It’s the day before the mission begins. As usual, I’ve made all the preparations…except for the ones I haven’t. Let’s just say I have a good bit of work to do before we can hop on the bus tomorrow. But I know a bus is showing up. I know where we’re singing and staying and eating. Or at least I know where we’re supposed to do those things (loyal readers of the mission blogs will know that it doesn’t always work out exactly as planned, which is a nice way of saying it usually doesn’t).
We’re doing something new this year. We’re having a concert the day before departure and dinner with the youth mentors. I decided to do that initially because we need to drive all the way to Shreveport tomorrow, and there’s no time for a concert with that long a drive. It’s important to me that the first thing we do on tour is sing. I’ll let you know tonight or tomorrow if I still think it was a good idea…
We have a few other new things cooking for this year. A number of years ago we issued “flair” to youth who were especially engaged in the concerts. We’re bringing that back this year, New Orleans-style. Instead of buttons that very cleverly say “Flair” on them, chaperones will be awarding beads each day.
We’ve also continued to expand our youth mentor program. This year the mentors have, ideally, already spent some time with the youth since being paired back in January. Shout out to Dennis Coughlin, Laura Rappold, and the grow team for their effort on this. Mentors are invited to our concert today in Decatur and then to dinner after the concert as well as our commissioning communion service in the morning. I’m not going to try to make breakfast happen this year…last year’s wounds are still too fresh.
Some of our mentor-youth pairs have been profoundly successful. Some have been less so for one reason or another. But it’s a solid program, and we are looking forward to continuing to expand and develop it in the next year. (I’m sure the grow team would love for me to add here that if you’re interested in being a mentor, we’d like to talk to you!!!)
As usual the day before we board the bus, I once again find myself wondering why we’re doing this and if it’s really worth it. It’s a significant investment of time and resources (though I hasten to brag a little bit that it costs the church very little!). The youth can take trips without me. They can sing without me. People can visit nursing homes and children’s hospitals and homes for the disabled without me.
It occurs to me that I’m always asking this question at the beginning of the week…never at the end. Maybe by the end of the week the sleep deprivation starts to make me loopy. Maybe I just really love eating fast food all week. Or maybe spending a week watching youth care about something beyond themselves gives me hope that the best years of humanity are yet ahead of us. That may be a bit of a grandiose overstatement, given the number of hours I will spend in the next week repeating myself, pulling my hair, and generally shaking my head at some of the choices youth can make when mobbed together. But it may also be true.