After I got confirmed in April 2016, my faith in God has been stronger than ever. When I was a little kid I never wanted to go to church and my mom would force me to. I’d always procrastinate and not put on my church socks that I hated with a passion. Those past the ankle white socks with the little lace frilly fringes that drooped over the top of the sock. I never wanted to go to church. As I got older, I started to mature as a person and started being more open minded. I’d always believed in God and Jesus since I could remember because I was baptized when I was just 5 months old, but nothing ever pushed me to go to church,(except my mom) because I was young and I didn't really understand the way I do now. As I got past the elementary school not wanting to go to church phase, I entered middle school.
Middle school was a struggle for me because I was still trying to figure out who I was and as soon as I made friends, I was separated from them for the rest of middle school because my neighborhood got redistricted. A lot of the people, I remained friends with because of the fact that we went to the same church and saw each other every sunday. When I was in the middle school sunday school, that's when I really started to like church because I thought that it was fun and I liked the people and they always served us donuts every morning. For 6th grade through 7th grade, all I would think about was how much I couldn't wait to be in high school, because of what the high schoolers got to do at my church. During the summer, 8th graders entering high school and 9-12th graders got to go on these things called mission trips. Plus they got to have sunday school in the cool black painted room with neon splatter paint and these humongous bean bag chairs that could fit 3 or 4 people. All the middle schoolers just wanted to grow up already so they can have all the fun the high schoolers have. But when I was in 7th grade... it was a real struggle for me. I had to switch schools after already making new friends, I was at a school with new teachers and new students who all didn't know each other... it honestly was a disaster. Towards the end of 7th grade year around March 2015, I fell into the wrong crowd, I hung out with older kids who did bad things that I never saw myself doing until I did it. That changed me. During summer of 2015, I got caught for sneaking out of the house with someone who I thought was my friend at the time, and we went to do not good things because I listened to her just so I could prove that I was “cool”. She influenced me to do everything bad she wanted to do. I even stopped going to church.
I ended up getting caught the next day after I snuck out and my whole entire world crashed down. I went the entire summer without any communication with friends, I didn't see friends, didn't have a phone to talk to them, nothing. I had a friend that I was planning on taking to the beach with me that summer. I never got to because of the dumb decision I made. I ruined what could have been a great summer because I gave into a stupid decision. My summer was miserable and I went into a horrible depression and I honestly wanted to end my life. This was one of the lowest points in my life. My mom went through my phone reading messages to my friends that I would talk about not wanting to really live anymore because I didn't really know what the point was. My mom put me in therapy, and soon after, I was diagnosed with severe depression and severe anxiety. It wasn't just because of one summer, I really did have a unimaginably rough childhood that I don't like to talk about; where every little bad thing that happened in my life led to another and so on, which led to the depression and anxiety. My therapist helped a lot and I'm really glad she was there to help me during my rough times since I first went in until December of 2016.
When I got into 8th grade, I started going back to church because I was in the grade where I did confirmation, where I started growing my faith.
After confirmation was over and I got confirmed, that meant that I was able to go on my first mission trip that upcoming June, to Hurley, Virginia. I was kind of hesitant about going because I was giving up my last summer break before high school and I didn't really know the high schoolers and I didn't know if a lot of people from my confirmation class would be going or not. My mom ended up making me go and that was one of the best decisions of my life. Before we left, all the families and people who were going on the trip, gathered at the church and we had a farewell blessing and we took pictures and then we said goodbye to our families. It was kind of hard for me to say goodbye because I have never been that far away from my parents before for that many days especially with no communication. But as soon as we got in the party vans and we were on our way, I forgot all about it. I rode with some of my best friends. Austin Williams who was my best guy friend, Jenna Meek who I have been close friends with since we were very little, 2 of my best girlfriends, Gini Onkorownkwo, and Emily Fox. Who all made the 9 hour ride, fun. Being part of the youngest group that got to go on the mission trip I felt like I didn't really know what I was doing. I had taken Tech Ed before in school and I did the mission trip training so I knew how to operate machines and stuff in order to build or fix things but never have I actually repaired or built a house or floor or roof. I just kind of felt like I wasn't really needed. I was nervous because everyone there had been on a mission trip before except for me and the rest of my confirmation class. However, I decided to take charge and get involved because my parents paid a lot of money in order for me to go on this trip so I was going to make the most of it and help the people there in whatever way possible. We were there for 6 days. I loved every single second. We didn't have our phones or communication to family or friends and that was a struggle when it first started because I realized how addicted I had became to my phone ever since I had one, but just being surrounded my friends 24/7 made me forget all about it.
My work crew had one of the most important adults in my life, Mr. Eric Labram. Eric has been like a grandfather figure to me for about 4 years now and he helps me through everything and he's always there to support me, he knows my family, I trust him, he came to my confirmation and he just overall makes me feel important no matter where I am. Having him on my crew made my experience 10x better. Another member of my crew was one of my best friends Emily Fox. Emily and I have been friends since we were very little. We have always went to different schools but we stayed close through church and we’re still close to this day. I am very thankful to have had her in my crew because she made my experience easier and fun. I am very thankful to have her in my life as well. The other members of my crew I had never met before. Which was kind of nerve wracking for me because they were all upperclassmen who knew what they were doing. Just after the 2nd day, we all warmed up to each other and got to know each other well. We were an inseparable crew. I'm so glad I was able to build such good relationships with everyone in my crew. Someone else who had made my mission trip fun was my best guy friend Austin Williams. Austin and I go way back. We both have almost the same story, we fell into the wrong crowd, did bad things and got the consequences for it. Austin had it worse than me however, and I was very proud of how far he’d come over the last few years and how much coming to Glen Mar has changed him for the better.
