Kate Strong is a senior at Dominion High School. While she is busy making post high-school plans, she takes time out to be part of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church's youth group. These days, the group has been busy raising money to travel to Pomona, Belize, July 21 through July 28, to help out at an orphanage there.
"It’s important to push myself, to be out of my comfort zone," she said. "It’s important to grow as a person."
Strong has participated in four of the youth group’s mission trips, to places like Appalachia, W.Va., and an American Indian reservation in Montana.
Pomona, a small town in the Central American country, has a population of about 1,000. Each day, the teenagers will travel to Light of the Valley Baptist School, to work with 28 children there.
The teenagers will have the opportunity to take part in several projects. They will visit an orphanage and have the opportunity to play with children, perform skits and play music. There will be some light construction and painting around the school and the teens have plans to run sports camps. The teenagers can set up workshops and youth nights for the children.
Elise Lintelman said what she enjoys most about the mission trips is interacting with the children.
Lintelman traveled to Montana with the youth group last year to help out at a school.
"I got really attached to one little guy in Montana," she said. "He was 3. I saw him everyday. I built a really strong relationship with him."
One year later, Lintelman still remembers his name, Darryl.
"I’ll never forget him," she said.
TRIPS TO TORONTO and Appalachia, W.Va., helped sisters, Christine Merola and Mary Merola, mature.
The sisters enjoy participating in mission trips, Mary Merola said, because it is just a good example of "servanthood."
"It makes our faith more tangible," said Jarred Hallet, one of the youngest youth group members.
Christine Merola enjoys meeting people from all walks of life, Christians and non-Christians, from all over the country, and the world.
"It’s neat to meet different people, talk to them about why they come and hear about what they’ve taken away from the trips," she said.
Christine Merola, a senior at Potomac Falls High School, said it was good for her younger sister, too.
"It made her a lot more independent," Christine Merola said.
WITH THE TRIP in sight, the group continues to write letters to family and friends asking for donations.
Chris Palmer, a senior at Herndon High School, helps raise money through band nights at the church. His band, and other friends’ bands, performs there to raise money for the mission trip.
"We raised $800 last time," Leach said.
For Palmer, he goes on mission trips to help others, as well as learn a few things about himself.
Two years ago, the 18-year-old went on the trip to a Croix Nation American Indian reservation in Montana.
"I was hesitant at first," he said.
Palmer spent a week building houses, playing with children and making connections with locals there.
"By the end of the week, I got so much more out of it then I ever thought I would," he said. "I was surprised to see how much one woman appreciated us being there. She made lunch for all of us. I was amazed, in shock."
The teenagers will host a "Big Rummage Sale" Saturday, April 21, at the church, from 8 a.m. to noon, to raise money for their service trip.
"As soon as you come back, it is a nice reminder, an appreciation for what you have," Palmer said. "It makes you love life more."
"The work is so significant and yet so insignificant at the same time," Strong added.