Written by high school leader, Allison Hotz
And Beyond is our annual youth ministries missions trip. I have been going on these trips for the past nine years. Needless to say, I have observed and learned a lot from these short term trips over the years.
The basic structure of And Beyond is based on Acts 1:8; in short, spreading the gospel locally, regionally, and beyond. Our local destinations have mostly been in the community of La Mirada. We’ve weeded yards, gone to convalescent homes, cleaned people’s homes, washed windows, and visited shut-ins. Our regional destinations have included Fresno (food bank and rescue mission), Los Angeles (Union Rescue Mission), and Santee San Diego. The more distant locations or “And Beyonds” have been Mexico, Chicago, Oregon, Washington, and San Francisco to name a few.
The time spent on these trips is very intentional, but as the trips are only a week long, mountains are not going to be moved dramatically. Our work and service often isn’t work that will last past our time present – we prep food in a kitchen or pick up trash. But even so, that doesn’t mean this trip is without value.
The value is found in the fact that community is built within our own group. Which is important, because we will continue to do life together after this week is over. The value only increases as we are changed as individuals. We learn, observe, and grow from our experiences. We are forced to get outside ourselves and outside of our own little world. And this has been the case for me, even as a leader on these trips.
And Beyond has taught me to see with new eyes. To see the needs of the people around me. Many of the ways in which we serve on this trip are similar to what we come across in every day life. Some of them were literally in our local community. But why did our intentional serving have to start and end with that week? And why did we have to go to distant locations to find it? We actually tell our students this every year, that And Beyond actually starts the day we get back. We are hoping to equip them with a lifestyle of serving others. But our service doesn’t have to be in a soup kitchen every time. It can be with the people we rub shoulders with every day. And after of couple of years of going on these trips, this is what I started to understand. I started to be more and more aware of the needs of people around me. And where I could, I would step in and stand in the gap. I didn’t have to go out searching for ways in which to serve, they were already around me. I just needed to see with different eyes, have ears that heard even unspoken needs, and have a heart that was willing to jump in and serve when able.
I am still growing in this area, though. It is so easy to get caught up in my own busy life that I don’t slow down enough to see the needs around me. But I am so grateful for the And Beyond trips that taught me how to be a true servant. Isn’t this what Jesus modeled for us while on this earth? He saw the physical and spiritual needs of the people around him and he stood in the gap for them. May we simply follow in his example of how to serve the world around us.