Samantha, 19 years old

A few of you know me but most of you don’t! To give a little background info I am going to be a sophomore at Elon University in North Carolina, I am a Special Education and Elementary Education major, and my job on campus is in the Service Center. I can tell you right now that I would not be who I am today or doing what I am doing if I had not gone on a mission trip (or three)!

It wasn’t until one day when I was sitting on the roof of a house in West Virginia that I started to think about how this was impacting my life. Working on the roof of a mentally challenged couple’s house, which was placed on the side of a cliff that dropped 60 feet down off the side, I realized what poverty meant to me versus what it meant to the majority of society. 

The dictionary definition of poverty is not having the means to afford basic human needs such as clean water, nutrition, medical care, and shelter. Some people in society today might say that the poor are lazy, worthless, and do not deserve our help and care. However, to me poverty is an understanding and those who are poor should be seen as a bright shinning light to the world because of their outlooks on life even when they have no material things.

I worked for three summers with McDowell Mission in West Virginia. I decided to go on this trip at first for community service hours but now looking back, these three trips were more of an experience than I could ever have asked for. They were life changing experiences for me. Throughout my three trips I have worked at three different “job sites”. I have worked on the roof of a mentally challenged couple’s house, who would color pictures for my team and I because that was their way of communicating. They would sit with all of us and just laugh because they were so happy to have friends to sit and talk to. I have helped build a porch for a single mom and her three kids. My team and I would talk with the mother, run around with the 5 year old son, play basketball and four square with the 8 year old son, and braid the 10 year old girl’s hair while talking to her about school and friends. I have painted the outside and inside of a Veteran’s home. This man was over fifty years old and was in a motorized wheel chair. He would sit inside all day and come out to lunch when he would ask for some peanut butter cookies, they were his favorite. He told us all before we left that he wouldn’t remember our names but he would remember our smiles because they always made him so happy.

Fixing a home for somebody gives you one feeling but bringing a smile to a face that is so desperately impoverished is a totally different feeling. And I know that feeling is constantly in my heart pushing me to reach my goals and be the smile the world needs. Long story short- because of my experiences on my mission trips I am looking forward to a future of changing lives and being changed with each new experience.