About this time three years ago I was a sophomore in high school, trying to come up with the answers to the questions people kept asking me about college and majors and life choices. I was definitely feeling the weight of all the decisions that I had to make, even though I still had two years before any of that would start to matter. In the midst of trying to deal with my homework, stage managing the drama play, thinking about college, and being involved in youth group, a good friend of mine told me about a missions trip she had been on the summer before. I was entranced by the stories she told. Who were these people, that she could come back so full of love and on fire for God? More importantly, how could I meet them?
She had gone on a trip with the organization Royal Servants. They are a part of Reign Ministries, a larger non-profit organization based in Minnesota. Royal Servants, or RS, runs trips across the globe for teenage and college-age students. The trips vary in length, lasting anywhere from two weeks to eight weeks. RS is just as concerned with the students on the trip as they are with the people they are serving overseas. They work to ensure that students grow spiritually and that they make good friends. They are service and street ministry based; each team takes choreographed dances, drama skits, and puppet shows overseas to perform. Royal Servants visit some amazing places and see amazing things. My answer hungry fifteen year old self couldn’t think of anything better to do over the summer than go on a Royal Servants trip.
I remember the night I signed up. I was nervous about telling my parents that I wanted to go to Costa Rica for five weeks, even though I don’t think I’ve ever wanted anything so badly before. I filled out the whole application in one night, and I couldn’t sleep after it was finished. I got accepted, did all my fundraising, followed the packing list to a tee, and before I knew it, I was on the plane to Chicago to go to Training Camp and meet the people I would live with for the next month.
The week I spent in Wisconsin preparing for my trip and getting to know my teammates was one of the hardest things I think I’ve done. They push you to your limits. You’re sleeping with strangers in tents on the ground, while its pouring rain outside and there is thunder above you. You wear dirty clothes and do service projects early in the morning. You run all over the place, carry a backpack all the time, and only use port-a-potties for eight days.
But, those eight days are also some of my favorite days. I met one of my best friends during that week. I learned so much about myself, and I was only a fifth of the way through my summer. My time spent in Costa Rica was equally as formative. Just thinking about it as I write transports me back to the warm, rainy afternoons of soccer, or fútbol, as the locals call it, in fields surrounded by sugarcane. I can feel the humidity and smell the church that we stayed at. Royal Servants has changed me in ways I can’t even fathom, and I hesitate to think about who I would be without that experience.