SYCAMORE – Tyler Hull knows he returned to Sycamore a different person than he was before he left for a mission trip in Montana.
Hull, 14, went on his first mission trip this year with Life Missions. It won’t be his last.
“I wish I was there right now,” Hull said. “I want that feeling back that everyone was there to help out and everyone knew what you were going through. I want that feeling again where nobody’s judging you.”
More than 100 teenagers and adults traveled to the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Lame Deer, Montana, through the Life Missions group based out of the Sycamore United Methodist Church. While there, they helped locals with their homes, played with local children and learned more about themselves.
Hull knew he wanted to join the group after seeing pictures from previous trips. He expected to enjoy the trip, but didn’t realize how close it would bring him to the other teens and to God.
“It really showed me all the miracles and everyday workings he’s doing throughout the whole world in the littlest ways,” Hull said. “Looking around at the beautiful landscape it really brought out all those underlying messages.”
Trips through Life Missions are open to all teenagers entering high school through their first year of college. When they started five years ago, 13 teenagers went on the trip.
Joe Munro, the youth director at SUMC, said teens don’t decide on a whim to go on the trip. To be able to be part of Life Missions, teens spend nine months trying to raise nearly $400 to pay for half the cost of the trip. They also spend time with the others who will journey across the United States with them.
“The idea is to build a community of brothers and sisters in Christ,” Munro said.
This year the groups were split up into two weeks. From July 19 to 27, 46 teens and 10 adults crammed into vans and drove to Montana for four days of service work. In the second week from July 26 to Aug. 3, 48 teens and 12 adults did the same.
Their days started with wakeup calls at 6:45 a.m. After rustling off the floor or air mattresses they slept on, they had breakfast and devotion, a time for them to pray by themselves. Work started at 8:30 a.m. and ran until around 4 p.m. Missionaries rounded off the evening with dinner, an evening activity, worship and church time before heading to sleep around 11 p.m.
In Munro’s eyes, the trips bond the teens to the community they are helping, but also to each other.
“When you have to spend that much time together, they put their shields down and get to know someone.”
Zoe Bond won’t forget the friendships she developed with other teens from DeKalb County that she would never have met if it weren’t for the mission trip.
“We build these relationships that will last forever,” Bond said.
The trip to Montana was the 18-year-old Sycamore resident’s third trip. As an experienced missionary, she took on an unofficial leadership role, guiding some of the younger, less experienced teens.
Bond, like Hull, also grew in her faith.
“It really helps you open up and show other people what it’s like and what my faith is,” Bond said. “It changes your life.”