White Swan, Yakama Reservation, 2011

Date: July 17, 2011 - July 22, 2011

What our youth said about the trip:
"I went into this experience as a person whose humility wasn't gold, to say the least. I may be assuming, but I am sure there are those of you in our congregation who can relate. People do bad things. Sometimes, these actions hurt us beyond what an apologetic, sincere "I'm sorry" can fix. At times, the anger and the bickering causes injuries in pride. Pride. The demon behind a world of hurt.

In Yakima, if the pride of the people were as fragile as mine, people would live brewing in hate and grudge. This is a community, where for years these people have been mistreated, the farmers brutally misused and ripped off, where sometimes children come home to no parents, because their parents were taken away. Yes. That is a common reality and fear for those families. Interesting, that I went there expecting to find kids and parents completely and utterly deterred from hope, to come upon a community who would teach me in a matter of a few days how to let my pride go. You see, these people did not let their pride stop them from accepting help from those of us who have essentially everything we need. They did not look at us with scorn for the food we had three times a day, for the breaks we took during work that they couldn't afford to. Indeed, the children acted like a huge family-they didn't try to outshine or brag to anyone else about particular fortunes of their own, nor poke demeaning comments at those less fortunate than themselves. They shared with me as much or more than I did with them.

Through digging impossible 2 foot holes, crawling in dust and spiders under a house for 2 days straight, working in animal "shit" the last...showers with the water pressure not unlike a glass of water being poured on your head, the same clothes every day, no time for makeup, or to do anything more with your hair than to throw it up in a pony tail...after awhile you accept it as part of the life. You stop worrying about looks, and pray that others do the same. You judge others by the image of God. By the way you and everyone else around you is working towards God, through the God in all our selves." 
-Jessica Sharp
"For me, the Mission Trip to White Swan was a lot of things. It was eye opening, fun, and hard at times. I was in the group that worked in the day care program with the kids. I was surprised by how different those kids’ lives were in comparison to ours. They looked out for each other and it seemed as if they depended on each other more than they depended on adults. One day when we were building sand cakes in the sand box, we found a bunch of buried dead squirrels and all of the kids started juggling them. The difference between kids in White Swan and kids in Gig Harbor was amazing and also sad at times. I was very lucky to go on this Mission Trip because I got to see how fortunate I am to be able to live in such a wonderful community where most of us don’t have to worry about food, shelter, a great education, and family support. I wish that all kids could be as lucky as we are. I will never forget White Swan and all it has taught me and I hope that I can go back there, or another similar place next summer because I want to help others and continue to work on making myself a better person and servant leader."
-Lilly Portteus
"For me, the mission trip was a moment of realization. Being from Gig Harbor, I had never experienced true poverty. I knew that places like White Swan existed, but seeing it with my own eyes was a completely different experience. In this society, abandoned dogs, ramshackle houses, and malnourished children are part of everyday life. Seeing these things for myself, I realized how big the issue truly is. I felt overwhelmed more than anything, because I felt like I needed to change it all at once, and I couldn’t. Doing mission work gave me the satisfaction of truly helping other human beings. The problem is that the list of jobs for mission workers is never ending. If things are not changed on a larger scale, the cycle will continue forever, and I believe that is what troubled me the most. We have it so good compared to these people, but we are all too caught up in our own lives to put forth a helping hand. That is why I personally took a sense of satisfaction from our mission trip. Although we have not changed things in the big picture, our youth group has taken a huge step as human beings by helping people in need, and that is a big step towards change."
- Logan Portteus
"My personal experience with the Yakama Mission Trip was the most eye-opening experience I have ever had. Many times throughout the trip, I was faced with many challenges such as taking care of the kids, making sure I knew where everyone was at for all time we were helping out, and being pushed to the breaking point with my patience level. I did take many things away from this trip, and I am so happy I was a part of such an amazing service project. I am also very happy that I got to not only get to know God more, but also the awesome bunch of teenagers that came along with me.

The first hardest thing for me on the trip was taking care of the kids. I, along with three other girls, were in charge of getting the kids food, making sure they were having fun and playing safe, and getting enough exercise for the day. This was challenging for me because here, we usually have to worry about ourselves, our friends, and our families. There, I was keeping track of about 40 kids, so I really got to test myself with responsibility.

The second hardest thing on the trip for me was making sure I knew where everyone was for the whole day. Many kids enjoyed running off, playing tag, and going inside when they weren’t supposed to. I was in charge of making sure I knew where everyone was, and it was very hard. As hard as it was, it was also really fun! I enjoyed meeting and getting to know the kids, even though it was challenging keeping track of that many kids.

Finally, the last hardest thing for me on the trip was being pushed to the breaking point with my patience. The kids were always very stubborn and sometimes could not decide between two things. After this experience, I believe I have become more patient in life. It is a great skill to have, and I am so happy that I actually got a chance to improve on one of the eight servant leader qualities.
In conclusion, this trip was exciting, fun, and a learning experience for us all. I am so blessed to have such an amazing group of teenagers as friends, and a great congregation to support us through everything. Though challenging at times, there is nothing better than serving God and his people through times when they need help."
-Maya Dahlgren