Dear Friends and Family,
As many of you know, I’m the youth director at Crossroads of Faith United Methodist Church in Bolingbrook. I’ve been there since Aug. 2010. Before that, I was the youth leader at First United Methodist Church in Woodstock.
I currently work with junior and senior high students.
The work is amazing.
On Sunday mornings we run through quick lessons on Jesus’ parables, agape love, and the book of Job. Then, on Sunday nights we dive into pizzas and deep discussions about temptations, living freely with Christ, and the differences between Religion, the Church and Jesus.
We also spend a good amount of time in fellowship. Getting to know each other while playing capture the flag, playing Wii on the church’s projector and eating the massive amounts of candy samples my day job allows me to bring to them.
While in my current role, I have seen youth become different people.
I have seen them turn into disciples of Christ, who are earnestly seeking out His ways and there’s nothing in the world more rewarding.
It is wonderful work.
A big part of that transformation for many of them was last year’s mission trip to Oklahoma. We took 12 youth and three adults. And to this day nearly every single one of them will give you the exact same testimony:
I really didn’t want to go. I was scared and I didn’t know what it was. But Crystal kept telling me to go over and over and over again, and so I decided to go and it was so amazing and I’m seriously so glad I went.
And if you ask nearly any of the parents involved in those youth’s lives, you will hear this testimony:
My child came back different and I thought it was only going to last a couple weeks, but it still hasn’t faded.
For our trips we go through an organization called YouthWorks and this year we are planning to go to the Denver, Colo site.
A typical day on one of these week-long trips is as follows:
6 a.m.: The breakfast crew wakes up. They grab their tennis shoes (only close-toed shoes are allowed in the kitchen) and they head to the eating area to start making breakfast and lunches for everyone on the trip.
6:30 a.m.: Leaders start waking up, so they can get first dips on the one toilet assigned to 50 women. They wipe the sweat from their neck, which accumulated while their were sleeping because their bedroom for the week is a wide open church space that lacks air conditioning. They try not to think about the fact that shower time isn’t until 3 p.m.
7 a.m.: The youth are woken up. Bone tired from the work they did the day before, they crawl out of bed excited about the chance to purely serve God that day. Then, they make their way to breakfast.
7:30 a.m.: Everyone sits down for breakfast and scoops cereal into their mouths as quickly as possible.
8:15 a.m.: Everyone makes their way to the sanctuary, and we all grab out devotional books, a Bible and a pen, and start the day off with God’s word.
9 a.m.-3p.m.: We make our way to our work sites for the day. Sometimes it’s a house that needs to be painted; sometimes it’s a kid’s club, where local kids are allowed to come for free and be fully lead by our youth; sometimes its a nursing home where the patients are looking for someone to sing with and talk to and play Bingo with; sometimes it’s a food pantry that needs young muscle to help sort massive amounts of donated food; sometimes it’s the Salvation Army retail store, where piles and piles and piles of clothes are waiting to be sorted; and sometimes it’s just the side of a highway littered with trash waiting to be picked up. Every single site is amazing, and every single site is scary and pushes you way beyond your comfort zone.
3-5 p.m.: They call these precious two hours free time, but because they’re also you’re only time to shower, it’s not like you end up lollygagging around or anything. Last year, we had off-site showers, which meant that the leaders spent nearly the whole two hours transporting the youth back and forth to the showers, which were at a local high school. The high school was actually under construction while we were there, so what would happen was, we we would walk through what looked like land mines of dirt, go inside, grab a 5 minute shower to rinse off all the sweat we’d accumulated by working all day, then we would walk back to our vans, and immediately get covered in dirt, and start dripping with new sweat from the 110-degree heat.
4:30 p.m.: The leaders also have a 4:30 p.m. meeting every day, and that’s when we met to process our experiences. Our highs, our lows and our exhaustion. 4:30 p.m. also is when the dinner crew heads to the kitchen to start making our meal for the night.
