This week Catherine Rein and our Mission Director, Will share their thoughts on the recent service trip to Long Branch, New Jersey. I want to thank the two of them as well as another adult chaperone, Jack Dillon, for providing such a great experience for the kids on this trip.

I traveled along with the kids to New Jersey and enjoyed their company and their witness to the works of mercy they performed in our Lord’s name.

If you ever wondered what the week is like, it goes something like this. Normally Sunday is the travel day, though this year it was Monday. The trip takes about six hours to reach the retreat house. Once there we settle in and then walk outside to the Atlantic Ocean. Yes the 150 bed retreat house is right on the Jersey Shore and it is nestled in between high rise condo complexes which contain units that are valued individually over a million dollars. The location is outstanding. The outside grounds contain expansive lawns with a nearby courtyard which contains the Stations of the Cross and statues of various saints. The center part of the exterior of the retreat house contains various Adirondack chairs and benches, which provide a great place to talk or read a book. The inside of the house has a large dining area and a beautiful chapel. The rooms are cell like with bed and desk (no phone or tv’s in the rooms, though there is wifi which can provide that on your cell phones) and we are provided with private bathrooms. At night time you can keep your window open and hear the sounds of the crashing waves along with the train whistle from the nearby train tracks. The dining room is open throughout the day and night, and when the kitchen is closed they provide beverage dispensers, snacks and cookies. The meals consist of a continental breakfast, brown bag lunches for our offsite project, and a warm and delicious meal with dessert selection. I guess you can tell that despite the service work during the day, the kids and adults enjoy a high standard of living. The sunrise and sunset over the Jersey Shore is stunning, and many folks get up early to catch the early morning rays of breaking dawn. After breakfast the adults and teens get into a van and travel 20 minutes to the job site. This year, like last year’s site, is located along the Jersey Shore, in Keansburg; a town which was devastated by Hurricane Sandy and which is very low on the economic scale. The house the missionaries worked on this year was located just across the street from the Mayor’s house. Prior to getting to the jobsite, the teens force the adults to bring them to Wawa Convenience Store (which is like a big Cumberland Farms) and they purchase their snacks for the jobsite (recall we do provide a healthy brown bag lunch to the kids, but they insist on supplementing it with food that is high fat/calorie and carbs). When the group arrives to the site they are greeted by three adult supervisors who assess their skills/abilities and then assign them to projects (ie. painting, doing tile work, or putting in laminate flooring). The missionaries are provided with gloves, masks and safety glasses, and then go about their day, until lunch. They are given a one hour lunch but our group takes a half hour. After the day they travel to some area attraction, return to Wawa’s, then make their way back to the retreat house for dinner. The evening includes scheduled time for sharing and reflection, followed by free time for cards and karaoke. Many friendships are forged on these trips. Consider coming!