Hah! I'm back from our exotic mission trip to far off Cincinnati, Ohio. "But you live in Cincinnati" I hear you saying. That, my friends, is what made it awesome.
I wasn't sure if the junior high youth I had with me would think it was lame or not and I'm pleased to report they thought it was great. The church where we stayed (with 100 youth from across the country) was literally 7 minutes from Redeemer. We loaded up in the rented van, and set off on an epic journey around I275. That's right, we drove 1 1/2 hours on the interstate through three states to get 7 minutes down the road. It was fantastic. We stopped on our way into Distant Cincinnati and took a touristy photo at the University of Cincinnati. We talked about the town as though we were from elsewhere. We remarked on how the air smelled cleaner, the people seemed nicer, and the accommodations more foreign.
Our actual volunteering time was split between the nursing home and the Community Land Co-op. The first was lovely but the second is where the kids really shone. It was hard, dirty, disgusting labor. We went to several abandoned and condemned houses to begin cleanup so they could be rehabbed into fabulous affordable housing. The before and after photos they have at the office are just amazing--from burnt-out disaster to suburban clean. In the first house, the dank basement was lit only by a couple flashlights and an extension light where we stood calf-deep in garbage and debris. Crackheads had stolen the copper pipes a month earlier, flooding the basement. We spent a couple hours hauling out damp and degraded wood, dolls, clotheshangars, bottles, tires, window screens, and a vast amount of Undetermined Crap. It was horrible and hot and exactly what I wanted out of a mission site for these kids. The next house had both live roaches scurrying about and dead roaches crushed in the edges of the refrigerator door. The next one smelled of Something Dreadful covered up by the smell of Pine Sol.
Seriously, these teens have seen what conditions can be like in their own town. They've never even conceived of how bad things can get. And now they want to raise money and volunteers for the co-op. I'm so proud. It could not have gone better.