As you looked at the photo above I’m sure you could easily point out at least one person you recognized or have seen walking in the hallways of OLu. Without any context, it could easily be assumed that the people you didn’t recognize were simply online or blended students, had differing schedules, or that you just didn’t get the chance to meet. In the picture, it appears that everyone has known each other for years, but what if I told you they had only known each other for less than 3 days or that not all of them attend Orange Lutheran?

The picture was taken in a coffee shop in Bishop, California this past Sunday, on the last day of the Fall NART missions trip. This year, the Missions program was given the unique opportunity to partner with Crean Lutheran High School. Representing only a fraction of the Crean Lutheran students on the trip in the picture are sophomores Alexa and Ethan (bottom-middle), as well as senior Mandy (top-right).

If you have ever been on a trip with the Missions program at OLu, you know that, without a doubt, you will meet a handful of new people. Returning to school following trips I always immediately notice the people I was able to meet on the trip. Whenever the Mission’s staff would prompt us to “Get up and find somebody you haven’t talked to!”, it would be easy to strike up a conversation about what classes we were taking, the teachers we loved, and the day-to-day life of OLu, but this year would be different.

As I prepared for the trip, I was anxious about how the interactions between the Orange Lutheran and Crean Lutheran students would play out. I was so excited to have the chance to meet people I had never seen before and who had a completely different high school experience than I did, but worried if they would feel the same way.

Within the first day of the trip, my expectations and hopes had been far exceeded. The thought we would have little to relate to each other quickly faded from existence as we talked about books we remembered reading from AP Lit and blasting our favorite Disney Channel songs on our 6-hour drive from OLu to Bishop. It was rare that anyone introduced themselves as an OLu or Crean Student, and as the trip went on I realized that it simply didn’t matter. Whether washing dishes, pulling weeds, or setting up the massive tent stakes, we were able to grow closer with one another. Although we came from different backgrounds and different schools, we all had the same goal: to serve the community in Bishop and were able to grow closer as we worked together.

While I may not have experienced any dramatic or life-changing God moment on this trip, looking back I see how he was showing me the beauty of his creation. On this trip, I was able to meet so many new people that I would never have gotten the chance to meet and witness their unique gifts and talents outside of my own OLu bubble. As I prepare for college, I have often found myself becoming anxious about losing contact with the friends I have now and not being able to make as many friends in college. This trip has shown me that even though I love my friends so much and struggle to picture my life without their unique personalities, there are people in the world just as amazing that I have yet to meet.

Today was the first day of school since returning from the trip. While I was able to see the faces of the new students I was able to meet on the trip who attended OLu, I still had a strong longing to see the faces of the Crean students I was able to grow close with this past weekend. Even though I am not able to see them as often as my friends from OLu, I will always carry the memories I was able to make with them in my heart. As I step into an unknown future, I no longer fear who I will encounter, but excitedly embrace the thought of all the memories I will be able to make with the people I’ll meet.

Photo Credits: Alyssa Purzycki