I got home from Washington, D.C. last night! I was gone for a week as I chaperoned my church’s mission trip. It was my first time to D.C. and it was an amazing experience.
There were 4 chaperons that went on the trip (how crazy that I am old enough to be a chaperon?!) and 11 teenagers. It was a great group of people and we were able to do mission work with the homeless and hungry, as well as explore D.C.
The whole gang visiting the National Mall.
On Sunday, we arrived early at the Atlanta airport for our flight into Baltimore. We had a long wait to check our bags and go through security, due to our large group, and we ended up being the last on the plane. I’ve never had to run through the airport before! Once on the plane, we were able to relax and rest.
We arrived safely in Baltimore and took a bus and then a Metro train to our station at DuPont Circle. Our group stayed at The Pilgrimage, the basement of The Church of Pilgrims, in the heart of D.C. The location was wonderful, but the amenities left a lot to be desired. Our group happened to be staying at The Pilgrimage with another church group from Pennsylvania. It was difficult sharing such close quarters with people that we didn’t know and whose views were very different than ours.
Once we unloaded our luggage at the church (and I claimed the bunk bed next to the only outlet in the room), we headed out to shop for our groceries for the week. I was assigned the “dinner” for the week and let me tell you, it was a big job. It felt a little strange to be buying so much food when I knew we were there to help people who had no food.
Our first day of mission work was Monday and we worked with A Wider Circle, a charity that acquired donations to give to those who are starting a new stage of their lives. They also provide job advice and professional clothes. We spent the morning moving furniture and organizing the large warehouse.
Our day at A Wider Circle ended fairly early so we were able to do a little sightseeing. Our group took the Metro to Union Station and walked to the Capital and the Senate. It was amazing to be able to see something so iconic.
The Capital Building
Monday night we tried to bond with our roommates from Pennsylvania and we all cooked pasta together. I was in charge of dinner (again) and realized just how difficult it was to cook for 35 people! I felt like Chef Robert on Restaurant Impossible!
Look at all those loaves of bread!
I was exhausted by the end of the day from so much walking and physical work. It was hard for me to sleep the first few nights in D.C. because there were so many noises from the city that I was not used to. Luckily, exhaustion eventually won and I had no trouble sleeping by the end of the trip.
On Tuesday we went to The Capital Food Bank and sorted goods that were donated. It was fun work but I was starting to feel like I would never be able to see the fruits of our labor (I wanted to be able to interact with people who needed our help, instead of just working behind the scenes). It was another short day, work wise, and we were able to spend the rest of the afternoon visiting the White House and going to a nice dinner with the group.
Wednesday was probably the longest day of my life. Our group of 15 needed to split up for the day and Group 1 had 3 places to go (starting at 5:00 am), while Group 2 had only 2 places to visit (and they didn’t start until 8:00 am). I secretly had my fingers crossed to be put into Group 2 because I had been sleeping so poorly, but I ended up being 1 of 2 chaperons for Group 1. I am so thankful that I was because we had a great day.
Wednesday morning started out at a soup kitchen. Once again, I was put on cooking duty. Luckily, once the food preparation was complete, I could go out and mingle with the guests. I ended up having some amazing conversations with people who I know have impacted me greatly. There was one man that was a photographer. His camera was his only possession and he was so proud of it. He had some of his prints with him and he showed us his work. I was in awe that somebody without a home would be able to capture such beauty.
After the soup kitchen, we had a quick coffee break before we headed to Martha’s Table. Martha’s Table is an organization that prepares foods to send out on food trucks. People are able to eat at these food trucks twice a day. Our group was put on food prep. I have never chopped so many potatoes in my life. We were all getting tired by this point, having been up for so long, and cutting potatoes for 4 hours got a little monotonous. Luckily, there were no slips of the knife from weary workers!
Hairnets are hot
After Martha’s Table, we realized we had about 3 hours until we needed to be at our next location. The one place that I had been wanting to visit in D.C. was Georgetown, specifically, Georgetown Cupcakes. The rest of the group needed no convincing and we hopped on the Metro to take us across D.C. We walked across a beautiful river and into the breathtaking town. Not having a lot of time, we made our way directly to the famous cupcake shop and got in line. I ordered the Red Velvet and the Chocolate Ganache. My tummy was so happy. The cupcakes were delicious and the scenery was even better.
