were always certain students I prayed would go.  Whether it was for their leaderships skills, their faithfulness, their good attitudes or just because I really liked them, there was always a list in my head.  This trip was no different.  What was a real change for me was that almost no one from my "list" actually signed up for the trip!  I have mentioned that there were many students who were a part of the youth ministry when I arrived but still felt like they didn't belong.  That was the group that headed off to DC with me.

We slept on the floor upstairs in an old church not too far from downtown.  The first night we took a "Prayer Tour" of the city, seeing the monstrous gap between the rich and the poor that exist in the capital of the world's wealthiest nation.  It was truly astonishing.  We left the front of the Supreme Court building, went under a bridge, and opened our eyes to one of the most impoverished areas I have ever seen anywhere.  It is called Anacostia.  Part of our work for the week was to build bunk beds so that future groups would have more spaces to sleep at the CSM location.  The other part of our mission was to serve with various other ministries in the area that were already making a huge difference in the name of Jesus in Anacostia.  We served in soup kitchens, packed lunches and delivered them to AIDS patients and worked in a food bank.  Each day we dealt with the poorest of the poor. The thing I remember most about that trip was walking around the Mall at the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian the last day, asking people survey questions about poverty and homelessness in DC.  People were either appalled by it, or failed to acknowledge its existence... 

Cory Vetter guards the fridge...
The other adult on the trip Brian (Big B) Willeke, was a mission trip veteran and an amazing man of God.  That said, I don't think I ever took a youth trip of any sort, before or since, where there was less established student leadership.  With no highly respected youth setting examples for everyone, it seemed the lazy kids were lazier, the stubborn students fought me on everything and the shy youth still felt left out.  Had it not been for Bobby Greife and Cory Vetter, two kids with great backgrounds in scouting, things would have been much worse.  As time went by, those 2 took the lead.  And then there was Chris.  You may remember Chris from our earlier Ski Camp.  That trip he frustrated me.  This trip I was afraid I was going to kill him- and I am a pacifist!

There were great. memorable moments.  Jeff Miller and his infamous, "But she had hair!"  Stephanie Greife, who at the beginning of the trip barely spoke, coming into her own as "Ferocious Buttercup" with her van rocking sneezes.  Kristen Vetter and the couch she adopted and tried to save from the scrap heap.  Despite all of the issues, I could feel a bond forming.  Now if only the rest of the summer events would do something to help pull in the "popular" kids who had remained at home.  Only time would tell.

Because of Jesus,


  1. Thanks for the laughs and inspiration. There is no substitute for great student leadership.

  2. Anonymous3/12/2011

    Dont forget about GREEN BEENS Carl. And yes there are telephones in Australia!!

  3. Could never forget those magic moments, Stephanie!


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