Happy Flashback Friday everyone! #15! As I promised last week I am going to talk about my church trip to Utah way back in the summer of 2005. It was one part mission trip, one part pilgrimage, and all parts fun. The journey started off much like any other, with a trip to the airport, but when we all arrived at our gate we were faced with a dilemma - our flight was 4 hours delayed! There was some pretty nasty weather were our first flight was supposed to land in Newark, NJ so we had to wait it out. But with the delay we missed our connecting flight in Newark and were stuck for an entire day with no bags in New Jersey. First of all, I have no idea why air traffic would have us fly from Florida to New Jersey and then to Utah, (...weird...) but second we got to have an unexpected adventure in New York City. The church I went on the trip with (Christ Episcopal Church) had a connection at the time with Trinity Church in New York so we called them up and they invited us over. We got to tour Trinity Church as well as St. Paul's and also got to see ground zero before any of the memorial construction had started. It was the first time I had ever been to New York so the experience was quite fantastic and powerful. The next day we made it to Utah and went about the mission part of our trip, which was to help clean, paint, and repair parts of a local town. That part was also a very meaningful experience because for the first time I witnessed poverty in the United States. It's not like I did not know it was present, but I have been lucky enough in my life to have lived in some pretty wealthy communities and being in that small town was very eyeopening to see how rough some parts of the US really are. I remember my specific job was to help paint street curbs because the town did not have the proper funds for road maintenance. It was actually pretty tough work since it was the summer in Utah (hot, hot hot!), but it felt good to help out. After that we started our pilgrimage part which was a river rafting tour on the Colorado River. We spent a few days and nights on the river on these pontoon type of river rafts that took about 10 people each. We had special guides with us the whole time who were really fun and liked to joke with each other by starting water fights or diving off rocks into the river. Every evening we camped out on the river bank and had the most amazing views of the ancient cliffs formed over thousands of years by the river. We also had fun playing a huge game of battleship on the beach one night with big pieces of driftwood as the ships and one of our guides told us a funny story about a French group they took down the river that they fed french toast too one morning - the French folk asked "What is this egg bread..?" We all thought that was hilarious. And every night our church leaders lead us in prayer as we marveled at the wonder of the creation that surrounded us in that place. I believe the trip touched everyone in a different way, but for me it was one of the only times I have ever felt as calm and at peace with the world. I hope to one day venture back there and experience it again. Until next time readers - Keep it REAL!