By Cole Ferguson, Senior at St. Columba's
It's my first day back from one of the most life changing experiences I have ever had. Going into this mission trip, I was just another lazy teenager who was really on the fence about his faith in God. I honestly had pretty low expectations going into the trip and just thought of it as a week with my friends in a city that I had never been before. I ended up being transformed and with a faith as vast and deep as the ocean.
My day group had the privilege of helping with a day camp at a church in Allison Hill, PA. Just a little background, Allison Hill is considered the "poverty pocket" of Harrisburg and is one of the poorest towns in PA. These kids came from broken families, awful living conditions, and a life that people like me would dread having. But Mr. Bill-the man in charge of the day camp- told me something the first day that was shockingly true. "Allison Hill is one of the poorest and worst places to live in this country, but we have a lot of life and a lot of love so, in a way, we are the richest" Mr. Bill told us, and wow was he right! These kids filled the room with energy and the brightest smiles all-day everyday from the second we arrived there! They were so overjoyed by our presence that they latched on to our backs and seemed to never let go! Seriously...I don't think I have ever given more piggy back rides in my life. There was one kid that really stood out to me though. He was a five year old boy named Anthony. Now when my group first got to the church, Anthony stuck out like a sore thumb because when all the other kids were peeking through the window trying to see us as we came up, Anthony was sitting on the step with his hands in his pockets and his head hanging low. As the day went on, Anthony gradually came out of his shell and by the end of the day was jumping/piggy back riding ball of energy. It was that kind of impact on the kids that stuck out to me this week. That though we couldn't change the situation they were living in, we offered them an escape. We gave them 5 hours of pure joy that they probably wouldn't have gotten at home. It's that kind of pure joy and kindness that I can really see God using me in. God is using me as a hand that reaches out and holds a kids hand when the cross the street or pushing them on a swing or even throws a dodgeball at them, all things that offer them a bit of happiness aside from what they are dealing with.
My experience with the kids was great and it definitely changed who I was as a person, my faith restoring/life altering experience didn't happen on a work site. It happened in the lobby of the church where we stayed for the week. Before that night, I had only believed in God as some spiritual ghost that I couldn't see or feel or hear but I just blindly believed in. But after that night, I can honestly say that I have seen and felt God in a way that opened my eyes to a love that I can't even fathom. The way that God took the program for the evening and pushed it in the direction that he wanted it to go, not what we had planned. I have never felt more love radiating from a room like I felt that night as the whole youth community on our trip prayed over our friend who needed us. It was moving. It was life changing. It was faith restoring.
Coming out of this trip, I have a faith stronger than ever before and a community that shares that faith. A community that loves me. A community that has shown me God. A community that is 'held together' by a city that is full of life and love despite its poverty. That's how I found God in Harrisburg, PA.