February 1, 2017

Sweeping Up Joy Guest Post

Hello wonderful readers! Today I have a special treat for you. Alicia from Sweeping Up Joy is here to share a special story and insight from her time spent on a mission trip. Alicia is a self-described bookish mom of four. She blogs about the weird things she finds in the bathroom, surviving Mass with littles, and choosing happiness amidst life's unexpected bumps.  

If you remember I mentioned that I would be headed on a mission trip myself and in preparation I have asked some amazing bloggers to share about their time and experiences. 


When Brittany asked for a guest post while she is off serving on a mission trip, I jumped at the chance. The most meaningful experience I had before getting married and having kids involved serving on a mission trip in high school.

Not Your Average Vacation
My mission trip was domestic—a group of seven of us stayed at an inner city church to help with general cleaning, running a Vacation Bible School, and serving an outreach picnic.  It definitely involved putting on a muppet-esque Christian puppet show, too. One thing about serving on a mission—you say "yes" to all requests, even if it involves muppets.

Well—that’s how it’s supposed to be. A couple of the other participants left the mission trip early. I don’t remember why. I do know that their parents had “encouraged” them to go, probably with the hope that they find inspiration. 

I understand the early departure. The work was not glamorous. It wasn’t even particularly interesting. We slept on a cement floor with sleeping bags; even my-then-spry-self wasn't comfortable. We ate whatever the church people served and washed our dishes by dipping them into Rubbermaid tubs of bleach water.

One of our tasks involved going door-to-door to deliver fliers advertising a free meal (and prizes!) at the church. (During that free picnic was when we would give our stellar puppet show about Jesus, but conveniently that part wasn’t on the flier.)  

A couple of us were matched up with one of the staff at the church for the flier distribution. While we walked up and down streets handing out yellow fliers offering free food, I couldn’t help but be aware of the state of the neighborhood we were in. The man from the church didn’t seem to notice. He greeted everyone warmly, some of the people by name. There was no preaching. Just flier passing and greeting.

Out of curiosity, I looked up more information on the places we hiked after returning home and found that that particular neighborhood had the highest crime rate in the state. I didn’t tell my mom that part.

Being Changed by Mission
I got to know a pre-teen girl—Adrienne. She was sort of old in comparison to the other neighborhood kids who came to the VBS, but she must have enjoyed it to keep coming back. Like most wannabe teens she was very well versed in everything pop culture. While it was sort of boring to listen to her talk about Justin Timberlake blah, blah, blah—I did it. She was more guarded in talking about her home life, but reading between the lines I gathered it was rough. She didn’t care for her mom’s latest boyfriend…

Through getting to know Adrienne and the other children, I realized the poverty is less about money than it is resources and support. I may not have had cable TV growing up as the oldest of six kids, but I did have access to a library and to caring adults. Ultimately I was left with one big question: How could the kids at VBS be expected to break the cycle of poverty without any of the resources I took for granted?

That’s where the Church came in. That’s where I came in with my small sacrifice in listening to all the Justin Timberlake mumbo jumbo. And that’s where the participants who left early missed out.

Giving away food, books, and clothing. Connecting people with jobs, housing, and addiction services. Being the hands and feet of Jesus. Listening. Healing. Loving. The Church is the organization best suited to break the cycle of poverty and bring hope to the despairing. We only have to say “yes” to the call in order to be changed. But we do have to say “yes.”

Adrienne asked if we could be pen pals. After making sure such an arrangement was okay, we exchanged addresses. Her letters were just like her conversations— full of which celebrity was dating who, complete with hearts above all her i’s. The wisps of her real life rarely appeared. We wrote back and forth a few times before the letters stopped.

Every year when I flip through the address book I’ve had since high school to send Christmas cards, I come across her name. It makes me pause. Is she safe? Is she happy?  Did she ever meet Justin Timberlake?!?! Yeses all around, I hope.

Missionaries of Mercy and Compassion
Ultimately, I want my kids’ hearts to be pierced by the suffering of others, not in a depressing or unhealthy way, but in a way that inspires them to change the world. I’d much rather end up with compassionate adult children than financially successful ones. If there’s something the world could use more of, after all, it’s mercy. I want my children to embrace the idea of sacrificing for the sake of others. I don’t want them to take the early bus home when things get uncomfortable.

My husband and I have been intentional about cultivating a missions culture in our family in tiny, tiny ways. When our local parish hosted a missionary priest from Tanzania, we invited him over for dinner. Our kids were able to break bread (well, actually they were able to slurp spaghetti) with someone who is actively engaged in missionary work.

As a family, we’ve done “little missions” by supporting our local food pantry. We’ve packaged meals with Kids Against Hunger to be sent internationally. Last year for the Jubilee Year of Mercy we read through many, many picture books showing the works of mercy in action. The kids know that we donate the clothes, toys, and books we don’t need, and at Christmas time we provide gifts for a local family.  We also sponsor a FOCUS missionary each month.

Someday I’d love to take a mission-focused vacation when my kids are old enough to help. But for now, I keep the memories of my mission trip tucked away, using them as a guide to shape my own little missionaries.


Make sure you stop by Alicia's blog, Sweeping Up Joy to read more about her faith and her family. You can also follow her on Facebook here. Make sure you tell her I sent you!

Be Blessed,
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