Hi everyone! I’m your guest blogger for this week, Megan Bockelman. As you may recall, I wrote for the blog once before about a mission trip I went on with our church. This summer however, as our church youth group went to Ponce, Puerto Rico I was spending my time in West Virginia at the 24th World Scout Jamboree. Before you ask, no I haven’t joined Scouts BSA (as many girls did starting last February), but rather I am in a Venture Crew. Crews are part of Scouts BSA and is co-ed for ages 14-25. Where scouts focuses on general survival skills and later leadership, Venturing mainly focuses on high adventure and leadership for all four of our ranks. Being in the crew was also what allowed me to be on staff at the 2017 National Scout Jamboree (also at the same place in West Virginia), as well as go to the Summit Bechtel Reserve in 2018 for Venture Fest. So, by the time I was making the 6 hour trek to the Summit just a few weeks ago, you could say I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. As in 2017, I was staff for the event IST (International Service Team) and was a member of the Band, which is part of Program staff. Hence, I was allowed backstage access and worked pretty closely with many other adult professional staff in charge of putting on the amazing stadium shows as well as base camp bashes. In total, there are around 10,000 staff members (18 and older) as well as 40,000 participants (ages 13-18). These scouts come from all over the world. At the Jamboree, there were more than 150 countries represented by participants and staff! And the whole event was co-hosted by the US, Mexico, & Canada. Therefore, all main information sent out to any staff or participants was sent in English, French, and Spanish. There were also many translators for various languages on staff. Personally, I am mostly fluent in Spanish, and was able to converse with a few different groups of people over the event. In total, I was at the Summit for 15 days straight, staying in a tent (with three other women) and using buses to get to and from my usual work spot- Summit Center (which is about a 45 minute to hour walk if the busses weren’t running!) Since the band has many performances, a lot of days we were told to report in the morning for a rehearsal (anywhere from 1 hour to about 4 hours long) followed by either a lunch break and another several hour rehearsal, or a few hours off before our evening performance(or performances!). By the end of the Jamboree, we had played for a vast majority of the scouts present, our biggest performance being on the top of the Consol Energy Bridge as thousands of scouts walked underneath us to get to one of the main stadium shows. Throughout the trip, I enjoyed making many wonderful friends from many different countries. I was also able to spend hours per day playing clarinet (one of my favorite past times!) for very enthusiastic crowds of people! Overall it was a fantastic experience that I will remember forever- just as I still have fond memories of the 2017 National Scout Jamboree!
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." ~Margaret Mead
Last July, I shared about our church's Youth Mission Trip to Blue Knob, PA. (7/23/18-Youth Ignite) The following week, Megan posted her experiences on that trip. (7/30/18-Guest Blogger-2018 Mission Trip) This year 15 youth and 9 adults flew to Puerto Rico for the 2019 Youth Ignite Mission Trip (7/21/19-7/27/19), through TEAMeffort. They worked in Ponce, named for Juan Ponce de Leon y Loayza, a great grandson of Spanish conquistador, Juan Ponce de Leon.
The team reported that there's still devastation in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria in 2017. Many homes and buildings remain untouched since the hurricane. Shells of buildings stand as a sad reminder. Also, political demonstrations occurred during the week, however they were peaceful and no one ever felt nervous or scared. One team member said it was like a parade without candy.
While there, the team built fences around homes, constructed covered structures for multiple uses, painted fences around a church and classrooms in a school. At the end of their last work day, they held a picnic in a park, served food to locals, and organized games with children. Through their work and service, they made connections, built relationships, and shared their faith. This small group helped change lives. They blessed folks and received blessings by doing. Their experiences and memories will last a lifetime.
The team's days were long and filled with hard work. Their sleeping arrangements were nothing like home. And their showers were often cold. One of the adult leaders shared, "They never complained or whined."
But it wasn't all work. Each evening they gathered with other youth on a TEAMeffort mission trip for chapel filled with music, games, as well as worship. They had sightseeing excursions, swam in the ocean, and shopped. All of them were particularly impressed with a boat ride on their last evening to a bioluminescent bay where they swam and experienced the marvel of a blue glow as they moved in the water. Awesome! Their energy and enthusiasm as they shared about the trip was infectious.
PS- Megan did not go on this mission trip as she spent two weeks in West Virginia, where about 45,000 gathered, for the World Scout Jamboree. She was part of the international jamboree band. Maybe I can get her to share about that. Stay tuned!