Changing the way you think

Lines of hungry people, run down homes and buildings, and homeless people throughout the streets greeted several students at various places throughout the U.S. as they embarked on mission trip projects over the past summer.

Several students joined the youth group of the First United Methodist Church of Denton on a mission trip to Slidell, Louisiana, just 30 miles from New Orleans, for a week in July.

“I went with my youth group to Slidell to help this organization, New Orleans Area Help, to continue to rebuild after Katrina,” senior Amy Dierdorf said.

With a high heat index each summer day, pesky bugs, and difficult work conditions, the youth group toughed it out to help rebuild homes for people whose lives were affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“[We] helped rebuild this woman’s house who has been living in the same trailer since Katrina hit,” Dierdorf said. “We had to shovel sand under the house because it’s lifted like three feet off the ground for flooding, and we had to crouch under the house and shovel sand there. We also had to put up linoleum siding on the walls and we kept getting it wrong because it’s really specific.”

The students said that they formed whole new perspectives on people who are affected by natural disasters after the trip.

“I feel like I came closer to the people of Louisiana and hurricane relief victims,” sophomore Javan Stalls said. “And I understand the difficulties they went through.”

                Along with helping as many people as possible in a week’s amount of time, the students bonded both on and off the worksite.

                “We went into New Orleans, like the city,” junior Chris Peters said, “and visited Bourbon Street.”

                Peters, Stalls and Dierdorf agreed that they enjoyed themselves in unexpected ways while helping others.

                “I bonded with a lot of people I didn’t expect to bond with,” Dierdorf said, “and seeing them at school, we’re now a lot closer.”

                The students all said that they want to go back on a mission trip, even if it’s at a different place, because of the outcome they received.

                “I bonded a lot with the kids in my work group and it’s always amazing to talk to the people you’re helping and hear their stories and know that you’re changing their lives,” Dierdorf said.

                Other students from this school also traveled over the summer with other churches to different spots throughout the U.S. that were in need of help.

                The Morse Street Baptist Church mission team went to Las Vegas for a week this summer to aid the people in need there.

                “We did a VBS at the Salvation Army and went to feed the homeless and the hungry at this Vegas outreach place,” senior Briana Cunningham said.

                With a structured schedule every day, the students did not get to help as many people as they wanted to, but they said that they enjoyed the experience they gained while there.

                “Working with the kids at VBS [was my favorite part] because I got to learn their unique stories and it was cool for me to be a teacher because I was teaching kids my same age,” Cunningham said.

                Cunningham said the church plans to raise their own money and travel back to Vegas on their own next summer, without going through an organization, so that they can accomplish all that they wanted to this summer and because the people had such an impact on their lives.

                “There was this girl that I met, Jenae, she was 20 years old, but still with the teenager group,” Cunningham said. “When she was a baby she had liver problems and growing up she was on like 20 different medications and now she’s down to three. Her story and what happened-like they told her she wouldn’t live to be eleven, but she’s still here now-was inspiring.”

                All the students who took part in mission trips this summer said they enjoyed the experience immensely because of the people and plan to go back soon.

                “I love how opportunities like mission trips take me out of my comfort zone and I connect with people I never would have been given the opportunity to help before,” Dierdorf said.