SHOW LOW, Ariz. — Seniors at Christian Academy Schools got a different view of the world they live in during the school’s annual mission trip. The class of 2020 spent a week at the American Indian Christian Mission working on a reservation in Show Low, Arizona.
“For one thing, I think they appreciate what they have once they’re gone and you see how other people live, especially on the reservation,” Sheryl Ditmer, missions and outreach coordinator at Christian Academy Schools, said. “It’s very poor, it’s very low income. There’s problems with suicide and single-parent families. It’s a whole other world for them, so they see the other side of it.”
According to Ditmer, she meets with students when they are juniors to discuss what they want out of their mission trip, and builds the trip around their interests. The class of 2020 had an interest in working with children, and because of previous work with the American Indian Christian Mission, Ditmer sought out the school in Show Low, Arizona.
“I tell them, where do you think God is leading you? And we pray, and we go from there,” Ditmer said. “I meet with them, and we talk about it, and they vote, and parents have to agree, and that’s where we go.”
In addition to working with children, seniors participating in the mission trip helped with a Vacation Bible School as well as a variety of jobs around the campus such as assistance in the classrooms, serving in the kitchen, cleaning around the campus, and helping clean out an abandoned apartment. Students at Christian Academy Schools do volunteer work on the local, regional and state levels throughout their education, and this builds up to the senior mission trip, which takes students out of Ohio.
“I think one of the reasons they enjoy this is, getting away with their classmates and the bonding that happens,” Ditmer said. “A number of them look forward to the time away with God. For some, they’re still trying to figure out what they’re doing next, and they hope to heard from God and get some of those answers while they’re gone.”
For Alayna Milks, she found the trip enjoyable, especially when it came to working with the children.
“It tested our patience, but it was a good experience,” Milks said. “The biggest thing that really surprised me was that the people on the reservation just don’t really recognize their situation, and that they are in poverty. It’s their way of life.”
Emma Michaels also enjoyed working and connecting with the children at the American Indian Christian Mission. She finds mission trips to be important because they give her an opportunity to leave her small community and experiences other cultures and ways of life.
” I think it’s important we see other cultures, see what other people are dealing with so we can better connect with them and get out there and experience it, rather than just sit and not deal with it,” Michaels said.
One of the things Michaels got to learn firsthand was how different customs are on the reservation and how they view the world around them. The level of poverty was surprising to her.
“You hear about it, but you don’t expect it. You know it’s there, but you don’t feel it until you’re there,” Michaels said.
Emma Abbott was also surprised by how different the culture on the reservation is compared to the environment she’s used to. For her, mission trips are important not just to see how different the world is, but to find the similarities between cultures and environments.
“It gives you a new look at what happens in cultures; it’s not just in their culture, it’s around us as well, and it’s eye-opening. It gives you a drive to want to do something,” Abbott said. “You can’t just go into a culture and change it. You have to make friendships and get to know the people and help influence them.”
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