Jesse W.

A Seniorís Youth Sunday Sermon

To the outside observer a trip to Neon looks like a bunch of teens burning up their school break.  How this is done is quite simple; we start by boarding a bus in order to spend 20 hours traveling in it.  Once we arrive, we spend the next week stuck in close quarters with each other as we get little sleep and spend six hours a day building, wrecking, painting, siding, roofing, insolating, dry walling, digging, burning, etc.-ing houses, brush, and foundations.  And if that isn’t enough, we top it off by taking cold showers, sleeping on bad beds, and living in good old Kentucky mud and dust.

These observations are correct, but the conclusions that are drawn from them could not be further from the truth about what occurs during the week.  As I stand here before you, I have decided to show you, the outside observer, what really occurs down in Neon.  Don’t worry, it’s nothing bad (or at least not really bad).  Perhaps the best way for me to start is to say that this will be the fourth year that I have gone to Neon and with that I must confess that I first started to write this “sermon” two years ago as a sophomore.  Now that we have gotten started let us proceed on our brief journey of enlightenment.

Before I dive into too much detail I should probably make it clear that there are roughly four different segments each trip is broken into every year.  They are as follows: traveling to and arriving at HOMEs (Housing Oriented Ministries Established for Service inc.), our time spent there, our departure and return trip, and finally the annual Youth Sunday Service.  I, of course, will not even attempt to approach these in any particular order, refrain from jumping from one to the other and back again, or for that matter, specifying which one I am talking about.

When you step off the bus at HOMEs you either step into the real world or you leave it - I haven’t figured out which yet.  This is something that I did not come to realize until the end of my week in my sophomore year.  It is in many ways this notion that allows for the essence that we take away from the trip.  Down there, through our mud fights, eating contests, talent shows, and long discussions we gain a lasting trust and bond between all who are there.  This bond allows us to find peace with events buried deep in our collective pasts.  We are able to share our true feelings and selves without threat of ridicule.  This bond creates a power and it is this power contained within all that we experience that is the greatest thing about Neon.  From the first steps your freshmen year as you look upon the legacy that has been carved before you, as you learn about your new friends and yourself, and as you leave your mark on the world, you are a part of this power.  I will never forget the day that this realization hit me; it was during a long evening discussion my sophomore year.  I had viewed myself for years as an isolated, friendless, and emotionless person.  Here I saw that I had friends, I was open.  This realization showed me the power that brought me emotion, brought me tears.  This power was what Neon meant.  It is this power that I spent countless hours thinking writing and rewriting this sermon in order to convey, and even now it is not capable of truly fulfilling that purpose.  It is because this power is so complex, it is one you must experience to truly understand.  This power is the essence of Neon, and it is this essence I will never forget.  It is now that I shall bring my Neon legacy to a close with some final words.

Standing here, I have come full circle from the first step onto the bus my freshmen year, it is from here that I may look upon my experiences as a whole.  From all of these experiences I have come to realize that I have found the one thing that many people across the globe search for.  I found a small piece of heaven on this earth, down in Neon.  It is this essence, of such a place, that we strive to bring to you year after year on this day.  I wish to close now with a quote adapted from one that was spoken to me by a high school alumnus one day as I was walking around the high school,

“You may take the HYGer out of Neon,

But you can never take the Neon out of the HYGer.”


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