Editor’s Note: In May 2016, a group of Floris UMC adults traveled to South Carolina to assist in rebuilding houses affected by recent floods. The following is a blog submitted by those group members.
When we pulled up to our worksite, it was about 100 degrees outside. We arrived at a small, one-story house that had been victim to a flood that damaged the walls and floors and left the roof barely functional. After looking around a bit, the veteran mission trip members in our group hit the ground running. We rookies followed suit.
Each room in the house had a large pile of furniture in the middle and a fresh coat of paint from the team that came before us. Those of us who were new to construction each took a partner to guide us. Within a few hours, we were carefully painting floorboards, laying engineered wood and installing door handles.
As we were working, I wondered to myself, “Why do we go on mission trips? What if we just raised money instead? Don’t the costs of travel and lodging just exacerbate the problem?” I often entertain different perspectives regarding my faith, and I was eager to think and pray about these questions throughout the trip.
On our second day, it started raining in the morning and didn’t let up for hours. The water reached about eight inches in the backyard. If the roof wasn’t finished that day, the house would flood again and the roof and flooring would be damaged. Tropical Depression Bonnie required the group to work even faster and harder than the day before. I got on the roof for the first time and was very wary of slipping off the edge.
By midday, I and the rest of the roofing team were completely drenched in rain, and we were freezing. We kept working until the homeowner, Mazelle, came to see the progress. She brought her grandson and nephew with her.
Frankly, I was too scared of slipping and falling off the slick ladder to come down. So I just squinted and waved to them from above. I looked over at Mazelle and then back over to the team members giving their best efforts to finish the job.
Seeing her delight in the projects around her house filled me with enthusiasm and clarity. Despite the discomfort, everyone worked joyfully and with great attention to quality, like they would on their own home.
In Galatians 6:2, the Bible reads, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Therein lies the answer to my questions about mission trips.
Relationships and conversations are transformative and bind us to each other and Christ. To place ourselves in the physical space of the afflicted is how we relate to other humans and empathize with their suffering.
And, as a bonus of this particular trip, it is also how we make hilarious new friends, discover the terror of South Carolina toads, try new hobbies, explore Southern cuisine and learn how to install a doorknob.