I recently had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco on a mission trip. I'm going to stop you there. I know what you are thinking. The phrase "mission trip" has the tendency to have people put me into a certain category and I'm going to stop you right there.
I am so lucky to be able to take these trips every year. For being invited back every year and for having a boss who lets me take a week off to do so. So great. Each year is a great experience, no matter where we go, no matter the adversities we are faced with (example: blatant hatred from people of authority), we find a way to connect to ourselves, God, all while helping others, bonding with each other, forming memories, but most of all, laughing.... A LOT. Sleep deprivation makes EVERYTHING funny.
Many years ago when I started doing these trips, we learned that it's always much better when we drive. We flew on one trip and found that there was way more fighting on that trip. We didn't have the bonding time in the vans, so that was the last time we flew.
What is the best way to start a road trip?
A Starbucks Gift Card, of course! :) We frequent Starbys on these trips. Again.... sleep deprivation. And the morning we left, I had gotten up late and didn't have time to stop at Starbucks (or the post office and bank as I had originally planned) so this was a very lovely surprise.
What's one of the best parts about road trips? Music. I had to drive to Golden to meet up with everyone and the entire way there (about a 75 minute drive), I told myself not to forget my auxillary cord so we could listen to ipods on the trip. Got to the church, unplugged it.... and later realized that I left it in my car. Perfect. I was determined to buy one and was sure a gas station we stopped at would have one. Apparently I was wrong. Finally in Spanish Fork, Utah we ran into a KMart and found one. (Funny story- said KMart also had a CASSETTE Walkman. so that was crazy)
|I do love music.|
Elko, NV was surprisingly cold. There weren't a lot of options for dinner. Some of the group went to Spoon Me and decided just to get frozen yogurt for dinner, but I needed something a little more substantial. Some of the kids went to Pizza Hut- which actually turned out to be a disaster- took an hour and a half to get their food. But hey! At least they scored some free food out of all that mess. Casey and I decided to try Taco Time, but it turns out that place is expensive so we bailed and found a Subway down the road. The Subway had a drive thru- and when we walked in and ordered, the employees acted like they'd never seen customers before. So strange. I was just happy to get some food in my belly. :) Casey and I hung out, catching up (he just got married so there was much to discuss) and watching tv. It was a lovely end to a pretty sweet day.
We left in the morning for our final destination- San Francisco! YAY!
|You can tell it's the beginning of the trip because the kids are still smiling.|
The drive was fairly uneventful and seemed to go by pretty fast. We did find a town called Battle Mountain that had it's initials (BM) imprinted into the mountain. We got a pretty good kick out of that- some people clearly don't think. :)
3 of the 4 fearless leaders. I didn't get a picture of Amy for some strange reason.
|Driving a Suburban! :)|
For those of you who don't know- I live in a fairly small town. I grew up in a suburb of Denver and one of the reasons I never moved back post college is I absolutely HATE big cities. I hate driving in them, I hate how many people are there, I really just hate them. So naturally.... my driving shift happened to be while we drove into San Francisco.
We got stuck in some pretty serious traffic as we hit the bridge. This inspired some interesting conversations with other people on the road. One of our kids chose to bark at other cars. One of our kids really had to go to the bathroom and we told him there was nowhere to go until we reached the hotel. Naturally, he took matters into his own hands and found an empty water bottle. One of the funnier moments of our trip and that kid got mad props! :)
We finally got to our hotel, which was just on a street with no parking so we had to have all the kids unload the cars really fast while Casey and I found places to park them for the week. Also a fun experience. ;-)
Michele, Casey, Amy and I found this cute little cafe up the street to eat dinner at. It was delicious and quite cute. After dinner we had a small devotion that Michele led, preparing us for the week ahead, we discussed details and got settled into our rooms.
We walked over to Grace Chapel and then to the little park behind it. We discussed how the wealthy get to that point and got a good idea of what that part of town looked like before we went to the other side of the spectrum. We saw dogs playing in fountains and kids playing on the playground. There was a man I watched for a bit. He was in a business suit, just sitting on a bench talking on the phone. It looked like it could have been a business call (he looked a lot like a lawyer) and it made me wonder where he came from and how he got there.
|Me in front of Grace Chapel.|
|Worship Experience at Nob Hill|
We walked over to Glide, which really wasn't a far walk at all. It's so strange to see how little of a distance it can be to separate the rich from the poor.
