This summer, the Youth Group from St. George’s Episcopal Church, Glenn Dale went on a mission trip to Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Below is a reflection of their time there, in their own words.
Looking back now, none of us anticipated how life-changing and impactful our 2018 mission trip would be. For several years St. George’s Youth Group discussed going to Puerto Rico, but the amount of money required discouraged us. When Hurricane Maria hit in September 2017, we feared that chaotic events occurring on the mainland would overshadow the devastation taking place in Puerto Rico the following months. We then decided we were going to make reaching Puerto Rico a priority. To bring all 11 members, we needed to raise $10,000. At first, this number was daunting, but the generous support from our Parish amazed us all. Throughout the year, we worked to put together several fundraising events which displayed just how compassionate our parish is as a community and a family. Events included raking leaves, putting on a pancake supper, selling flowers for Mother’s Day (and many more). Our most successful event was the post-trip dinner which 100 people attended, including the bishop.
When we first arrived in Puerto Rico, we were taken aback by the lack of progress, because we came 7 months after Hurricane Maria. We were anxious to help with the rebuilding process; however, we learned once we arrived in Arecibo that we would be split into different groups, some helping with manual reconstruction and others with emotional and relational work. At first, those who were sent to relational work sites were afraid that we weren’t contributing enough, but as the week progressed we formed incredible relationships that would change our perspective. It was amazing to see how, in such a short time, we were able to create unforgettable bonds with the children. The group who worked at the manual labor sites not only helped construction, including repairing the sanctuary in an Episcopal Church, but also built meaningful relationships with the congregation and construction workers at their sites.
During our trip, we witnessed genuine happiness in a community that we expected to be disheartened. It was uplifting to see the community’s positivity despite their circumstances and taught us that the strength of faith would overcome even in the darkest of times. Throughout our experiences, we learned many things, but the people of Puerto Rico taught us one of the most meaningful lessons, which is to persevere and remain compassionate. We came back from the trip being more appreciative both of what we have and the significance of our faith. We all anticipated that this trip would bring us closer to God, but our expectations were surpassed. It is easy to feel a connection with God through the action of service but what surprised us was that we saw the face of God more through the people we encountered. In a quote by Staff member and friend, Danny, “Different languages may divide us, but our hearts speak to us as a universal language.” We were struck by how much this quote resembled our experience. Despite the language barrier, our love and faith in God are what ultimately brought us together. No matter how different we may be, God will always connect us in unexpected ways.
Marilyn Prosser Yang
Speaking on behalf of the St. George’s, Glenn Dale Youth Group