During the first two weeks of June, Salem United Methodist Church's mission team went to the Philippines for a life-changing experience. Church member Carol Standard led the team of 14 people from the church including her brother from out of town.
"We had a wide age group that went," Standard said. "There were graduating high school seniors, college students, and then people like me and my brother. Most people are afraid to accept a challenge no matter how old you are, but all of us were ready to except this challenge."
The team left on June 3, for their 24-hour flight. Once the team arrived in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, they still had a seven-hour bus ride ahead of them to their final location in Maura Aorta, 15 miles away from the coast of the island. Standard said getting to this point of the journey was a challenge - a year of planning and what Standard calls complete blessings poured out from God himself.
Standard had been to the Philippines every year since 2008 when her brother first invited her to go with his church to partake in the experience that changed her life forever.
"In 2011, I wasn't able to go," she said. "It was hard since it was the first year I missed the opportunity to go. It was then I began praying that in 2012, God would open the door for me to be able to go back."
It was not long after, that her first prayer was answer.
"Our youth and youth leader was planning a trip to Romania last year," she said. "I guess God had other plans though. One Sunday, the mission team in the Philippines came to speak to our church. The mission leader's son came and spoke to the youth about the country, and the youth fell in love with it just by hearing about it. Their minds and hearts immediately changed and all of them decided they wanted to go to the Philippines instead of Romania."
Standard told the mission leaders she had been praying for a way to go back to the country she fell in love with four years ago.
"They asked me if I would like to lead the team on the trip," she said. "I told them absolutely yes."
It took the mission team approximately a year to raise the funds to get to the place that had stole their hearts.
"We did everything from spaghetti dinners, BBQ sales, dinners after church, and the church let us use the funds from the pumpkin patch we do every year to go towards the trip as well," she said. "Although we still had to come up with money out of our pockets too. With that, we just prayed God would make a way. Thankfully, he did."
Once the team arrived to their final location, they rolled up their sleeves and went to work.
"We helped improve homes' floors by pouring concrete floors," Standard said. "We also helped improve the outside of the home by putting up new plywood. Then we went and cleaned and painted restrooms and visited schools."
The team brought sanitary items as well as school items to give out to the little kids and their families.
"It was amazing watching how excited they would get over one pencil or one toothbrush," Standard said. "None of them were stingy, and none of them snatched from us. They would sit there and wait patiently for their turn."
They even had new clothes to give to the moms for their children as well.
"The moms had the new clothes on their kids in two seconds flat," she said. "You could see the appreciation in their eyes, and they wouldn't stop thanking us. It was a very humbling experience."
Afterwards, the team did a mini vacation bible school where they taught and spread God's love to the children and their families.
"The people of the Philippines are some of the most loving people," she said. "Everything we did, they would sit there and give us their attention and patience. They certainly poured out their love on us, and we loved them too. We were changed forever by each one of them."
When asked if she will go back to the Philippines, Standard said absolutely.
"You bet I am ready to go back," she said. "I have people chomping at the bit now wanting to go. There's even a waiting list for future visits. It's amazing how God just moved. This is the first time we even did a trip like this in 15 years and people are just ready to go back over there with us."
Standard said she would love to go other places to do mission work as well.
"I want to do something on the east coast of the United States," she said. "God just hasn't told me where and what he wants me to do yet."
Although, she hopes to return to the Philippines next June.
"It's a lot of money," she said. "But I know that God can and will make a way."
She describes mission trips as life changing things regardless of age.
"If you've never been, you just don't know," Standard said. "It's absolutely indescribable."