Grace Church has offered a youth mission trip each summer for the past 18 years. This year, 13 teens and six adults traveled to West Bend, Wisconsin to work with Habitat for Humanity from June 2 through June 8.

Five graduating seniors were a part of this year’s trip. They presented the homilies at our 8 and 10 a.m. worship services on June 9. The following text is published with permission from its author, senior Katie Heitman.

senior - katie_optThe second service my mother and I ever came to here at Grace was the day they made the announcement for the first youth group meeting, and I thought, “Why not? Could be fun.” That was two years ago. I had fun at the activities and made some really great friends. I had a bunch of fun in Osh Kosh last year. I mean, I used a giant saw and a nail gun… what’s not to like?

So when this year’s trip started, I was jazzed! As I was packing my mail belt and my hammer, all I could think about was what would the house look like when we got there and how much effect we would have on it. Would roofing be an opportunity? So you can imagine my disappointment when we arrived to find no actual house. No foundation. Not even a hole where the house was going to be. Just a plot of land.

My first thought was how unfair this was, it being my last year and all. Then we met our site manager, Joe, and he handed us shovels. We had to dig a 6-inch deep trench all the way around the site so we could put in a silt fence. It was fine for a while, and then the roots attacked. We took them out with a pick axe and a knife. Then came the plants, which were thick and hard to dig through. Then the rocks, which were demolished by Molly and her sledge hammer. I felt like I was part of a chain gang. All that was missing were the shackles!

That fence took us all day. Over the next three work days, we built forms for concrete and poured it. We helped fix concrete for another house. We built shelves for and reorganized the back room of the ReStore. We  cleared brush and helped organize the warehouse. On Friday we cleared an abandoned loading dock. Everyone had their own job and the change was starting. But because I couldn’t see the change, I didn’t feel like we had done much. But when we donated the money to Habitat and Joe’s face just lit up, then, pretty said pretty quietly that he couldn’t have asked for a better crew and he was so grateful for what we had done.

And then I realized we may not have worked on a house, but we had done more work and touched more lives than I thought possible. I think that’s the point of the mission trip… a change of perspective. We spend so much time trying to find our rewards that we forget that giving is more important. The mission trip isn’t about new experiences or funny stories – although that’s a wonderful bonus! It’s about serving a community and the Lord. In the baptismal vows we are asked: “Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?” And we say, “I will, with God’s help.” Well, that’s exactly what we were doing, proclaiming the Good News of the Lord through our actions. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to go on the mission trips because it has given me a new way of seeing God’s light and goodness. It shines through us with every thing we do in the name of helping others.

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Read other senior missioner homilies:

Read more about the trip and see a slide show.

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