On March 24, In a partnership between CHAT and East End Fellowship, Youth Pastor Chris Lee and Yearlong Resident Kyra Fontaine led six youth on a weeklong missions and service trip to Puerto Rico to help the small town of Carolina rebuild after the devastating Hurricane Maria. The group repainted, cleaned, and cleared debris from the local host church that had sustained damage during the storm, helped with food distribution, and served at a nursing home while connecting with local residents along the way.
Cross-cultural learning made a big impact on our students, between salsa lessons, learning Spanish, and sampling Puerto Rican cuisine. They enjoyed a tour of Old San Juan and witnessed firsthand the rich 500 years of Puerto Rican history. For all of them, this was their first opportunity to travel overseas. As Kyra Fontaine observed, it was a rare but treasured opportunity to “meet kids from somewhere else and find similarities among the differences”.
While the group engaged in service projects, our students grew in remarkable ways. Harmony, a freshman at Armstrong High School, was able to encourage other team members through her vulnerability, fostering a deeper sense of family during the trip. Corey, a sophomore at Church Hill Academy, worked to build relationships with local residents even when it forced him outside his comfort zone.
Even simple activities turned into moments of fellowship and prayer. Chris was especially moved during a trip to a local ice cream shop where a local pastor asked the group to pray for his family and community. “What started out as a fun trip to get ice cream ended up in prayer and deep engagement. It was a beautiful picture of the body of Christ at work.”
This trip was a powerful reminder of the skills, talents, and willingness our students possess to serve in meaningful ways. Our society’s dominant narrative of the East End is that it’s just a place of deep need. And while there are real challenges, every day we see the ways our students are equipped to not just transform their own lives, but to give so much back to our community and our world.