A year ago today, I was in Hawaii.
For 19 days, no less. Almost 3 weeks. And even cooler? It was a mission trip. An opportunity to put myself out there and serve. To make the world a better place. To put my feet to my faith and to put God's love into action.
It was a trip sponsored by the United Methodist Missouri Volunteers in Mission...I was one of a group of 11 people, all from various parts of Missouri, that met on the trip and traveled to the Big Island of Hawaii to work at Camp Mekokiko. "Mekokiko" means "Methodist" in Hawaiian...cool, huh? If you google "Camp Mekokiko", you'll find the website of the camp. If you go to the Photo Gallery, and pull up the Missouri VIM team of March 2008, you'll see a plethora of photos from our trip.
We worked some...and then we played some...how can you not play while in Hawaii?? I mean, get real. We're only human. Our work projects included a lot of work outside - landscaping the camp and getting it handicapped-accessible. There was a group of Easter Seals children coming in a few weeks after we were there, and our goal was to make the camp ready for these children. Now - how rough was that?! To work outside in Hawaii? I will admit - it was one of the nicer mission trips I've been on! And the views were out of this world!
In between the work, we took time to visit several tourist attractions.... We took a Sunset/Stargazing expedition to the top of Mauna Kea, where we got to see snow (in Hawaii?!) as well as be above the clouds....
We also visited South Point, which is the southernmost part of the United States, and was breathtakingly beautiful....
We also spent some time at Waipio Valley, where they filmed some of "Jurassic Park"; we hiked around Volcano National Park; and we went deep sea fishing one day. (almost had a blue marlin...but it got away....seriously.)
Midway through our trip, Kilauea began spewing lava where you could actually see it, so once the authorities deemed it safe, we waited in a traffic line for 2 hours and then hiked 2 miles to see the live lava. Was it worth it? YES - it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be 3 feet away from oozing lava....
We also flew back to Oahu on our last day so we could see Pearl Harbor and visit the Arizona Monument...as well as spend some time at Waikiki Beach.
We also spent some time getting to know some of the people in Hawaii. We visited two local Methodist churches - and the people were so generous...they even had the ubiquitous potlucks for us that make being a Methodist so wonderful. The food was delicious - I don't think I lost any weight on this trip, darn the luck.
I enjoyed this trip. I enjoyed getting to learn about the Hawaiian culture...it's history...the people of Hawaii...the people from Missouri who went on this trip with me... I think the only thing I didn't enjoy was the plane ride over and back. Ugh. Actually, I didn't enjoy being away from my family for so long - that was hard.
Would I go back? Certainly. The camp is still in need of help. Ted, the director of the camp, is always ready for more volunteers to come in and assist with the camp. I'm somewhat feeling the tug of leading a trip from my church there next year - in 2010 - and see what else we can do. As long as I get to work outside, I'm in!
Be sure to do YOUR part today to change the world - even in a paradise like Hawaii! One action at a time, one day at a time.