Hi everyone, My name is Caroline Chen and I’m a rising junior. This past week I participated in the Boston Project short term mission trip. Along with 26 other students and 5 adults, I served the community in Dorchester, as well as other regions in Boston. To sum it all up, it was a week of working hard, playing hard, sweating a lot, and experiencing God. Two summers ago, I was part of the BP team as a freshman. To say the least, this year was a very different experience. I went from being the youngest to one of the oldest. This year, I had a responsibility to lead, and to set an example for the younger youth. At first it was a little bit of a daunting idea, but through this trip I can say honestly that it has been a testament to how God has been changing and shaping me in the past years. As a freshman, I was afraid of the older kids, and I felt like I could never fit in. Through the experiences in the past two years, I have become someone comfortable with inviting younger students to engage in activities, and it has become a personal mission of mine to make others feel welcome. In addition to revealing God’s change in me, this BP has also allowed me to confront a few of my previous fears. As mentioned, when I was a freshman, I often felt like an outcast, when all I wanted was a sense of belonging. The result was that I wasn’t very able to focus on the different ways I was serving – rather, I was trying to do everything I could to make an impression on others. This year, my goal was to serve wholeheartedly, putting aside my own burdens and giving myself up for God’s will. I prayed fervently, and every night, I tried to check in on myself, to see how I was doing on this goal. I think God clearly answered me by giving me a sense of peace – or shalom. Both this year, and in 2017, the central theme of the Boston Project summer mission trip was shalom – a Hebrew word translated to mean peace. Through this week, I came to better understand that shalom means all that God desires and is a right relationship with God, one another, and all of creation. Through the morning challenge times (time set aside for spending with God each day), spending a few moments listening to the wind rustling in the trees, the swings quietly groaning under the weight of freshman boys, even the cars driving by and the planes headed for the airport – I felt a sense of peace and community with my fellow LYFers. I was reminded that God desires for us to have a right relationship, and that I don’t always need to be striving to make myself right – rather that He will take care of it. I was able to give myself up to him, and serve wholeheartedly – focusing on better understanding the community and working to benefit those living in it. I saw strengths of the community: the passion and unity of the people through neighborhood get-togethers, the energy and friendliness of children in the park who met you for the first time and became instant best friends. While serving, I was particularly inspired at one of the service sites – the Nightingale community garden. Eleanora, the older woman who ran the garden, explained to us the history of how the garden came to be. Originally, a school stood where it was, and after it burned down, the community worked hard to fight for the legal rights to make it a garden, rather than a condo complex. The determination and unity of the community was inspiring, and something I really seek to bring into my town and even the church community here at CBCGL. As I return from this mission trip, there are many things I’ve learned that I hope to apply to my day-to-day life. The week may be over, but there is still so much more growing to do. I hope to bring the same strengths I saw in Dorchester to my own communities, and serve with the same fervor in the future. Although I may struggle with the fear of not belonging, I know that I can find shalom in God, and I hope to bring the same shalom to others around me.