This week features a special blog post from Rebecca, one of our youth, and her recent summer mission trip. 

This summer I went on a mission trip with the Diocese of Virginia to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I think going on mission trips as a teenager is very important. I've now gone on two mission trips and each time I have grown so much as a person and in my relationship with God. Growing up in Northern Virginia I have been blessed with an amazing life and I think as a teenager, sometimes we tend to take that for granted. Joining the Diocese of Virginia to the Episcopal Mission Center (EMC) in Philadelphia this summer showed me a completely different life. There is so much poverty, violence, and struggle in Philadelphia.

In the midst of all the struggle in Philadelphia, I saw God in many ways over that week. At Face-to-Face (a soup kitchen that anybody can come to no matter where they live) the people that worked there were very intense but I could tell it was because they were passionate about serving other people and showing the love of God. I love working with kids, so when I was told I was going to be working at St. Gabe's City Camp for an entire day I was overjoyed. At St. Gabe's, the children were all so loving and welcoming from the second we walked through the doors. The way the kids treated us with such kindness and love was amazing. It was a great reminder to always be loving and kind to everyone. It was amazing building such awesome relationships with the kids during the day. It was very hard to say goodbye at the end. I loved getting to meet lots of new people during the week, whether it be through different sites I went to, or the people I was working with from the EMC.

diocesanyouthmissionrebeccashannon2.jpgOne day we listened to a seminar on gun violence and visited the gun range and the Memorial to the Lost. It really moved me in a way I wasn't expecting. A woman spoke to us about her experience with gun violence: her son was shot and killed in Philadelphia. Her story was really saddening and very hard to listen to. The Memorial to the Lost is what really changed my perspective on gun violence. The memorial consisted of t-shirts hanging on pipes with the names and ages of the people killed and when they died. The ages ranged from 4 years-old to 65 years-old. There were all ages, genders, and races in this memorial. By the end of walking through it, I had to sit down on the sidewalk because I was practically bawling. Like I said, growing up in Northern Virginia I have been fortunate not to grow up around this kind of violence. But seeing this opened my eyes even more to an issue that needs to be dealt with in America: gun violence. This is an issue I am looking forward to seeing be dealt with. After seeing everything that day, I strongly believe even more than I did before that this country needs serious change.

Speaking from experience, mission trips build character and show different parts of the world or country that you wouldn't be exposed to otherwise. Seeing these different places can then make you aware of the issues and struggles that need to be dealt with. As teenagers this is incredibly important because we are the next generation and the only way the issues will be solved is if we are aware and want change so we can make that change happen. This trip was truly amazing and inspirational. I made amazing friends and built great relationships with the people from Philadelphia and the EMC, and God really showed his awesome love and grace this week. I can't wait to go back again.