Episcopal had 19 students and four chaperones travel to Arecibo, Puerto Rico, from June 16-21 on a mission trip. The group stayed at Comunidad Christiana, a church in Arecibo.
The team was divided into four work teams, along with other teenagers from a church in Minnesota. The groups served the community from 10:00 a.m. to 3:0 p.m. every day. Groups cleared the land on a mountainside farm, painted at a school and a children’s home, sorted donations, cleaned up a school, played with kids who lived in government housing at their boys and girls club, engaged with kids at a camp, and painted playground equipment at an orphanage.
“In addition to the service in the Arecibo community, we worshipped together including a spirit filled service at another local church. We gathered every day with other churches to sing and reflect on how God was working in and through each of us,” said The Rev. Teresa Seagle, Chaplain. “This trip was very relational. We came closer to God, to our ESJ family, the other youth from around the country, and to those we served in Puerto Rico.”
They were also able to go to the beach, tour the murals in old downtown Arecibo, eat delicious Puerto Rican food and take a salsa lesson.
“The entire Puerto Rico experience was beyond words. Particularly for me, things happened on that trip which I could have never even grasped. I surprised my self, though even more than that, the kids around me surprised me even more. People I never really got to meet during the school year became my great friends. Great understanding and wisdom came to me on this trip, and surprisingly, healing and reconciliation as well in certain areas. I tell you the truth, only so much can be learned about the love of God and Jesus Christ until no more can be understood through learning alone. One must truly experience it to grasp what true relationships are, how being a servant is sometimes difficult yet so, so freeing, and the utter completion of the spirit and soul from Gods love THROUGH other people who love him,” said Jameson Gatewood ’21.
Despite the challenging living conditions the group encountered while there, “our ESJ students were rock stars. They showed kindness and compassion, patience and resilience, and hard work. I could not be prouder of each of them,” said The Rev. Seagle.
“Our work within the community led to grateful hearts and prayers of thanksgiving. I personally worked on a farm, picking green beans, creating different irrigation systems out of wood and grass, and building a tunnel for vines to grow. It was hard work, especially in the blazing heat, but I would go back and do it over again if it meant I could see my fellow workers and the owner, Augusto, one last time,” shared Hannah Goldfield ’21. “But, not only did we give Augusto the help he was looking for, but we also learned so many lessons from him, too. I learned the value of hard work and determination as well as how far hope can take you after a devastating time, like when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017. And lastly, I learned what it looks like to truly be a humble servant. We were not looking for anything in return from the people of Puerto Rico, but in the end, I feel that we all learned so much from the people we met and served.”