Congratulations on making this trip. East LA was one of my favorite experiences at Carroll; you will get to experience a community beset with challenges that may seem very foreign to some of you, as well as challenges that are old hat. At the same time, you will see a community responding to those challenges in ways that can only be described as creative, effective, and inspiring. Keep wide eyes and a ready mind, and keep your listening ears on at all times. You are going to meet some truly remarkable people.
And that’s really the best advice I could give you going into this: listen. These trips are opportunities that offer largely what you put into them. I find it helpful to view them as a kind of “active escape” or “retreat of doing”; something both truly “active” and truly “contemplative” at the same time. As such there is a real and vital spiritual component to what you are doing. It isn’t a “mission trip.” It isn’t simply “service,” at least not in the common understanding of that word. It is a building of something–externally (the people you will meet, the conversations you will have, the friendships you will develop), yes, but also internally (what your mind does with your time here, the way you feel your desires and impressions change, the way some aspect of your experience simply sits with you). Let it happen. Quiet your mind. Incline your mind outside of yourself and onto those around you. For now, just let yourself go for a bit (your opinions, your phone, your grades, your year, all that you think you know) and just simply be. Incline yourself towards prayer, or simply incline yourself towards an authentic kind of inner silence. And, above all, listen.
Have a great time this week. I’m so excited for you, and I’m praying for you.