Thursday, April 29, 2021

Y is for Young Life

Y is for Young Life

I talked previously about Young Life in my T is for Thursday Nights post but today will be a bit different. My parents used to laugh when people would ask my sister and I about what our favorite trip was and they would always rush to say...besides young life trips! Because so often, when asked that question sister and I would spit out Romania without too much thought. But it wasn't about the location- it was about the experience.

You see, in America, a lot of kids involved in Young Life have the opportunity to go to camp each year. They have them in several places and they are awesome (from what I hear). But, being overseas, us international kids didn't really have that option due to the logistics of getting us all there. So instead, we took service project trips. Young Life groups from international schools all over Europe would come together in one location through a ministry in that spot to support the local community in some way- while also still incorporating some "camp" elements at other points in the trip. So in 2005 and 2006 we headed to Romania. And in 2007 and 2008 we went to Bulgaria. 

Those trips were something else for a variety of reasons. First of all, us getting to Romania from England involved a flight to Hungary followed by a very long bus ride- about 10 hours if my memory serves me right, to our Romanian destination. Complete with a stop at the country boarder where are leaders were responsible for gathering up all of our passports, giving them to boarder patrol and managing all of the forms. I can't tell you why that was the best way to do things...but we made it. And I'm pretty sure we all agreed the crazy long travel day was so fun! There was also some rigamarole involved in getting to Bulgaria in the later years but nothing compared to the first 2. One thing that we always did was have a night in the "city" before leaving. So on the Romania trips that meant a night in Budapest, Hungary and in Bulgaria we had the evening to explore Sofia.

Aside from that one night, for the bulk of these trips, we stayed in some sort of hostel/lodge/campy situation. And it wasn't ever glamourous. But I don't remember that ever bothering anybody.  Each year there was a slightly different purpose to the trip. Year 1- there were a few jobs to tackle. Digging out a huge drainage ditch to prevent some flooding the town was struggling with and this worksite was known as "THE DITCH". It was a muddy mess and the most fun! 

That's my sister crushing it in the middle! 

But we also worked on some other projects around the town that year as well. The following year we worked on a playground, as well as a slightly smaller ditch. 

In Bulgaria things were a little different and both years we worked at orphanages- two separate areas though. We worked on building a playground one year- fixing their equipment to make it safer, repainting and adding in some new things. 

We worked hard.

Pretty sure this picture alarmed my parents when they saw it first. I'm know for my tendency to be accident prone.

And the other year we worked at a different orphanage but focused more on the inside. Repainting areas, fixing ceiling issues, maintenance around the building, fixing up the playground and spending time with the kids. That aspect of this trip made it extra special because we got to really interact with the people we were helping. It also made it particularly hard to leave that last day.

This trip was 13 years ago. But as soon as I saw this picture, I didn't have to think for a second to remember this sweet thing. Maya. 

When we weren't working we were doing Young Life things. There was some free time to spend with your leaders and friends. To meet new friends from the other schools. Fun fact- a friend that I met in Romania, who lived in Germany at the time, ended up living the floor below me my freshman year of college all the way in SC and we are still friends! Small world right?

There were also games. Lots of games. The silly kind, the gross kind, the messy kind, the funny kind. 

Who doesn't love a good game of dizzy bat? 

I don't remember what was in this jug...but I am positive that I won whatever competition was happening here. 

And who needs water balloons when you can have flour bomb fights!

And every night ended with a "talk" the part of club where they speak to us about the Lord. And usually on that last night of the trip their was a "Say So" time. A time set aside for kids who had found Jesus that week or that year, to stand up and Say So. Their leaders would stand with them and even thinking about it now gives me chills. 

I built some of the sweetest friendships on these trips. I grew in my faith. I learned about the world and was reminded I'm not in the center, that we need to think about others.

So even now, when asked what my favorite trip was I always leave with "well ASIDE from our Young Life trips..." because truthfully they're in a category all their own.  No, these trips weren't to the fanciest places or the most luxurious hotels. They weren't filled with sightseeing or other typical vacation activities. But they were impactful in a different way. In the way they shaped our faith, in the way they brought us together, in the way they fixed our eyes and our hearts on what is most important. 


  1. What an awesome program!! I had never heard of Young Life before I read about it this month in your posts. So many blessings for each of you and for all the people you helped. Beautiful. xo

  2. You have some amazing adventures! Thank you for sharing them.

  3. What an amazing time you had. And what a difference you all made to other people with those projects.

  4. You forgot to mention the celebratory pig slaughter lol. This post makes my heart want to burst xo