When we got there, they had us put on aprons, hairnets/hats, and gloves. It reminded me so much of the days I spent working at a dining hall in college. Some of the best days of my life- because of the friends I made. The job itself was not very rewarding. :) We were each assigned our jobs- mine was basically busing the tables.
People would be entering the dining room and receiving a tray. When they were finished, it was my job to take the tray, take it back to the dish table and also monitor their water pitchers to make sure they were full, get them anything they asked for (more fruit, salt/pepper, etc). Honestly, I had no idea what was in store.
Distributing trays is quite the process. They have one person per item and they just get slid down the assembly line.
My first day was really strange. It hit me in a way I never thought it would. My insecurities hit me hard and I worried that someone would try to hurt me. Now logically I knew that wouldn't happen and that other people who knew me were around who would help keep me safe, but these people were strangers and I tend to worry about that fairly often (remember when I said I hate big cities?) Apparently I wasn't hiding it very well because one of the other workers (not with my group) stopped me at one point and asked if I was okay. When I told him yes, I don't think he bought it. Oh well.
A few interesting things that I noticed during that first shift. Some people insisted on taking their own tray back to the dish table. One man stopped me when I took his tray and asked to pray with me. It always amazes me when I meet people on these trips who have been thrown into situations where they could be angry and are still so thankful for what they do have. The one thing that also struck me was how when I was taking a tray from a table, if there was food still on it, people would take it. It didn't matter to them- they wanted that food. And that made me sad.
The first shift seemed to go pretty fast. Afterwards we went to Chinatown and had dinner and then split up and walked around.
The kids got chicken wings.
The adults went a little crazy. :)
After Chinatown we had devotions, led by Casey- who did an amazing job, might I add and then it was bedtime.
Saturday we were working 2 shifts at Glide. First was when we did the prep for lunch and then we served lunch. I was at the table working on sandwiches. I put peanut/apple butter on more sandwiches than you could imagine. Then I passed it on and the girls wrapped it up and put it in a plastic tub. I am not sure how many tubs we filled or how many sandwiches we made, but it was a lot. The woman who was training us on how to do it later told us that she is homeless and later some of the kids even served her a meal which was pretty mind blowing to them.
We had a pretty long walk on to our worship experience site. Casey and I walked, making jokes the entire time and just laughed and laughed. That's probably one of my most memorable moments of the trip. By the way- who names their business eyebrows anonymous?!
Our worship experience that day was a pretty intense one. Michele gave us each a piece of paper that had a picture of a plate on it. She had us write a time (or times) when we felt empty inside. We then taped them to the rocks
After they were taped to rocks, we each got a hand-full of breadcrumbs. And when it was time, we all threw them at our plates- getting all of our anger out.
After that we each got a bottle of Purell and we poured it onto our "shit plates" representing the cleansing of our souls from the feelings those situations brought on.
In the end, we shared in a prayer and I sat there and cried a bit but made it stop before anyone could see it. When it was all said and done, we all gravitated to the scene of the bay. We took our pictures and then we split up into groups to go wander San Francisco before it was time for devotions. :)
Michele, Amy, Casey and I went off together and just had fun together, as we always do. While wandering we found an old car museum, a really cool playground and then Michele and Amy found some little garage to go into.... Meanwhile, Casey and I stayed outside by this sign...
We were getting hungry and we found some cops and asked them where to go. They recommended a place called Capo's. It was italian and DELICIOUS. If you are ever in San Francisco, GO TO CAPO'S! They were so great to us there and we even sat across from 3 men who looked like they were in the mob. They had suits and hats and everything. Amy tried to talk to one of them and he didn't seem very pleased with that.
I led devotions that night. We discussed hunger, income levels and did a hunger simulation. Some of the kids got cheerios, some got graham crackers and then 3 got a dessert from Starbuck's. It inspired some great conversations from the kids.
Sunday was our day off from Glide and our FUN DAY! It started with us walking up to Lombard Street and doing a prayer experience there. Lombard is the curviest street so as we walked down it, everytime there was a curve we switched what we were praying for or prayed from a different perspective. I found it interesting that the curves weren't as pronounced as I thought they would be. It just seemed like before you knew it you were headed in a different direction. I guess that's kind of how life is as well, huh?
|At the top of Lombard Street|
|The view from the bottom of Lombard Street|
|Me at the bottom of Lombard Street|
We went and had lunch at In-N-Out and then did a little shopping before we had to book it over to board the ferry to Alcatraz Island. Being at Alcatraz was quite the experience. It was so surreal. It made me sad that people committed such terrible crimes that they were faced with a world inside those cells. It makes me wonder where things went wrong. I definitely recommend going to Alcatraz if you ever get the chance. It was amazing!
