You could call it a journey for Journey. Amery’s Journey church recently traveled to Guatemala as part of a mission trip and it proved to leave a lasting impression on each of the travelers. 

Guatemala was not the group’s original plan. Jennifer Luchtenburg, Youth Director at Journey Church said, “I began planning our second Youth Mission trip to Haiti in April 2018. We planned on going back to Haiti to help on another medical mission trip. We had so many interested, that we were going to divide into two teams, one to leave in June of 2019 and one to leave in August of 2019. Haiti has had many issues. They have not recovered from the many natural disasters they have endured and their government is also very corrupt. The people of Haiti were rioting, trying to get their government to listen. That being said, Haiti was not a safe place to travel to in June. Community Health Initiative (CHI) decided to cancel the June trip, which lead us to reconsider Haiti altogether.” 

The groups were sad to see both trips cancelled. The youth had been working hard raising funds. “I waited for a while and then decided to start looking for Plan B. I looked up possible trips on the International Mission Board (IMB) website that we could maybe jump onto. There were two listed: one to Costa Rica and one to Guatemala. I had had been thinking about Guatemala as our next trip in 2021. Little did I know it would happen much sooner! While on a random walk with my husband we ran into our neighbors. We discussed that our trip had been canceled and what my next ‘plan’ was. He said I should connect with Hayley from my previous church because she goes to Guatemala on a regular basis,” said Luchtenburg. After looking on the IMB website once more and seeing both trips were taken off, Luchtenburg reached out to Hayley with little hope and to her surprise she said “Yes.” Luchtenburg later found out Haley had a full team about a week prior to her call, but they had just informed her they needed to step down. 

The group going on the mission worked hard raising funds. They had brat stands, sold pies at Bremer Bank, held a car wash and Valentines Dinner and parked cars at the Polk County fair. Their biggest fundraiser was being “For Hire” in the community. Luchtenburg said, “Our team worked at 60 job sites and worked 84 hours and in that alone we raised just over $10,000. We cannot thank those enough that hired us and helped support us in our many fundraising adventures.”  

Four adults and eight youth from Journey, along with five others from the New Richmond area, traveled August 6-17.

Madison Moulton said highlights for her included, “Building relationships with the school children at Vida Real in San Pablo La Laguna by playing soccer, helping in the classrooms and playing games. I also brought my ukulele and played music for the kids and I let them play it a little too.” 

Her mom Angela said, “We were able to participate in church by singing songs during service. It was really cool to see how even though we couldn’t necessarily understand the words they were singing and many probably couldn’t understand us…music seemed to bring us together.”  

Jackson Moulton said, “We got to hang out with the kids at the school and play a lot of soccer. They were all younger than us but they were pretty good. It was cool to be able to play even though we didn’t speak the same language.” Angela said, “I was worried about the language barrier and how I could form relationships if we didn’t speak the same language. After going to Guatemala, I will not be worried about that again. Language is a small part of the way people communicate. It was so cool to be a part of watching that happen and I feel pretty blessed to have been a part of it.”

Libby Braaten enjoyed spending time with the students in Guatemala and feeling like she made life long friends. “We are called as Christians to go and make disciples of all nations and missions trips are a way to do that. Plus mission trips take us to places of need and allow us to help in an area that doesn’t have the same luxuries as us,” said Braaten. 

She said since the mission trip she views the opportunities and resources she has in the United States differently. Jackson agreed with her sentiments saying, “We have so much that we take for granted.” Madison said in the United States, “We have a lot of stuff that is wasted and in Guatemala, they have very little but nothing is wasted.”

Abby Braaten said, “This missions trip showed me a whole new perspective on life. You can have close to nothing but have everything at the same time. The communities we served in had homes that didn’t have much. However, they lit up with the most beautiful and loving smiles every chance they got.  They don’t have much, but they have their family and they have God and that is what’s important to them.”  

All travelers are interested in participating in the experience again. The youth ministry goal at Journey Church is to go on mission internationally every two years and to serve domestically on off years. They are considering taking their youth to serve in Chicago during the summer of 2020. Luchtenburg said, “Internationally we now have great connections in Haiti and Guatemala.”

Luchtenburg added, “Since our hearts had been in Haiti for a long time, we still wanted to help in some way. We were able to give CHI $2,500.00 for the Haitian doctors and volunteers to run a mini clinic. It was a huge success!  What we thought was our Plan B to Guatemala was God’s Plan A all along!  Our team verse quickly became “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”  Proverbs 19:21.”  

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