A mission from God.

I’m pretty sure I have post-mission trip depression.

I can’t believe it’s all over.

I can’t.

It was amazing. It was awesome. It was intense.

For those just tuning in, I’m the youth group leader at my church and last week I took 19 kids, and four other adults to Daytona Beach, Florida for a mission trip. A typical day went like this: 7 a.m. wake up; 8 a.m. devotional time; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. mission work on various sites, such as homeless shelters, nursing home and food pantries; 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. free time/shower time; 5:30 p.m. dinner; 7 p.m. evening activity, 9 p.m. praise and worship; 10 p.m. church group time; 11 p.m. lights out for the kids; 11:15 p.m. call my mom freaking out.

It was a long week.

Here are 10 things I learned, loved, or laughed at during the trip.

10. A hot shower should never be taken for granted. Ever. Although I had it rough, I have to admit the kids were worse off. They were regulated to one 2-minute shower each day to be taken between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. TWO MINUTES! And they couldn’t even do it in the morning! AND it’s not like they were lounging around and whatnot, they were painting and cleaning and sweating and all sorts of gross things. I was lucky enough to get a solid seven minutes each day, but I admit that I only shaved my legs once all week. Hey, my hair is light, promise.

9. I can function on way less sleep than I thought. If I was lucky, I got maybe five hours a night. On an air mattress. I didn’t really know I could function on that without screaming at every child I brought along. Thankfully, because of God, I could. Ish. Tuesday night I had a bit of break down. I freaked out in the parking lot and cried hysterically at the intensity of it all and only ended up pulling myself together because a homeless man started walking toward me and I thought it’d be best if I headed inside. Also, I called my friend Lynn, who talked me down and told me she’d make me some macaroni and cheese when I got back (Which she did. Thanks Lynn!).

8. I love palm trees. Seriously, those things are EVERYWHERE in Florida. Even at Walmart. Like, you’re just going about your typical errand thing and BAM! Palm trees line the parking lot. You can’t help but be in a good mood. My new life plan is to find a way to go live in Daytona Beach and then go to the ocean every day between trips to some sort of ocean-front property and Olive Garden. Sub-plan may or may not include either A. marrying rich, or B. winning large sums of prize money.

7. Always do a full count of the youth. Fine, fine. We left ONE child behind ONE time. But he was TOTALLY fine when we went back to get him at the church. Sure, the pastor there thought he was a homeless man and almost didn’t help him, but the key word in that sentence is almost. Plus, the kid is super quiet. You might have forgotten him too. Don’t judge me.

6. “Airplanes,” “Cooler than Me” and “Your love is my drug” are all fun songs to scream along to. Ya, ya, I lost my voice by sometime Saturday afternoon, but yelling “CAN WE PRETEND THAT AIRPLANES IN THE NIGHT SKY ARE LIKE SHOOTING STARS, CAUSE I COULD REALLY USE A WISH RIGHT NOW, WISH RIGHT NOW, WISH RIGHT NOW” with a handful of teens you’ve just spent 19 hours in a van with is pretty fun. If you’ve never heard that line before, you’re welcome.

5. If you ever need to get a man out of a van, call Charley Ellis. Monday night we went to the beach. Yay. Fun. Super awesome. Then, as we were loading up the cars, a strange man got all confused and headed into our unmarked white van. I’m thinking he just got mixed up and thought the van was part of whatever organization he came to the ocean with, but ya, it wasn’t. And he was crazy. Like, shaking-back-and-forth crazy. When the nurses came over to get him they even warned us not to talk to him for fear that he’d “go off.” Luckily, Charley Ellis, one of our adult leaders with tattoos and piercings, was there to protect us all. He got all the kids away from the van, and made sure the crazy guy didn’t shoot us. Three cheers for Charley.

4. Catch a football with your arms. Part of my work crew’s mission work was helping out at day camp that was seriously underfunded. There were 2 adults for like 60 something kids. For whatever reason, a lot of the boys gravitated toward me, so I spent a lot of time playing kickball or football or soccer. Except I kind of suck at all those things. One 12-year-old boy took pity on me though and decided to teach me how to throw and catch a football. Apparently, pawing at it with your fingers is WRONG. (True story: I sprained my left ring finger with this technique). Instead, you should cup it with your arms. The whole thing gives me a little more sympathy for wide receivers.

3. God is awesome. I kept describing the week as intense while I was there. There is a feeling you get sometimes when you can almost feel God’s fingertips on your shoulders. It’s usually rare and typically comes at moments when God is calling you to do something. On a mission trip though, it’s pretty much 24/7. I saw him open hearts and minds I’d given up on. I felt him give me strength and answer my prayers. I remembered why I love him so much. And I understood so much more.

2. Prayer is powerful. The part of the trip I keep playing over and over in my head is the foot-washing ceremony. It’s held on the last night where all the leaders wash the students’ feet. Then all five leaders prayed over each child while all the other youth laid hands.

It was very powerful.

We prayed from their present, their future, their healing, their hearts and their faith. Every single child was shaking and crying by the time we finished – even the boys. It was like we had finally given them permission to believe in God and themselves. We’d finally made it all right to just open their hearts to all the emotions they had been feeling all week and accept them.

It’s the kind of thing that makes you realize how much crap there is in our lives that doesn’t matter one bit.

1. John 3:30. It was the theme for the week and I loved it and it rocked and there’s not really much more to say about that.

— “Jesus must become more. I must become less.” John 3:30.

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  1. Crystal,
    I love your top ten list and as a member of the FUMC of Woodstock I just want to say thank you! Your faith carries you especially when life goes on after such an awesome experience. Thank you for your faithfulness to all the young adults as well as the adults on the trip. They will never be the same. Praise God!
    Love in Christ,

  2. Reading this brings back all of the great memories made this trip. It was a true blessing to have you as a leader. It’s just too bad that you forgot “California Gurls” in the part about the music 🙂 thank you for a great trip Crystal

  3. foot washing ceremony? i bet that would be a great fundraising idea for the next mission trip! Like those church car washes but you wash feet! People can line up, pay some money, tip/donate extra for an exceptional job. it’s a good idea; think about it…

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