After Alcatraz, we did a little more shopping and then we did a tour of the Boudin Sourdough Factory. At the end of the tour you get to try bread (SO GOOD!) and you get to take a test to see which kind of bread you are. My description was eerily spot on.
Michele, Amy and I found a restaurant where Michele and I could get seafood (I had a crabcake sandwich that was delicious). Casey had Chipotle and then met up with us. That dinner was probably one of my favorite moments of the trip. One minute we were laughing and before any of us knew it we had plunged head first into a super intense conversation. And then we were laughing again. It's funny because there is a 22 year gap between the youngest and the oldest in us 4 but we can have the most amazing conversations and I really feel at peace when I'm with them. We met up with the kids and took the cable car home and then crashed. I was way tired!
Monday was our super busy day at Glide. We went in for prep, served lunch and then served dinner as well. It was a great day though. I got to work in the coffee house for lunch which was a nice change. The coffeehouse serves families and disabled persons. It was a slower pace than the regular dining room. It broke my heart to see the little kids in there. I'm sure it didn't phase them though- this is just part of their lives. I was reminded of my mission trip back in 1998 when we met 2 little kids and they changed our world. I found myself wondering what they are up to these days-- 15 years later. I hope they are well and happy.
For dinner I was back to busing tables and my attitude seemed to change for this shift. I was more comfortable with helping these people. I was pretty sad to be leaving but was so happy with the work we had accomplished while we were there. I watched one man in particular take the leftover mashed potatoes off of 3 different trays that people had left. It broke my heart. And it made me think on my fitness journey and how I try so hard not to eat too many calories, and these people barely get enough. So sad. The thing that hit me the hardest was when I would see people there my age. It's a rough world out there and I can't imagine being in that position when your life is really just beginning. I am so thankful that this organization is out there to help people.
I led devotions that night- we talked about love. Who deserves love vs. who doesn't? And then we started a love circle--- where we go around and say something we love about each person. This time I made it challenging and told them they couldn't say they love that someone is funny. That seems to be a popular one in the group. We only did half of the group- I didn't realize how long it would be taking and so we decided to finish up the following evening.
We left pretty early in the morning for our long drive to Salt Lake City.
|The kids had mixed feelings on the trip back home|
We invented a game in the car called Music Roulette which was so much fun! It started where everyone played a song from their ipod that they loved. Then the driver picked a theme for each round. It was so much fun hearing all the songs and I got to show off some of my rad car dancing moves. :) It was a great way to pass the time.
We got into Salt Lake City and we performed the end of the week song for the kids, finished up our love circle and signed plates for each other.
|Getting ready to sing for the kids. This is so us.|
When I planned the love circle part of devotions, I didn't realize that I'd be participating in it and it would make me feel incredibly awkward. But I think it was really good for me to hear, and I'm sure it was good for everyone else too.
Some of the things that were said about me that really resonated with me were...
- Like the light at the end of the tunnel.
- Caring, thoughtful
- A good role model
- I'm like an onion
- A walking timeline
I really appreciated all the things people said, and I know that exercise is not an easy one, but I think it is a great one for bonding purposes as well as self esteem purposes.
Wednesday morning we left Salt Lake City and headed for Denver. The funny thing about the way we went home was that we actually drove past my house to get to the church where my car was parked, so I could pack it up and turn around and go back home.
This trip seemed to go by so fast and I was definitely not ready for it to end. Those 15 people, in a lot of ways, are my soulmates. They are the people that I can truly be myself around. I can just be my dorky self, singing and dancing all the time and they just join in and laugh along. I never worry about being judged around them or being tagged as "uncool". I feel such a sense of peace when I am with them and know that no matter what I am feeling, I can talk to them about it and things will get resolved. I miss them all already and know that the things we experienced on this past week will continue to remind us and change us for the rest of our lives. I am so lucky to have been a part of such a special group and a special trip.
Who are the people you can be you around?
Have you every been on a mission trip? How did it change you?