In my column last month I wrote about the long tradition of Covenant mission trips that included both youth and adults. This month I would like to reflect on the lasting friendships that often emerge on such trips.
During our stay in Metlakatla there were three youth from the Metlakatla Presbyterian Church who spent most of the week with us, working alongside us, assisting us in meal preparation and clean-up, hiking with us, taking dives off the dock with us (after checking for jellyfish first), and spending lots of time in conversation. Two of the youth also spent each night with our group, all of us sleeping on cots and air mattresses in different Sunday school classrooms.
Each Tuesday night the Metlakatla dancers have their weekly practice in the long lodge. Knowing that our group was spending the week, the dancers decided to make their regular practice a dress rehearsal so that our group could see them in full regalia. The Covenant group was welcomed by name at the very beginning of the dress rehearsal / impromptu performance, and we were mentioned again by name at the start of the final dance, which was a kind of benediction or farewell blessing. Two of the youth who were spending the week with us were among the dancers.
In many ways the Metlakatla youth are very much like youth in California (note our Metlakatla friend who’s checking her phone during the group photo), and yet we also learned of some significant differences, such as how most have never left southeast Alaska and some very rarely leave the island, especially given the cost of the ferry. In contrast, nearly everyone in our Covenant group is fairly well-traveled.
During the week there were some honest conversations about hopes and fears and disappointments, and one of the Metlakatla youth suggested that as a final devotion we each write down a list of things we intend to “let go” and then burn the list in a campfire on the beach. By letting go of the fears, anxieties, paralyzing regrets, and whatever else might might have been holding us back spiritually, the hope was that we could then accept for ourselves an even deeper sense of God’s unending love and embrace and nurture the new friendships we formed.
Grace and Peace,