On this trip, we stayed at Hurley High School. We slept in the gymnasium with a tarp down the middle separating boys and girls. Every day our schedule was wake up at 6:30 a.m sharp and be dressed and in the cafeteria at 7:00 ready for breakfast and morning announcements and prayer. The meals at Hurley were always the best. My all time favorite was chicken and dumplings, no doubt. It's delicious. After breakfast was over at 7:30, we’d have until 8:00 go back into the gym and get our things together to go to work at our job sites. We’d work at our job sites until about 12:30 and then we’d have a lunch break at our job sites and then we’d go back to work until about 2-3 o’clock in the afternoon. After we were done we’d go take showers where our crew was assigned. Each crew would either be assigned the Hurley High School locker room showers or the community center showers (which were very nice), my crew was assigned to the community center. The only thing bad about it was that over by the community center, it wreaked of sulfur. But it was the price to pay if we wanted the best showers. After we got back from showers, we’d have free time until it was dinner time. Each crew at Hurley is assigned a daily chore. It's either you helped serve breakfast or dinner and do the dishes, wash the tables after eating, restock the water bottle refrigerator, or clean the bathrooms. Every crew had to do all of the chores at one point during the trip. After free time was over it was time for dinner and evening prayer. After dinner, we’d have a prayer circle. Half the crews stayed inside the cafeteria and the other half went outside and we’d share the best part of our day. After that, it was free time again, for this free time, people usually either went to the park or played football or soccer out front of the school, went in the cars and played music, or took their crews to go out for ice cream at the ice cream place. The Thursday of that week, for free time, we had the option to either stay at the high school and do whatever or go down to the town on the bottom of the mountain, called Grundy. Grundy was where all the food places were, where there was a 2 floor Walmart, movie theatre, and cell phone reception. Everyone loved Grundy, just because you got to have fun and if you went to the movie you could see any movie you wanted and tickets there were only $3.
The Friday of that week, we all had this big cookout at one of the parks there and we invited our homeowners and people of the Hurley community to just come out and spend time with us. After the cookout, went to have evening worship at a church there called Black Key Church. Everyone loved the pastor there. He was funny and very influential and he got the point across. After that was over we went to a building and we just shared, everything. We shared about our experience with our crews, homeowners, other people from Glen Mar that came on the trip. We shared the highest point of our week and the lowest. We shared what pushed us to come on the trip, and we shared the impact that this trip has had on us and our everyday lives. I just remembered having the biggest breakdown of my life, and it was in front of people so I was really embarrassed because crying in front of people makes me feel vulnerable and weak. I remembered that I needed to go on this trip and just get away from everything because I was just in a rough spot, I had recently lost my baby cousin who drowned in a pool and had to be taken off life support. Everything was just hard, I was going through things with my ex and friends that I don’t have anymore. So, I knew this trip was exactly what I needed to get away.
With all that being said, I don’t think that anything compares to poverty, especially in a 1st world country, it’s devastating and sad that not enough people help them… it’s heart breaking.
Being from such a privileged community such as Howard County, you don’t really understand the struggle of these people. No matter how much you say “the struggle is real” and stuff like that... is the struggle really real...? Do you actually understand how hard the struggle is? Because no matter how hard you think your life is here, I promise you other people have it worse. I’m someone who gets almost everything they ask for, I’m spoiled and I didn’t realise it until I went to Hurley. Being apart of such a great church community and just community in general where the education system is one of the best in the country, living in a house that isn’t falling apart at the seams, with running clean water and air conditioning and heat and easy access to anywhere I might need to go need to go. That’s privileged. After being in Hurley and seeing all these people that can only afford to do their shopping at the Dollar General store in the center of town, I realized how truly ungrateful I was. I have very good medical insurance, I go to a good school, I can go shopping at the mall every weekend, my family has enough money to buy a cartful of groceries every week at the grocery store. My family provides so much for me and I never realized because I had never seen people living in that bad of conditions.
I didn’t really understand how bad poverty was, especially in America. A lot of women work at stores there or find whatever kind of employment and a lot of them stay home because there isn’t enough employment in that community. The main job for men there is mining in the coal mines. I remember my crew and I were on the way to our jobsite and we stopped at one of the stores for Gatorade because we needed to stay hydrated because it was going to be very hot that day. When we got out of the car there was this truck of white men that all got out and I thought that they were African American men, but they weren’t; the coal had stained their skin wherever their clothes didn’t cover and their skin was coal black. I had never seen anything like that before. The people there don’t have easy access to showers so I remember just feeling really bad seeing their skin in conditions like that without not always being able to shower, because I’m able to shower whenever I want. Sadly, the next day, it was time to go back home. It was upsetting that we had to pack all of our stuff up and leave this amazing place where we created unbreakable bonds with each other along with the people in Hurley.
However, I was happy to see the lasting impact we left on the people there. On the ride back home, we spent 9 hours in a party van with unforgettable stories to share with one another. It was nothing like the ride there, We had so much to tell each other and look back on. There’s this thing that people say if they’ve been to Hurley, “you don’t get homesick anymore, you get Hurley sick”. I couldn’t agree more. There’s 2 months until I go back, on June 25th 2017, and I couldn’t be more excited.