The Best Change

Haley Murtaugh

We are all sinners in the eyes of Christ.  We all make mistakes that we wish we could take back.  The most amazing part about believing in God is that he forgives and provides for all.  He gave me friends who I experienced amazing things with.  He provided me with fulfillment that no matter what I will be loved.  He helped me see how fortunate I am in my life while others struggle.  I did not foresee how grateful I should be and how much change I could go through until the summer leading into my junior year of high school on a mission trip to Cincinnati, Ohio.

When I decided I wanted to go on the 2015 mission trip, I was only partially aware of what was to come.  I knew I was staying in the Tau House along with nineteen other teenagers and five adults.   I knew each day I would work at organizations helping with the less fortunate and disabled, which included the Rose Garden, New Life Furniture, Stepping Stones, and St. Joseph’s Home.  On the other hand,  I did not know how I would feel after the mission trip.  It was hard to say if I would allow God to transform me into an improved human being or if I would remain who I was before the trip.

On the eight hour trip there I had no idea what was about to come.  I didn’t know if I would be uncomfortable with spending five days in a house with other people who I hardly knew.  I didn’t know if I would leave the trip feeling like a better person with new friends.  I had seen how close relationships are with people who go on mission trips together, but I’ve also heard of people who don’t open up with others.  Throughout the trip I felt loved and supported by my mission team, and even though I lacked some of the same interests, going through this journey together created bonds that could never be broken.  We all saw the good in each other and recognized how amazing God was in our lives.  God helped change our views on the world, specifically with the people around us.

Before the trip, I always thought that homeless people didn’t like being acknowledged or spoken to but working at New Life Furniture changed my views.  My group and I delivered gently used furniture to those who overcame homelessness or fled an abusive situation.  The first delivery was to a couple who had struggled with jobs and paying the bills.  We carried a couch and a mattress up a few flight of stairs into an apartment home.  The couple who greeted us were beyond grateful.  I remember the woman saying “Is this for me?” and “God bless you all.  You’re doing great things.”  After we said a quick prayer for them to bless their place and a goodbye, the kind lady gave hugs and said thank you many times to each one of us.  While this delivery was smooth, the one following was almost the opposite.

The next visit was one involving a larger family and more space.  The furniture couldn’t fit through the doorway so a few people including me climbed over the balcony and lifted it over.  There was one couch that some of the family members crowded on as we set the mattresses and dressers down.  None of the people said a word as we helped.  This led me to think that they may have felt embarrassed by having to receive help.  Some people handle things differently, and I accepted that no matter what the case is, I need to treat all people with respect and consider their situation.  This organization resulted in a change in my thoughts on how homeless people are treated and the need to show empathy even if they might not show their gratitude.  I know that every little thing I did made a difference for them.

Thursday of the mission trip seemed to be much harder than any other day.  It was the day that I stepped especially out of my comfort zone by going to St. Joseph’s Home.  It was an association for non-verbal handicapped adults who had severe to profound disabilities and other complex medical needs.  I had never experienced anything like this before.   Until I walked in those doors, my head was all over the place, but something about the atmosphere seemed to give me hope.  I no longer questioned how I was going to interact with those people when they had no ability to say anything back.  I would walk over to someone and give them compliments or ask them questions.  Even though I didn’t receive a verbal response, the best part was seeing the comfort in their eyes and the huge smiles on their faces.  I could tell how much they enjoyed my presence but they had no idea how much I appreciated theirs.

It’s not until you’re on your fifth hour in the car, staring out the rear-seat window admiring the beautiful sunset while listening to the Christian radio, that you think hard about how incredible God is.  He created life.  He created every little thing from a blade of grass to the stars in the universe.  Before this mission trip, I probably wouldn’t have looked at the world in this way.  I had changed for the better and am so thankful for everything I went through that caused it.  I no longer felt alone or unworthy.  I felt loved and accepted by my new friends who made my life even better.

Frequently nowadays we think that our friends should be those we share the same interests with, but in reality they should be those who help shape us into better people.  Many of the friends I’ve made on this mission trip have supported me and led me to further strengthen my relationship with God.  They aren’t judgmental, nor do they view things in a negative perspective.  They understand how to live a fulfilled life of joy with no misery.  Because of the people I have surrounded myself with on this trip, I have become a better person.  God has not only given me such amazing friends from this experience, but has helped me realize more about life, “to serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13).