Humble. A simple, nuanced word was the term 17-year-old Brady Falor relied on to describe the impact of his most recent mission trip. “I’ve changed. I am humbled knowing I have more than the basic necessities of living. I’m very privileged to have a home and food. I don’t complain anymore.”
Brady has traveled to Detroit and Kentucky with his youth group in past years. As part of the leadership team planning for 2016, however, the group decided they didn’t need to travel far to help someone in need. They embraced the diocesan initiative, Faith in Flint, and about 30 youth traveled from St. Johns, making Christ the King parish in Flint their home for a week. Each day, the mission trip members reported to the Center for Hope to receive their assignments.
“We helped clean up the area around the center, weeded, and distributed water. Some of our group sorted a ton of donated clothing. For most of the week, I helped make laundry soap. Eric, the person in charge, showed us how to melt Ivory Soap and laundry soap to become a liquid laundry detergent. We poured this mixture into empty water bottles; each bottle can wash two loads of clothes. We made close to 250 gallons of liquid detergent to be distributed from their food pantry.”
Their work detail also led them away from the center and into the community. “The Center for Hope has lists of people needing help who are elderly or incapacitated in some way. We went to their homes to paint, cut grass, do yard work or whatever help they needed. There is also a neighboring home for foster children and we did yard work there, too. After all these interactions, I see the needy for who they really are: they are people who hurt. Now I find that when people talk disparagingly about the poor, I point out that most are trying to do better.”
Without hesitation, Brady will tell you this mission experience in Flint has been his most compelling. Kentucky and Detroit, while purposeful, integrated lots of physical labor but virtually no interaction with the residents. Flint, on the other hand, was rife with people encounters. “On this trip I could actually see and hear directly how much the people appreciated our help. Both the staff we worked with and those we served showed me the light of Christ. They helped me see that all life and all people are precious. We should do everything we can so everyone has a chance at happiness and survival.
“I am now more accepting of others. I have more empathy – understanding they have grown up in situations I
never will and I should give them a chance at being my friend, or giving them my friendship. For example, I heard stories about people who lived across the street from the Center and how they had problems with drugs and things like that. But then an alleged drug dealer came to help my team distribute water and struck up a conversation with me. He was very friendly and caring. It showed me everyone has Christ in them.”
Not every moment at the Flint work camp was positive. Brady shared how the Youth Group ate the same meals at the center that were prepared for the hungry. Mealtime was very humbling … and not as appetizing as their usual fare. “The first two days we tried not to be wasteful, and halfheartedly tried to eat the meal. By the third day, the food actually tasted better. I am not sure if we got used to it or if it really was better. But by that third day, having heard peoples’ stories and getting to know them, we understood just how important this meal was to them. It changed my focus.”
With his three younger sisters, Brady and his siblings thrive in an active Catholic household where faith formation is part of its essence. Brady says he has always been into church activities “but when I went to Diocesan Youth Leadership Camp, I started being more impressed with God. I had more faith-filled experiences at Jamboree and other youth events. I feel like my faith’s grown since I entered high school. This mission trip, and getting to actually interact with the people, was so powerful for me.
“I think the people who work and volunteer at the Center for Hope deserve recognition. I don’t think they realize what they accomplish. They showed me no matter who you are or what you believe, you can still make a difference. I encourage others to give their time; it won’t hurt them. It’s the little things that make a big difference. It’s all very humbling.”