We’ve arrived! All 10 of our youth and 3 adult leaders have settled in to our campsite at Riverbend RV Park in Mt. Vernon. It is picturesquely situated between the banks of the Skagit River and…Walmart (which is very convenient for the random items we need). We wish we had pictures to share of our campsite but we have just settled in after a busy day of travel, setting up camp, and joining the people of Resurreccion for Misa (Eucharist) and dinner. We’ll be sure to post pictures of camp tomorrow.
In the few short minutes between getting settled and leaving for church, we discussed as a group what exactly we are doing here in the Skagit Valley. We call this a “mission trip” so we have a purpose and a goal…but identifying that at the beginning of our time is valuable. When asked what we are doing here, some of the answers from our youth were: “we’re here to help people,” “we’re here to make people’s lives better,” and “we’re here to learn how other people live.” While I hope all of those things are true, we pressed into the “helping” and “making the lives of others better” a bit. What exactly does that look like here? What help do people want or need? And can we actually provide those things? The presumption of mission trips is often that those being sent have the “answers” without ever asking the questions. Mission teams often arrive in a community other than their own (whether that is an hour away from home like Skagit Valley, or across the world) and think they know what the community needs and that they are the best people to provide it. But what if we spend more time listening than we do talking? What if we ask what help those we are serving want or need, then discern whether we can play a part in meeting those needs? What if we look for the ways God is already at work in this community and find ways to join in, rather than assuming that God’s work here is dependent upon us?
Our Baptismal Covenant – the promises we make as baptized Christians – asks us whether we will “Seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves;” and whether we will “Strive for justice and peace among all people, and the dignity of every human being.” Entering into this ministry of mission by looking for Christ in those we encounter, and serving with and alongside those in this community can help us avoid the presumption that we have what others need. Several years ago, a former priest at Resurreccion told us, “We don’t want charity, we want solidarity” So that will be our focus during our time here: working alongside those who are already loving their neighbor as themselves, already striving for justice and peace here. We will be entering into the experience of others in order to better understand their joys and struggles. And that begins tomorrow morning by waking up at 4:30 am.
Much of the Latino/a community in the Skagit Valley works in agriculture: picking the tulips this region is known for in the spring, then moving to berries in the summer. Their days usually begin at 5:00 am and don’t end until late in the evening. We will be heading out to pick berries with a family from Resurreccion in the morning in order to learn what it means to be in solidarity with this community – what it means to come alongside and enter into their experience.
We’re excited to share more about our experience in our blog post tomorrow evening. And we promise there will be pictures. But for now, it is time to go to bed.
We welcome your prayers for energy in the morning, for open hearts and minds as we work alongside our brothers and sisters, and for Christ’s love to be made known to us and through us as we engage with the people of the Skagit Valley.