When the summer of 5th grade came around I was beyond excited, nervous, and ready to see what it would have in store. My church takes one group of middle schoolers and two groups of high schoolers on mission trips. Middle schoolers go in early July and high schoolers go in late July. Now I was finally old enough to go! My older brother always loved going on these trips and everyone was always talking about how they change your life. So I was ready to see if it was all true. Little did I know that it would change my life forever.
On my last middle school mission trip we started a tradition where we would pass down a burnt hamburger to the best team worker, which means you have to be a leader, be positive, and be flexible. I was excited and curious to see which underclassman would receive it. However, our leader Stephanie pulled me to the side and told me that if I were coming back that I would be receiving the burnt burger. At that moment in my life I knew that the work I was doing was positively effecting everyone and it didn’t go unnoticed. I was filled with joy and began to cry. I had never felt like that before. I worked so hard to make everyone happy, not to get rewarded. Knowing that my acts did not go unseen made me feel both confident and humbled. I have now been on around ten mission trips and each mission team became my family. I made lifelong friends and lended a helping hand to those in need.
When my senior year came around I began to ponder the idea of just doing mission work for a year. Classmates either thought it was a bold and a fun idea or that I was just lazy and didn’t want to go to college. That stayed in the back of my head so I decided to look at a few colleges. Graduation was right around the corner and all of my friends were getting accepted into colleges; I felt stuck. I still wasn’t 100 percent about college. I knew that in order to support myself and the family I hoped to have one day I needed to get a degree. I also knew you must have a degree to get into the Peace Corps, which is ultimately what I want to do. That was really the only thing driving me to go to college and I still was just unsure about it. So many things were going through my head at once. I didn’t know what to do. I lost sight of my path and was walking down someone else’s.
I was so confused that I decided to meet with Brian Shivers, a youth minister, who cleared everything up. I have been on many mission trips and everytime I go it makes me feel complete and like I am here for a reason. He then put me in touch with Erin Lang, a 2011 Fellow in Senegal. She made me feel confident about my decision to do mission work. She also informed me of this amazing opportunity to be a fellow and either go to Ecuador, Brazil, or Senegal. I applied and, sure enough, became a 2014 fellow. Without those two people I would not be here. I would still be walking down someone else’s path, confused.
Life is about taking chances, learning, and exploring. I am so excited to see what the year has in store and can’t wait to actually see what’s on the other side of the world.