My awesome group on the bridge leading to Georgetown.
After our pit stop in Georgetown, we headed to our final work cite for the day. We went to a place called Thrive D.C. where our group served dinner to women and children (they also sang karaoke). I was asked to monitor the computer lab that gave homeless people access to the internet during the day. I gladly accepted as I had been away from the computer for a few days now and I was anxious to see if I had any job leads. (It turned out that I did, but I will leave that for another post).
Once our marathon of a day was over, we dragged ourselves home for dinner and fell into bed.
We had another 4:45 am wake up call on Thursday morning. Our last day of mission work dawned bright and early. The entire group made our way back to the soup kitchen where we had worked the previous morning (Charlie’s Place). I was excited to get back because I wanted to see if my new friend the photographer would be there. Unfortunately, one of our sweet girls got sick on the way to the church and I volunteered to take her back to The Pilgrimage. I was a little bummed to be missing such a great experience and a chance to see my friend, but luckily, I passed him on my way back to the church! Talk about A God Thing! Seeing his face light up at seeing me and me realizing that I was actually friends with a homeless person really solidified how great this experience had been for me. I spent the rest of Thursday morning trying to help our girl feel better and relishing my run-in with my new friend.
I actually had some free time on Thursday afternoon to visit a friend from high school and college! My friend Sarah and I met up for coffee just off the Metro Center Station. She is in town for the summer working at a hospital for her internship. It was nice to have an afternoon to myself and to walk around D.C. not feeling like a tourist (like travelling in big groups always tend to do).
When I arrived back at the Pilgrimage on Thursday night I walked into a debacle. Our group had decided to cook “Brinner” for our dinner and the bacon had burned. The fire alarms were screaming and people were fanning the smoke out the windows. Our housemates from Pennsylvania did not enjoy that very much. By this point in the trip I was very ready to go home!
Friday was a sightseeing day and we struggled to all agree on where we wanted to go. We ended up going to the National Cathedral for a tour at 10:30. I was in absolute awe at seeing how God inspired people to create a worship space so beautiful. It was designed to be second only to Heaven.
We all had some Episcopalian pride due to the fact that the National Cathedral was Episcopalian and so is St. Teresa’s (our church). Our tour was so special and I left feeling very blessed for the experience.
After a quick lunch, we decided to go to the Holocaust Museum. It was a very sad few hours but also very informative. Most of the older kids in our church really appreciated the museum because they had just studied the Holocaust, while a few of the younger children were just saddened and depressed.
Next we went to the National Archives were we got to see all of the United State’s important documents. This stop was high on my priorities but I have to admit that I was a little disappointed. I did not realize how faded the words were on the documents and also how crowded it would be. Nevertheless, it was great to see such historical documents.
To end the evening, our group had another great dinner out together.
Saturday morning started by us cleaning and packing. We left our luggage at The Pilgrimage and bade farewell (happily) to our Pennsylvanian roommates, and then headed to the National Mall. We walked the entire Mall and I have to say that visiting the Lincoln Memorial was by far the most memorable part of the trip. My heart just leapt to my throat when I saw such an iconic image of such a great man.
The girls in front of Honest Abe
After walking the National Mall, we found a food court and grabbed lunch before heading back to get our luggage and head to the Metro for the airport. Our flight was supposed to leave at 7:30 and we ended up getting to the airport extra early (4:30). We were all tired and sweaty and just so ready to go home to our own beds. We could not have been more disappointed to see that our flight was delayed! I had packed in a carry-on (along with 4 other kids) and marched myself up to the Help Desk and found us a flight that could leave at 6:05. After clearing it with the other kid’s parents and getting myself and big cup of coffee, the 5 of us boarded our flight and hugged the rest of our group goodbye (as they had checked their bags and could not get on the earlier flight). When we landed in Atlanta at 8:15, we learned that the rest of our group’s flight was delayed until 10! I was so thankful that I had packed light and was home safe and sound.
Matt picked me up and the airport and after assuring that the few kids made it back to their families, we headed home!
I love to travel, but there is nothing that compares to sleeping in your own bed. I cannot wait to go back to D.C. and keep exploring the many museums and culture (I was a little sad that we never made it to any of the Smithsonian’s).
I have a few days until Matt and I leave for NYC! And I will be 22 in exactly 1 day! Good things are coming!