Message by Emily

On July 19, 2011, a mission trip group of twenty youth and six adults stepped out of an overcrowded bus and into the community of Cuesta Arena in the Dominican Republic. They had no idea what to expect about the work they would be assigned, or the people they would meet. The area around them was empty, except for half of a cement house, a deep hole, and a picnic pavilion. Then a couple of locals arrived on the site, and started gesturing what needed to be done. People that had learned Spanish in school used broken language to help the process along. Soon, children from the surrounding community arrived, and drew many of the youth to the pavilion to play with them. A few youth and adults from the mission team started digging in the hole. Other members of the team began to pound dirt from the edges of the hole into a level foundation for the house. Before long, the mission work became a natural part of the day.
This group of young people was the group that participated in the Voices of Youth mission trip of 2011. Every year, Voices of Youth sends out a group of youth to aid a community in a location either within or outside of the United States of America. The same group then tells about their mission experience through music, in the form of a travelling mission choir. The members of the mission team of 2011 joined a mission trip that consisted of one week in the community of Cuesta Arena in the Dominican Republic and two weeks of singing across the state of Virginia. When the team was in Cuesta Arena, they were tasked with digging a hole for a water cistern, packing the foundation for a new missionary house, and working with the local children in their school. The work was taxing, but well worth the effort.
It did not take long for relationships to build between the mission team and the people in Cuesta Arena. Pictures drawn with chalk broke down the language barrier. Gestures served where language failed. Speech was simply not needed to make connections. Many of the children attending the school attached themselves to particular people, and they played games. Other children did their best to help the efforts of the cistern-diggers by pushing wheelbarrows of dirt to where they were needed. These things would happen all day long. Before lunch, the mission team would pause in their work to sing with and for the locals. Some songs were in English. Some were in Spanish. Some were in both languages. No matter what language it was, all of the music brought people together through a common belief in being and living as Christians. The work that was accomplished truly made a difference to the community, and it showed. More people came to watch the singing and working every day. Through sweat, music, and understanding, the mission trip truly made a difference to the community of Cuesta Arena.
When the time came to leave the Dominican Republic, there was a great deal of crying. Leaving new friends behind proved difficult for everyone. Many members of the group would have loved to stay longer, but returning to America did not mark the end of the trip. There was still important work to be done. Upon returning home to Virginia, the mission team embarked upon its journey as a travelling mission choir.
The choir moved across Virginia for two weeks, and every night they gave a concert. During each concert the group sang, talked about the Dominican Republic, and gave testimonies about how the trip had affected them. Hearing about the mission trip from youth made an impact on those who listened. It is uncommon for young people to have strong voices in the Church, because many do not realize what the young are capable of. Voices of Youth is named well, for not only do the youth on the trips sing, but they also find their voices. This trip and every mission trip that came before it shows that anyone can make a difference in the world, no matter what their age or walk of life.

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