Passport, Inc. is an independent, nonprofit organization begun in 1993. They are the first Christian youth camp to combine a week of camp with a hands on mission project. It was originally created for the church that didn’t have the budget or people power to pull off both experiences in one summer. Students leave the campus for three hours each day to participate in local mission projects. They do everything from painting the home of a senior citizen to leading day camp for kids with the local YWCA. Passport campers put in over 60,000 hours of community service each summer – all in the name of Christ.
Passport 2008: Boston
By Hayley Turner
July 20, I was getting ready to go on my very first Passport trip.
My brother Alex had told me great things about this experience. I was excited beyond belief. As I boarded the bus, I was a little nervous because I had never gone so far away from home without my mom, but as we got on the road, I felt much better. I almost couldn’t contain my excitement. I was going to Boston! I knew about some of the things we might be doing, because Alex told me about other trips. When we got farther down the road, I began to ask about former trips. I had so many questions and I was just dying to hear the answers! I was so ready to work and to help others!
10:30 at night, and I was still wide awake. I knew I needed to get some sleep, because we were making an early breakfast stop at McDonald’s. I settled down and watched Dodgeball (which was probably not my first choice to fall asleep to.). By 11:00 I asked Rachel for some earplugs and fell asleep. I never really was completely out, but it was enough to get me going in the morning.
At 6:30am we were all awakened to eat breakfast at McDonald’s. I got my usual, a bacon and egg McGriddle with no cheese, and two milks. I was so hungry that I ate it up in less than five minutes. We were finally in Massachusetts! Only an hour remained of our journey. I could hardly wait!
Check-in for Passport was later in the day, so first we went to Fenway Park and had a fantastic tour of the stadium. We got to go to the luxury seats that are so popular that they put them in a drawing. It was amazing! After the tour we went on to go to Gordon College. As our bus pulled into the parking lot, I was filled with excitement! I couldn’t wait to see where my room was! We got all our things unloaded and got our room keys. We got up to the second floor and unpacked everything. I was so wiped out by the time we got to our opening celebration, but it was pretty fun all the same. We sang, played games and even tossed swimming noodles and beach balls all over the place. When we got back to the room, I all but passed out on the floor.
My alarm woke me at about 6:45am the next morning. I was REALLY tired, but once I got my shower I was ready to go. We all went to breakfast together and ate a pretty good meal, and then we went to the daily morning celebration. We learned about what we would be doing this week and what our offerings were going towards. We would be helping Ricks Institute, a school in Liberia that is being rebuilt after it was destroyed during their 15 year civil war. We split into our bible study groups, and went to our classroom.
After bible study, it was time to go to our mission site. My group was assigned to an assisted living home. We sat and mingled with the ladies who lived there, and they were HILARIOUS! They said the funniest things that you would not expect from a 90-year-old woman. This first day was just a day to get to visit with the residents there, and to get to know them. I realized that just talking to them really brightened their day. It was a good feeling!
That night at worship we sang, listened to the sermon, and prayed. It was a very nice time of the day where you felt like a ton of bricks were lifted off your shoulders. You could relax and renew your spirit.
Later that night we had a rec party. By the time we got back to the room, I was pooped. I opened up my bible and began reading Luke.
The next morning I realized that I fell asleep reading my bible because it was still in my hands. I woke up a bit late and scrambled to get dressed. The morning celebration was, as always, fun, and helped wake you up.
When we arrived at our mission site, my friend and I went from room to room to ask some residents if they wanted to come down and either play Bingo or get their nails done. Once we hit every floor we went back down to the lobby and started to polish nails. One of the ladies was very personable and began a conversation with me right away. She was the sweetest lady, and she was only 57 years old. She had lived in the town of Lynn, Massachusetts for 13 years. Polishing her nails was the moment that I will remember always, because I understood that if you do the smallest things, it can make a world of difference. This lady was so grateful that I took the time to polish her nails, because she had Arthritis and couldn’t do it herself. She told me that it made her day!
11:00pm, what a day. I was ready to call it a night.
Once again, I woke up with a bible in my hands. This time I set my alarm just right to give me enough time to get dressed and get to breakfast. Today was the day that I was going to work in a room at the assisted living home. When we got there, I was assigned to go to a room with three other girls to clean out a lady’s closet. She was a very kind soul, and told us many things about her life. We sat and talked with her until we were out of time, and all I could think of was “wow, what an amazing woman.” She had worked for an airport for 20 years, and was the first woman and African-American to have that job in her city. She was so appreciative of our help, and it felt wonderful to be able to help her get something done that she could not do herself.
July 25, our last day of mission work, bible study, morning celebrations, worship, our last day of Passport. We got to the mission site around 12:00 and we were at a different location today. We were helping another group paint a gymnasium for the Boys and Girls Club of Lynn, and it was pretty fun. It smelled new and I loved it, even though I left that day with new blue accents on my tennis shoes.
Later that evening after worship I said goodbye to my new friends just in case I didn’t see them before I left. It was the last night of Passport, and I took advantage of every moment. That night was College Park senior night. Our tradition is that our youth group sits in a circle, and each senior sits in the middle of the circle. Then, we go around the circle to give everyone a chance to say something to the senior that was a memory, something encouraging, and anything you wanted to say that related you to them.
We went into the sitting room of the boys’ building and we got Chad to come up in the middle of the circle. The circle went around and most everyone said something to him. Caroline even spoke the little words she could get out without sobbing.
Then it was my brother Alex’s turn.
Everyone said something to him, and I was about to lose it by then. I did say something though, and after the circle had gone around he said something to everyone himself. He started at the beginning of the circle with Sarah, and when he got to me he pointed his finger at me and said” I’m saving YOU for last” I laughed and cried at the same time, as he went around the circle. When he got back to me, I was really glad that I didn’t have to talk, and Caroline and I used up half of the tissue just between the two of us. Hearing what each person had to say and what the seniors said to each person was a very meaningful and spiritual experience. It was a very emotional night, and there wasn’t a single dry eye as we walked back to our rooms. I saw a very moving side of the members of our youth group that night that touched my heart.
The next morning we went to our bible study, said our goodbyes, and went to the closing celebration. It didn’t take long, and we were on the road by 11:00. As we drove off I realized that the memories of this mission trip would stick with me forever. It was a wonderful time of spiritual renewal and I am very thankful that I was able to have this experience. I look forward to our future mission trips!
Passport 2007: New Orleans
Photos by Amber Thomas