Reflection on the Youth Mission Trip
Written by Ryli Mozolak
On the last night in Clarkston Georgia we, as a youth group, decided to debrief our time together on our mission. We sat around on couches, chairs, and the rug when we were presented with a question: “What is one word that describes the trip to you?” We could say any word as long as we could explain why we felt that the specific word encapsulated how we felt about the mission. As we went around in a circle, many words were thrown around including eye-opening, perspective, community, and humbling. When it came to be my turn the only word that seemed to come to mind was “experience.” Now, this may seem vague in the sense that in general, the trip was an experience, however, I didn't mean it in that context. This trip gave me experience in areas I have never had the opportunity to further. Clarkston Georgia is a unique little town that only covers 1.857 square miles of the 3.797 million that the United States is made up of, but here are communities and ways of living that I had never witnessed, problems I fortunately have not had to endure, and languages I had never heard before. I felt as though I was thrown into a melting pot filled with many things I would not see in my everyday life.
One of my, and the groups, favorite tasks during the week was anything to do with the children that lived in the apartment complex nearby. This was a large community with many kids that loved to play games, dance, jump rope, and climb trees. The first time we had the opportunity to meet these children was during an art lesson in which we led an art project that involved drawing and then creating a collage over top. These kids immediately saw us walk in and welcomed us with open arms…very literally. I walked out of an apartment and was greeted by a little girl who, without any hesitation, gave me a large hug and then walked me over to sit with her during the reading portion of the lesson. These children just wanted attention and love and the ability to provide that basic necessity was a good feeling. We got to draw with the kids, listening to their requests and then trying to accommodate. They didn’t care how good it was, trust me I drew some questionable dogs, however it was the act of having someone to play with that was enough for them. Many turned to playing superheroes, or using others as a jungle gym, while others just wanted to sit with us and play with our sunglasses or hair.
To connect back to my idea of experience, with these children I learned how to create relationships with kids who maybe did not know much English or struggled to communicate what they wanted. I learned how to lovingly direct children who were presenting bad behavior without coming off as pushy or bossy. I learned how to set up games and control a group of children in an orderly manner, because believe it or not, jumping rope can cause many issues! All of these lessons just from simply playing with a group of children.
Another area in which I gained new exposure was the act of praying out loud, in a group, over different subjects. Multiple days during the week we were driven out to the schools in the community. High schools, middle schools, and elementary schools were all on the list for our team to visit. Coming into the trip I knew I struggled with intentionally praying, as well as praying out loud, fearing judgment or that I would never have the correct words. When we went to these schools we were split into groups and we would walk either on campus, or around the school depending on the permission we were given and we were asked to pray over everything whether it was the school itself, the staff, students, for God to be a part of the school year, anything was acceptable. As we walked we began to take turns praying. Whether it was a short prayer or a long one, it was accounted for. This was something that stuck with me, I do not need to have a fancy prayer with big words for God to hear it. I do not need to fear judgment when it is an honest prayer from my heart. As the week went on I began to become more comfortable praying in front of others and over different subjects. I prayed multiple times over the group whether it was before devotional or after worship, I began to become more confident in my words. Along with finding confidence, I was able to see ways God was using my prayers. While giving backpacks out for the new school year, my group was able to speak with some residents in an apartment that went to the schools in which we prayed over. This moment was really impactful for me as I was able to see our prayers were connected to something and making an impact. The mission overall had so many other important lessons and experiences, but these are the ones that I will really cherish. I am incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in the work that Envision Atlanta provides and look forward to hopefully finding more work in which the same experiences are given.