5 p.m.: Dinner. Just one scoop of each thing until we make sure there’s enough for everyone.
5:30 p.m.: The dinner clean-up crew heads in to do the dishes while the rest of get ready for our evening activity.
6-8 p.m.: We head to our evening activity. Sometimes it’s swimming, sometimes it’s a local mid-week church service, sometimes it’s painting pottery with disabled people, and sometimes it’s a community softball game.
8:30-9:30 p.m.: Club time. This is usually everyone’s favorite part of a the day. This when we meet with the entire site group (About 80 people) and we share our Yay Gods (Things God blesses us each with that day) and our Ya Buddies (Things we saw others do that showed God’s love). We also sing songs. At the beginning of the trip, the youth are always scared to jump or raise their hands or even to sing very much. By the end of the week, they’re always jumping up and down to Yes God! Yes God! Yes, Yes God!! And putting their arms over each other’s shoulders while they sing the slow powerful songs.
9:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.: This is when we go off to be only with our church group. We have some time to intimately discuss the day and the experience and to solidify some of the awesome changes happening in our souls. During this time I have been privileged enough to witness epiphanies, and to talk with kids about deep matters of their hearts.
11 p.m.: Lights out. And everyone is asleep within about 15 seconds.
So there you have it. That’s a typical day on a mission trip. We work hard, but also do the hard work God calls us to do on our souls. There is no way it cannot be life changing for those involved.
People often ask me why we go away for these trips, when there’s plenty of mission work to be done in our home towns, and I will say it’s because I believe the journey there and back is just as important as anything we do at the site. If offers everyone a chance to bond in a blank environment; it helps the youth understand that the world is bigger than Chicago Suburbs, Illinois; and it helps the youth give themselves fully to the experience as they leave behind every single distraction.
And so, all that brings me to our goals for this summer.
Like I said, we’re planning a mission trip to Denver. God willing, we’d like to take 20 youth, and four adults, and be at the site July 15-20. The Youth Works cost for the trip $278 per child, and then we also plan to rent some vans and drive ourselves down there.
We charge each child $100 for the week, and depend on raising the rest of the money from fundraisers. While at Crossroads, we have done a variety of fundraisers, including selling bottles of water on the Fourth of July, hosting pancake breakfasts, chili cook offs and garage sales, wrapping gifts at Barnes and Nobel for donations, and selling flower pots on Mother’s Day.
However, all told we need about $10,000 total for the trip. And that’s a lot of money.
And so, although it’s only February and the trip is still five months away and we still have lots of fundraisers planned, I would like to extend this invitation to you right now to be a part of this experience by giving us a donation.
But before I go any further, I want to tell you that I genuinely hate asking for money for mission trips. I really, really hate it. My secret fantasy is to one day get to a point in my life where I can just fund youth mission trips completely out of my own pocket so as to avoid the whole messy business of fundraising all together.
But alas, I am not at that point in my life, and I probably never will be. Instead, God has charged me with leading an amazing group of youth, and humbly asking others for donations for the ministry.
I know some of you may not be in a position to donate financially right now, and all I would ask is that you keep us in your prayers. These trips always come together on prayer and it would incredibly valuable to us if you would commit to praying for our journey.
If, however, you do feel comfortable donating funds, it would be really helpful to us, especially right now because we have $2,600 payment due at the end of March.
I want to assure you that I do not ask you for a donation lightly, and that I truly do not want you to feel any pressure to give. However, I also know that you cannot receive if you do not ask, and so, I am asking. I can also promise you that 100% of your donation will go to support this trip.
If you feel called to support this cause financially please send a check made out to: Crossroads of Faith UMC, with “youth mission trip” in the memo line to the following address:
- Attention: Crystal Lindell, youth director
- 1570 Rodeo Drive
- Bolingbrook, Il
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this letter, and for being my friend. I pray you will be truly blessed this year.