Last Sunday I led 15 high schoolers and 2 other adults on a mission trip to Cincinnati, Ohio. I had everyone get to the church on Sunday morning at 5:30am to load up and was surprised when we got out and on the road by 6:15am! We had a pretty good and uneventful (8+ hour) drive there and got to our host church at 3:30pm. There were 7 other youth groups there from all over - New Jersey, Massachusetts, Indiana, and Canada. The mission trip organizers had some great service project for us to do all week!
Some of the different types of projects were: helping to stock a food bank/serve meals to hungry people; volunteering at a special needs camp for kids of all ages/all disabilities; cleaning up/fixing up a church whose congregation is 50% homeless people - the church wanted to put in bedrooms for the homeless people to sleep in when needed; packing care boxes to send out through an international relief center; playing with underprivileged kids at a Boys and Girls center; fixing up a nature trail; hanging out with senior citizens at an adult day care center; and working at a church program with inner city kids. We were split into 15 different crews and sent out to serve on Monday. On Monday I was leading a crew that was sent to the special needs camp - I was able to help the youth understand a little more about special needs and how to work with the kids since I had worked in special ed before. I also was able to use my (rusty) sign language to help out with a disabled teen who was deaf.
We had a great first day and then went back to the host church for dinner.....then the director of the mission trip program came up and asked if I was one of the youth's leader. That's never a good thing to hear. But it wasn't because the youth had done anything wrong, just that they had found out that one of my youth had lice. They had been checking them because the Boys and Girls Club they were working at had a kid who had been found to have lice so they checked all the youth when they got back. So I had to call that youth's parent to find out if it was ok to treat her. We started checking all the girls who were sleeping near her and then my whole youth group and found out that 13 out of 18 of us had lice - including me and the other adult female chaperone! Yuck! Then they started checking everyone and found out that there were about 40 people out of 92 who had lice! Which is just crazy.....usually when a kid at school gets it, only a few other kids catch it from them. But when we sleeping on the ground in such close quarters, I guess it spread more quickly. I think it was our rental van - since our group had the most, it seems like we may have very well started it and none of my youth's siblings had it back home. I don't know how else we would have gotten it and spread it around so quickly except for the 8 hour long van ride there. Oh well......all of the adults had to start shampooing and picking out the lice and then myself and the few adults (and we took a few youth who had lice to help us out) who had gotten lice took all the lice-y pillows, sleeping bags, and clothes to a 24-hour laundry mat and were there until 2:30am. I was really afraid that we weren't going to be able to get the sleeping bags dry, but thank goodness for those huge fast dryers! We got back and some of my older high school girls were doing a great job helping out and cleaning lice rooms for people who had already been shampooed so that no one would catch it again. Myself, our other adult leader, and about 6 of those girls were the last ones to get our heads washed and after being up all night long, we all finally went to bed at 6am that morning and tried to get a few hours sleep. It was quite the ordeal - mostly just because of how many people were infected. They even brought out a lice specialist (go figure? what a job) from the health department of Cincinnati to come and make sure we had gotten all the lice the next day. She gave us quite the education on lice....more than I think I ever want to know. We did do everything right though and were all declared lice-free.
(above) Me and my high school girls at 5:30am - finally lice-free!
We couldn't go back to work on project sites on Tuesday, but instead did some more laundry and gave our youth group a fun day of dinner at White Castle and we all went to see a movie - The Dark Knight. We had a good time and I only fell asleep a little towards the end when I kept thinking that the movie should be finishing anyway (my movie review in a nutshell: not bad, but too dark for me and too many endings/things happening at the end).
On Wednesday morning, they asked if I could switch crews and be the adult leader for another crew (whose adult leader had been a little ridiculous and left with his daughter because he was upset about the lice fiasco). That crew of youth was serving at a church who was doing a day camp for 50-70 inner city kids from a rough neighborhood. The man (named Gordan) who was running the camp was absolutely incredible - he had such a heart for those inner city kids and was so passionate about the Lord. Gordan taught me the most of anything that week and had a powerful influence on the youth who were serving there. I had one youth from my church on that crew and I don't think he had ever met anyone so passionately in love with his Savior before. We started each day with some great worship and prayer - for about an hour - he wanted us to all make sure that our hearts were ready to serve before the kids got there. And it made such a difference! Those kids were starved for attention and loved having us there, but they were also really learning about God. Gordan was teaching them doctrine and those kids were getting it! I was blown away by how much they remembered from week to week and how they could spit out answers so quickly. It was really amazing and God is really working in that place.
Mt. Hebron Pres. Mission Trip '08