This past year was my last year in high school and therefore held a lot of changes and chaos. But as I went through hardships and successes, one thing remained constant in my mind: Light of the Village. I was absolutely determined to come back.
You see, last summer I went on my youth group’s annual mission trip and expected it to be like every other one I had been on. I would go, help people, worship, bond with my youth group, and then come home and enjoy the rest of my summer with my family, rarely ever thinking about the trip again. It’s sad, but true. But that didn’t happen this time. This time, when I had signed up to work with kids, I was thrown a curve ball. I was told that I was needed to work with the 12-17 year old girls because I was one of the older ones in the group, a small let down from the cute and tiny kids I was used to working with. But nonetheless, I quickly got over it. That is, untiI I was told that this particular group of girls gets in, not only verbal fights, but physical fights too. At that point in time, I started having feelings of worry and doubt. I was told these girls were full of attitude and probably wouldn’t want anything to do with me. This just made getting every girl to break out of her shell and be my best friend, a personal challenge for me.
Despite all of the statistics we received about Prichard, AL, I felt an overwhelming feeling of safety and comfort as our van full of m-fugers (mission fugers) pulled up. I was greeted with tight hugs and never ending piggy back rides as I first stepped onto the grounds of the place that would forever change my life. That week, I went out of my way to climb over the walls of stubbornness and distrust the girls had built between us as I made a fool out of myself in dance class and refused be the only one smiling out of the group. At the end of the week, I had befriended and bonded with the girls, getting to as many of them as I could. I was so filled with this need to make every one of them know they are beautiful, special, and loved. But it was my last day that I will never forget. “A”, a six year old girl whom I spent every free time available with, sat with some of the girls in my group and me before we were supposed to leave. She was so upset that I was leaving that she wouldn’t even look at me. Holding back tears, I told her that she shouldn’t worry and that I would come back. I turned to all of the girls, telling them I would be back to see them because I loved them all so much. I guess they were all so used to m-fugers coming for a week and never coming back that only when “A” finally looked up at me, held her tiny pinkie finger up and said “Promise?”, did the other girls meet my gaze again. Locking pinkie fingers with that little girl lit a flame in me. I knew the Lord was calling me to be here, and I would come back to Light of the Village no matter what.
All year, “A’s” name, along with three other girls names’, stayed on my mirror as a reminder to pray for them and all the other kids and helpers at Light of the Village. And when the time came for me to go back this summer as an intern, I was bursting with excitement. This time, I had REQUESTED the older girls! Stepping back on those grounds felt like coming home. That craving to be so close to God that He consumed me, was fulfilled. I had never felt so comfortable in my own skin and so genuinely happy.
This summer couldn’t have gone better, unless I were able to stay longer than three weeks. I have learned more about my Savior and more about myself than I ever expected. I came wanting to teach these wonderful girls, and they ended up teaching me! I have made a family at this wonderful, God-filled place I now call home, and I feel almost home sick without it. But I know my time at Light of the Village isn’t over. I will be back to spread the love of Christ and be with my LOV family. God’s light is truly shining in this place, and I am honored to be a part of the work being done here.