2015 Youth Mission Trip – Pittsburgh, PA

From July 24-30, 2015, a group of youth from GPC participated in a local mission experience in Pittsburgh, PA. The theme of the week was “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”  They used public transportation to travel around different Pittsburgh neighborhoods so that they could learn about the needs of those around us and the people and ministries that are working to respond. They worked with Habitat for Humanity, Garfield Community Farm, and Book ‘Em (a non-profit that sends reading material to prisoners throughout PA), served meals at The Table at Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community, learned about gentrification, and did homeless ministry.

One of the youth participants, Tess Hancock, shares her experiences from the trip:

Tess HancockThe widely accepted idea of mission trips is that they should occur in a place that is far away from everything that the person knows. Whether this idea stems from a misguided belief that help is only needed far away, or the excitement of travelling to new places, I have found that distance holds no sway over the effectiveness of mission trips. As we travelled to Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community, it felt just like every other time that I had been into the city. But as we talked with people at The Table the first night, it started to feel different. By the end of the week, my idea of Pittsburgh was completely and radically changed.

Over the course of this week-long trip we met with people who were homeless, underprivileged, and down on their luck. We saw the need of the people in our city as we learned about gentrification, and began to understand how the poor were being pushed out of their homes to make room for the more fortunate. We listened to first-hand accounts of the struggles that can be faced on a Native American Reservation, and we delved into the issue of unjust prison systems.

I saw the struggle of prisoners first-hand as we answered letters from inmates who were requesting books. Many of these people wanted specific books and we were not able to find them in the random collection of second-hand books we had to work with. In fact, many letters cannot be answered because there is not enough money to send the inmates any books at all. This work was enlightening and sad, because as I read these letters I saw the voices of normal people shining through the ink on the page, people that went through hard times, or bad experiences, or were missing love in their lives. In that moment, it felt like the work that we were doing was very small, that it meant nothing.

That feeling did not last very long because among all the darkness that we witnessed that week, there was far more hope. We met with people who have dedicated their lives to doing the work that God is calling us all to do. They feed the poor, visit the sick, care for those in prison, and treat everyone as a child of God. We worked alongside people who spend all of their waking hours caring for others, and I saw just how much good is in our city.

This trip was one of the most life-changing experiences I have ever had. Only twenty minutes away from my home, I saw that life could be terribly cruel to those without the means to escape bad situations. This trip truly opened my eyes to the needs of others and helped me to understand the struggles that are being faced right here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. That knowledge is humbling and almost overwhelming, but it is nothing compared to the joy that I felt when I saw the work that people are doing to right the world’s wrongs. On this trip I saw struggle, but also the possibility and capacity for change. I saw that people are dedicating their lives to helping others, and that they are spreading the Word of God through community and their own undying faith. I saw that so much good exists in this city, and that God’s work is being done right here and right now.