NTC reporter gains greater appreciation for self-giving on young adult mission trip

By Juan Guajardo

Correspondent

5/19/2014

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(Left to right) Ivan Abrego, Amecia Harrelson, and Leo Lopez clear some brush so they could put up a fence. The Young Adult Ministry Office hosted the FIAT (Faith in Action Together) Retreat this week in Moore, Oklahoma, the site of last year's massive tornado which killed 25 people and carved a 17-mile path of destruction. Twelve young adults took part in helping the volunteer organization, Serve Moore, continue restoration efforts in the community from May 12-17. (Photo by Juan Guajardo / North Texas Catholic)

For a moment during the second day of our mission trip to Moore, Oklahoma it felt like we were in the novel, Holes, by Louis Sachar, in which the protagonists, Stanley Yelnats and Zero, are forced to dig holes at camp in order to build “character.”

Yes, our merry band of 13 young adults hailing from across the Diocese of Fort Worth dug a lot of post holes May 13th — and I’m pretty sure we built muscle, in addition to character — but there was more to our volunteering than just working up a sweat. Our small FIAT (Faith In Action Together) mission trip team hosted by the Young Adult Ministry Office and led by Jeff Hedglen, associate diocesan young adult ministry coordinator, teamed up with Serve Moore to rebuild fences, clear debris, mow lawns, and take on a handful of other restoration projects in the town where an F5 tornado destroyed more than 1,000 homes and killed 25 people last May.

Hedglen ensured that the mission trip was well-rounded with daily Masses, faith-related study, prayer time in the evenings, social events later in the week, and even a pilgrimage to the National Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague in nearby Prague, Oklahoma. But I found the time we spent out on the worksites made me reflective.

At one site we were building a new fence for a family affected by the tornado. As we worked, we shouted encouragement up and down the post-hole digging line. We joked, and we covered for each other when we got tired. We were all helping; we all got our gloves dirty; and we didn’t mind. And that joy in serving made me realize, yes we’re only building a couple of new fences, and though it didn’t seem like much in the face of the billions of dollars in damage that this community endured, we were still doing something. We still took part, along with the other 50,000 volunteers who served before us through Serve Moore.

We were doing what Jesus did and then asked us to do: Serve. Yes, we weren’t touching a thousand lives with our volunteer work, but we touched the lives of a handful of residents who needed the help and that counts, too. I think sometimes I get too caught up in trying to quantify how much I helped — and I don’t think I’m alone in that sentiment. So this mission trip gave me an elementary, but important reminder.

During the limited time I spent digging holes with this group of kind-hearted young adults, I unearthed something precious — like Stanley Yelnats and his friend. It wasn’t literal treasure, but it was a lesson that I hope to carry with me throughout life: What matters most is just deciding to serve, to help, to sacrifice. Serving is serving, whether you’re in South America or Oklahoma or in your house. Serving is serving, no matter how small or big the impact. Jesus isn’t asking us for miracles. He’s asking us for a simple “Let it be done.” He’s asking for a simple fiat.

Fiat-Trip-BUTTON.jpgFor a moment during the second day of our mission trip to Moore, Oklahoma it felt like we were in the novel, Holes, by Louis Sachar, in which the protagonists, Stanley Yelnats and Zero, are forced to dig holes at camp in order to build “character.”

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