So, at Group we do mission trips, right?
Last week, 25 of our full-time staff tallied up how many total Group Mission Trips we’ve been on. The number was 285 Group Mission Trips (attended by current full-time staffers alone)! That’s a lot of nights on air mattresses, but if the 25 of us could tell you anything, we’d say it’s worth it.
We did a fun photo shoot of all 25 of us with the t-shirt from our first mission trips (click here for the album).
The shirts photos triggered some pretty fun memories on our team…a few of which were too good not to share. We present you: stories from our first mission trips (the ones we love, hate, and everything in between).
I got thrown into being an MC at my very first camp. In my first program, I said, “So who is at Workcamp for the very first time?” (A bunch of campers raised their hands.) Then I said, “Me, too!” And I watched as the face of every adult in the room fell. I’d like to redo that first impression.
Fun Fact: Jake went on to be one of our very best MCs that summer. Now he helps hire, train, and supervise MCs year-round.
I was a middle school camper at my first Workcamp in Lexington, NC. For some reason, one of my friends and I decided it’d be a good idea to do a cheerleading routine for the entire camp during the variety show. We wore tie dye shirts. We danced to a Mary Mary song. I wish I could forget it.
Fast forward to 2010. 2 days before my first Week of Hope, my grandfather passed away and I was co-leading the camp with my (now) best friend Kyla. I came back from the funeral after camp had started and it felt like I had a brand new family. I’d never even met these people and all they wanted to do was love me and pray for me. I never wanted to stop doing Week of Hope.
Fun Fact: At the end of my summer on Summer Staff, I went home to Ohio for 2 months before coming back to work on hiring Week of Hope staff full-time. Best job in the world.
One of the props required for program at my first camp was a shopping cart. As Materials Manager, I made stops into five or six area shopping centers to try to procure a shopping cart. I went into each store to talk to a manager. I asked to borrow… “No.” I offered to make a deposit that we could get back when we returned it… “No.” So, late on Wednesday night, my crew of four hopped into our brand new F250 with the souped up ladder rack, and went out to do some shopping. In the back area of a darker parking lot…we found our victim. My Program Manager (Ryan Kroll) jumped out, and loaded up our prize. Off we went, back to camp. Needless to say, late Thursday night…we made the same trek to release our captured victim back into its home environment. For the next three camps, I saved myself the time of speaking to managers!
Fun Fact: Geoff was dragged to his first Workcamp. But now, he’s been working at Group for over a decade, setting up mission trips all over the nation.
Oh yeah, I remember my first camp. It was a lot of fun. Thom called me up when I was away at my first year of college and said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna do this thing!’ And I said ‘Okay!’ without any idea of what we were doing. We were just a bunch of kids having fun. We didn’t know exactly what we were doing, we just did it. We had no idea whether anyone would show up. There were no business plans, no budgets – just a passion to connect youth groups who wanted to help with the people in our area who needed the help. But out of that first camp emerged the basic framework that continues nearly 40 years later—which tells me God had a lot to do with it. I remember those early days with great fondness for the youth groups who journeyed to the Big Thompson Canyon—and the Group staff with whom I served.
Fun Facts: Thom Schultz, Founder & Chairman of Group Publishing, was a youth leader at Lee’s church. They worked together on the very first Workcamp. Lee has attended over 25 mission trips – he lost count at some point – and continues to be one of the best camp storytellers you’ll ever meet..
This coming summer, we have 195 mission trips on the schedule so we do have some plans and budgets. It’s all for the same purpose, though, and that is simply this: be the love of Jesus to communities all over the world by serving and worshiping God together. Going on our first mission trip changed each of our lives in a huge way – we never stopped going.
How did your first mission trip change your life?
- Valerie / @groupmissions