Since their return from South Africa, the young people have been hard at work, not only presenting their experience to the congregation, but also planning for a reciprocal trip to welcome their new friends to visit Hingham. Planning is underway for a 2018 reunion.
In the words of the teens:
Our journey last year to South Africa was just that, a journey: an all-encompassing experience which involved friendship, loyalty and faith. After a long process of learning and preparation, we were lucky enough to visit South Africa and strengthen the bonds within our youth group and parish while strengthening global connections and working to maintain them. Allowing these connections to continue will help us realize, as a church and as a community, the power of loyalty, welcoming and the celebration of faith.
“Working together to do God’s work in the world” (mentioned as a good definition of mission at a recent planning meeting for this journey). Our journey was an actualization of this statement, an act of faith that allowed us come closer to God by encountering, and coming to love those different from us. The people we met and stayed with in South Africa welcomed us into their homes and their daily lives. They provided friendship and fellowship. They worshipped with us, ate with us, laughed with us. They gave us the gift of hospitality, and proved to us the universal fellowship central to Christianity. Allowing these groups to come together again will foster a stronger faith and stronger relationship between the groups. Another aspect of our work is to further God’s will through volunteering and giving back to our community. We hope to join our friends from Africa to come together and help our local community through outreach and education both here at our church and in our school. It is our hope that this will lead to the expansion of everyone’s horizons and go a long way in inspiring us to continue to work across boundaries of difference. Bringing together such different cultures in order to help our community will allow us to enrich our perspectives and illustrate the issues our societies our country faces.
Community is an imperative part of this journey. I found a stronger sense of community within our parish, as well as a new one across the globe. I was immediately welcomed into their fellowship and have continued this relationship throughout the year. The way they “were church” became a model for us to aspire to.
Based on how strongly we were impacted by this trip, it is our conviction that we cannot allow these relationships to deteriorate, or remain one-sided. Bringing South African youth to our parish is a natural continuation of this relationship, and an experience that will have a profound impact on St. Johns as a whole. Allowing these connections to continue will help us realize, as a church and as a community, the power of loyalty, community and the celebration of faith as well as continue to expand our desire and understanding of what it means to work for justice in the world. The faith of these youth will move you. Their stories will touch you. And their presence in our community here at St. John’s will enrich our life together and inspire us to consider our role in the global community of faith.