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Reaching for a life-changing trip

FAITH

Posted: July 13, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 13, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Erika Christopher stands on the beach looking out over the ocean in summer 2013. Hannah Backer / Courtesy photo

 

Hi, my name is Erika Christopher, and I am 21 years old and live in Newhall.

I have been given the opportunity to change the lives of thousands of teenagers and for them to change mine.

On August 14, I will embark on a 9-month mission trip with NET Ministries – a catholic ministry that moves teenagers all around the country closer to Christ.

Growing up in Santa Clarita, I attended OLPH Catholic School until age 11. I then attended Newhall Elementary, Placerita Junior High School, Hart High School and, currently, COC for my degree in Early Childhood Education.

I hope to one day either work with children or teenagers, for I believe the crucial years in life happen at those stages.

As mentioned before, I attended a Catholic elementary school, but my faith life didn’t really begin until high school.

At that time, I began attending LifeTeen – a youth group for teenagers at St. Kateri Catholic Church in Saugus, which I now serve as a leader. From there I got involved and really began to love my faith and our Lord.

It was in my junior and senior years of high school that I found my love to serve. I was a part of a mission group called Teens on a Mission through St. Kateri parish, where I spent collectively two weeks serving the homeless and poverty-stricken community of San Francisco.

Since then, I have known I want to make this world better for its people any way I can.

After finishing high school and the LifeTeen program, I got a job at one of the local Starbucks and began attending College of the Canyons.

At first I didn’t notice much of a difference in my faith life, but slowly I noticed over the next two years I wasn’t growing as much as I would have liked.

I was still going to church, singing in the choir and partially involved in a young adult group, but I was stagnant.

Don’t get me wrong – there was tons of wonderful people who helped me grow in my faith since high school, but I was searching for more.

Almost one year ago, I was having lunch with one of my good friends and he told me about NET Ministries. They are a group of young catholic adults who travel around the U.S. for 9 months, living out of one suitcase and a backpack, while they serve the youth of our country.

There it was: my chance to grow, to go deeper.

Already having a background with the youth group I currently serve, I thought, “Why not apply? If it was in God’s plan, then I would serve.”

I filled out the application last November and sent it in. A week later I received a call from NET asking me to join them on an interview retreat weekend in March.

The retreat was amazing, and I hoped so badly to be accepted. Two weeks later a letter came in the mail notifying me that I was!

That’s when all of this became real. I had to decide if I was willing to give up 9 months of my life here at home to venture out into places I have never been – to guide myself this next year, or to let God guide me.

I chose the latter and accepted the invitation.

That leads me to now, nervous yet excited for this life-changing mission in which God has called me.

Over the next 9 months, I will be traveling the U.S. by van with 135 other young adults, putting on youth retreats and moving roughly 160,000 teenagers closer to Christ.

In order to do this, I need to raise funds to cover my flights, health insurance and the cost of my five-week training. My goal is to raise $7,000 by August 1, and I am halfway there.

I am excited for this mission and ready to challenge myself for my personal growth and the growth of my faith.

Editor’s note: To support Erika on her mission trip, visit gofundme.com/Erikas-Support, or visit her blog at Erikas-Mission.blogspot.com as she travels in the coming weeks.

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