Reflections & Gratitude

Parallel rows of tobacco stretched to the edge of my sightline, their giant sagging from the intense heat of the day. In front of me were two circles of chairs nestled between two double-wide trailers. We grabbed plates of food and took our seats in the circles. The thirteen young folks who gave a week of their summer to travel to North Carolina on a Mission Trip interspersed with the mi-grant farmworkers who had invited us into their home. Our conversation ranged from comparing types of motorcycles, to sharing stories of the places where we came from, to swapping conspiracy theories. Something profound happens in sharing a meal. It makes conversation easier and dis-solves self-consciousness and timidity in the face of a language barrier. Through our interpreter, gestures, and the English some of the farmworkers knew, we learned about their lives—what brought them to the US, why they come back season after season, the difficulty and beauty of life at home, and the struggles of farmwork. 

This was just one memory of what was a powerful and difficult week. We learned a lot during our time down south. We learned a lot—the complexities of the US immigration system, a host of issues that surround the US agricultural system and farmworker labor, and the human and environ-mental risks around pesticides. And we experienced a lot—the subtropical heat of Eastern North Carolina, a week sleeping on the floor of a church parish hall, an afternoon of weeding and mulching squash beds, and the warmth of the Atlantic Ocean 826 miles south of Portsmouth. We spent two evenings at migrant farmworker camps, sharing meals and conversations with the workers. We sorted and distributed clothing donations (many of them coming from the St. John’s community). And we heard heartbreaking stories from people who’ve struggled with the US immigration system, un-documented immigrants whose children are citizens and who live in fear of deportation. 

And all of it was possible because of the generosity of the St. John’s Community. You donated over $10,000 for our trip, bags full of clothes and shoes that we distributed while on our trip, and supported us with your love and prayers. Thank you. Thank you for supporting the youth of St. John’s and encouraging this kind of mission experience. It was an eye-opening and challenging experience, and I’m so grateful to have been able to lead it. It was awesome to see the group come together over the week and build connections with each other and the workers we encountered. Thank you for being a loving and supportive community that understands that enabling young people to have this kind of experience is serving the mission of the church and empowering future leaders. We are so grateful for you. 

But don’t take my word on how powerful the experience was. You can hear it from the youth who went on the trip. The Mission trip team will share their experience during a St. John’s Out-side the Box event after the 10am service on Sunday, October 13th. Please come to hear them talk about their experience, what they learned, and how they will carry the work we began in June forward into this year and the rest of their lives. 

With gratitude and appreciation,