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Marc and Madison returned Friday evening from a 10 day youth group trip from church. The name of this trip and the ones taken in the previous years are called faith adventure trips. This years trip jouryned to New York City where we believed the kids (14-18 year olds) would be involved in charity service work of one kind or another. After a 3 day bus ride from North Dakota to NYC, the kids and chaperones disembarked at their 'hostel' which had 2 people per room, with one person on a roll-a-way bed and 2 bathrooms on each floor serving about 30 strangers. GAG!
It quickly became obvious that out of the 6 days spent in NYC, only 3 days had any type of service work involved. Marc figured that including travel time on the subways to reach the soup kitchens, the total amount of time spent in service to others was a mere 5 hours! Now in my world, 5 hours does not constitute substantial community giving. Let along having to travel by bus for 30 hours in each direction to participate in 5 hours of charitable giving. I know first hand that there are several places right here in Bismarck where these kids could put some sweat into serving others!
Lots of things are bothering us about this so called Faith Adventure. First of all, when asked why the prefered method of transportation was by bus, the pastor informed Marc that it was not only cheaper, but allowed for team building exercises to take place in transit...to solidfy the group. COUGH, I call BS on this one. Seems there was actually NO team building exercises that occured in transit at all. Another little thing that annoys me is that while yes, they were in NYC, the over-whelming vast majority of the time was spent sight-seeing. While I do agree that the kids from our church have led narrow lives, with few having traveled anywhere in the USA before and most having never flown on a plane...sad but true....the pastor also wanted to expose these kids to cultural differences. God knows these kids need that. Most of the local kids still look at my kids and call them wooly because of their hair, and ask stupid questions about their skin. At worst, these kids have called my kids the N word and spoken freely at the parsonage about shooting "coons." They've told racist jokes to my kids on previous church outings and joked about how my kids shouldn't be able to swim, but could sure shoot hoops. We've tolerated and tried valiantly to educate the local kids to no avail. Some are quiet in their bigotry and some are blatant, neither of which feels good.
So on this journey, Marc got to witness first hand how the girls bullied Madison. Madison simply aint no shrinkin' violet, for damn sure, but even she can only take so much. Marc watched the girls make fun of her curly hair, listened to them as they told her that the roommate would take the bed and Madison would have to deal with the roll-a-way, and watched as the girls ostracized Madison at Times Square and told her that they would be going off sight-seeing without her. Marc was a good Dad and picked up the slack when all she wanted was to be accepted by narrow-minded, frightened girls. That night at devotions with the group, Marc was asked where he had seen the face of God. He replied, "I know where I DIDN'T see the face of God, and that was in the young girls who have mocked and shunned Madison to the point of tears." One of the girls to whom Marc was referring had a Mom along as a chaperone who instead of acknowledging this issue chose to give both Marc and Madison the cold shoulder for the remainder of the trip and refused to speak to them.
Marc brought this issue up to our pastor who shocked the hell out of us by telling Marc that this is normal girl behavior and he would not comment or talk to the girls since he hadn't seen it himself. He had been told by several people about the bullying, but chose to ignore it and not address it because I believe he(the pastor) too, is a chicken to stand up to the majority to take the cause of the minority. Marc called me from New York to share what our pastor had said, or failed to say, and we both feel that since this is a church trip, not a secular school trip and we both expect these kids from church to behave in a Christian manner. If this is a faith adventure then these kids better step up and bring a Christ like behavior with them, or stay at home.
We are sick feeling about this. To think that our pastor can call this behavior 'Normal girl behavior' is sickening. Since when do we as a church body, lower our standards and condone mean, ignorant behavior? Madison and Thomas experienced bullying in the private Christian school they were in for 3 years and then again in public school. Now as homeschoolers it's odd that my kids are experiencing the most egregious behavior from the people that compose their church family.
Madison came home with a new appreciation of how 'average' young teen girls treat each other. I am glad she is a strong, Strong young girl who can move beyond the slights and insults tossed her way, but it still leaves an invisible scar deep within. Marc and I have tried our best to live our values and morals as an example to our kids. We expect them to respect everyone. They may not like someone, but we still expect them to be civil. How is that our pastor can turn away, shirk his duty to teach and instill Christ like values to those in his charge when he knows this behavior is occuring? To avoid it with the casual thought that this is normal is to perpetuate its cruelty.
I am mad. I am sad and I feel lost in my spiritual journey. I refuse to let one man who happens to wear a collar, destroy my faith in God, but he has destroyed my faith in him and his ability to take a moral stand and correct those who are behaving in a despicable very un-Christ like manner. It's not often that Marc expresses his sadness and vunerability, but when it comes to our kids, that is our weak spot. How can we return to this church knowing our pastor, our shephard of our flock, perceives and condones this behavior as normal and acceptable? This is where we are right now. It's not a good place and it stings.