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    United Methodists of Upper New YorkLiving the Gospel. Being God's Love.

    news article

    Commentary: Learning the true meaning of “life-changing” from Mission of Peace

    June 13, 2024 / By Grace Steirheim / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Disclaimer: Upper New York Communications may include commentaries in the Weekly Digest that reflects a variety of voices and viewpoints. They are the opinions of the writers, not of Bishop Burgos Núñez or any Upper New York staff member or team. 

    Editors note: The Mission of Peace (MOP) is a yearly journey of discovery and shalom to nations in our global community sponsored by the Northeastern Jurisdictional Council on Youth Ministries of The United Methodist Church. The most recent MOP trip was to Puerto Rico in Feb 2024.

    The Mission of Peace is an experience I’ve waited for since I was in third grade. I heard that the trips were “life-changing” and I knew that I wanted the trip to Puerto Rico to mark another chapter on my faith journey. As I mentally and physically made my way to the beautiful, majestic island, I knew little about how the phrase “life-changing” would impact my views on God, devastation, and humanity.

    The island of Puerto Rico is one of the few places I have traveled where the atmosphere is welcoming. Every single time MOP walked into an unfamiliar place we were greeted with smiles, laughter, and a friendly “Bienvenidos!” Despite devastations from hurricanes, the people of Puerto Rico never failed to flash a smile. They take their days slowly, enjoying every second of every day. One of the biggest lessons I have learned is to leave behind my worries and to just live. Kindness and a smile is all people need. Additionally, one of many service projects included painting a Methodist church in Fajardo. We painted the bathrooms because the church offered to host an island-wide church conference in September. While we painted the bathrooms, we learned that the church still waits on funds and materials to repair the roof from Hurricane Maria. Their love and hospitality continued when they served us an unexpected lunch. The people of Puerto Rico are hospitable, humble, and most of all an extension of my church family. 

    While in Puerto Rico, I learned that the trip is not only a connection to the church people but a connection with other MOPPERS. We lived together for ten days: we ate three meals together, laughed together, roomed together, and spent every minute of every day bonding over Puerto Rico. We all came from different conferences and learned many new things about the other eight youth. The connections and memories I have made strengthened my bond with other youth as I believe that communication with youth from other conferences is a key concept in growing the church. They have become my family– we have shared memories I have experienced with no one else, we have inside jokes, and our biggest commonality is that we went on this trip with an open mind. 

    Without Mission of Peace 2024, I would not have met these wonderful Christ-followers who have shown me what impact youth can make towards one another and towards the communities around us. One of our good friends in Puerto Rico loved to engage in conversation in which he and I discussed the group’s impact on him. He told me that MOP was a unique group of missionaries because we were vibrant, smiley, and were open to try absolutely everything. While many only see Puerto Rico as a devastation or a vacation spot, Puerto Rico shows humanity at its finest. God brought me to Puerto Rico to show me how love can come in many forms, the importance of youth in the church, and how the conjugation of nine different individuals creates an impact within a short time. The phrase “life-changing” feels underwhelming to describe this experience because the Mission of Peace trip 2024 to the island of Puerto Rico is truly the best experience of my life. 

    With more than 100,000 members, United Methodists of Upper New York comprises of more than 675 local churches and New Faith Communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our vision is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."