By Catherine Fitzpatrick and Kristin Parry
Under the theme "Live to Give" over 90 high school students and 43 leaders traveled to Orland Maine for the annual H.O.M.E trip, run by The First Congregational Church of Ridgefield. Our Christ centered group of volunteers have been serving the H.O.M.E (Homeworkers Organized for More Employment) community for the past 19 years, where young adults work along side with college and adult leaders to help the less fortunate. The community, founded in 1970, supplies employment and shelter for low-income residents. Being the largest group that travels to H.O.M.E. each year, our assistance and energy is greatly appreciated and needed.
With excitement and a "ready to work" attitude, this year's group took on a multitude of projects that ranged from building garages and porches to painting and renovating existing houses. Students worked all day tiling floors, shingling roofs, and siding houses while building relationships with each other as well as members of the community. A project that called for a special amount of labor and effort was building an addition for a needy family. Hearing how appreciated our work was from this grateful family instilled a sense of humility in our hearts - a feeling that keeps us coming back every year. Despite cloudy days and rainy weather, the team worked hard to finish each task on everyworksite.
Days are spent traveling in vans to the worksites, showers at the local middle school, and finally to the Church where we have dinner and reflect on the day’s hard work. We were blessed each night to hear talks given by Jack Carpenter, a youth minister from Maine, who has been attending the trip for many years. This is when the group is reminded of the mission’s theme, inspired by Ephesians 2:10, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do". It is for this reason that Ridgefield comes back every year knowing that there is always work to do and people to help.
As seniors that have been participating in the H.O.M.E. trip for several years, we can safely say that the weeks we have spent up in Maine, the friends we have made and the skills we have learned there will certainly not be forgotten and are a continuing part of our lives. Many participants, ourselves included, anxiously await that last week of June and the eight hour drive into what we refer to as "serious mosquito territory". It is between the long van rides, the early morning dips in the local swimming hole, the last nail in the last board of a completed wall, the singing and fellowship at the night services, the frisbee games on the church lawn, and the laughs around the dinner tables that make the H.O.M.E. trip so unique and unforgettable.
Walking away from The First Congregational Church on the last Sunday of the week is never easy, but the fact that we get to walk away is the most important lesson learned in Maine. Working there helps us to realize that our privileged life in Ridgefield is a gracious gift from God, and that with this gift we must "serve first those who suffer most". With that attitude, veterans of the H.O.M.E. trip can make this world a much more fair and nderstanding place. So, while waking up to a bugle every morning at 6:00 A.M. in an uncomfortable tent may seem irritating at the time .... we always come back to Ridgefield wishing our stay in Orland, Maine, living and working alongside those in the H.O.M.E. community, was at least one week longer.