Last week, Jamin and I helped lead a high school mission trip to New Orleans. We got back last night around 7:30pm, and we have used today to rest and regain some energy. The trip wiped us out, but it was amazing.
About a month before the trip, we were asked if we could go along because they needed two more leaders. The students were from a Lutheran church in our town. We aren’t Lutheran, but I love having opportunities to work with other denominations and be unified with the body of Christ!
We left last Saturday at noon and planned on driving to St. Louis because we would be staying at a church there for the night before driving the last 10 hours to New Orleans. Most of our drive to St. Louis was really windy, and driving a big van made quite the wild ride at times. We decided we would take the students up into the Gateway Arch because many of them had never gone up to the top. We bought tickets to ride the trams up at 8:10, and with all of the stops we were taking, it was looking like we would be getting there with about an hour to spare. When we started on the road, we were relying on the built-in- GPS in one of the vans, but realized it was unreliable and out of date when it led us on a route that added 45 minutes to our drive. We stopped for supper at Freddy’s Burgers somewhere in Illinois.
We arrived in St Louis around 8:00 and had found a parking garage fairly close to the arch, but we got stuck behind a horse drawn carriage that was going slower than our idle speed. Three blocks later, we arrived at our parking garage and I tried to pull into the narrow entryway, but our long van wasn’t straight enough, so the guy in the booth waved me back as if to say, “try again.” So I did try again. And again. And again. I think it was finally my fourth attempt that I backed far into the street and went straight in. Then the man in the booth said, “you know, there is a parking garage across the street that would have been much easier to fit in with this big van.” I couldn’t believe he just watched me struggle that whole time!!
We finally got the vans parked around 8:05, so we all had to run over half a mile through downtown St. Louis to get to the arch in time for our tram ride. With burgers still bouncing in our bellies, we arrived one minute late, but they were gracious and let us go up anyway. I thought we would ride in normal elevators, but I was very wrong. They looked like tiny space ship pods, and they were very noisy all the way to the top. I don’t like heights, so I figured going up the arch would be a great opportunity to face my fears. I had heard that you can feel the arch sway when you are at the top, and by God’s grace the wind had completely died down, so it didn’t move very much. I wasn’t the least bit afraid up there. I looked out the tiny windows and looked straight down and felt totally fine. We got to watch the sunset over the city. It was so beautiful.
After we left the arch, we made our way to the church. They had given the other leader a key code to open the doors, but it wouldn’t work, so we had to wait outside for 45 minutes while a church member came to let us in. That was our first night of sleeping on air mattresses. I slept okay that night.
We woke up bright and early and hit the road at 6am. We drove for a few hours before stopping for breakfast, then continued on our way. We stopped for lunch later at Fazoli’s and began our last leg of our trip.
It was a little after 5:00pm when we arrived at Grace Lutheran Church in New Orleans. We set up our air mattresses in the sanctuary, and the YouthWorks staff served us supper. We sat down with the other leader to figure out which students would be on which teams, then we had the large group worship for the evening.