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Folsom teen Lydia Eldridge headed to South Africa on missions trip

By: Margaret Snider, Telegraph Correspondent
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Lydia Eldridge, 16, of Folsom has traveled abroad before. Several years ago her soccer team competed in England. Last summer she went to South Africa on a mission trip with a Christian organization. She will leave for another two week South African mission at the end of December. “When you first get to South Africa you go into this really new, fancy airport,” said Lydia, “so it’s not all that different. “Then we were driving in the dark, so we couldn’t really see anything. You wake up, and you’re taking this drive to the place where we’re going, and you’re in Africa, it looks like Africa. And then you go to this place that’s like out of poverty and it’s culture shock.” The trip is mostly a Gospel-sharing experience, a chance to talk to people from a different culture, to give service where possible. “I think it’s really important that people do something with their lives instead of just living comfortably,” Lydia said. “It’s not comfortable to go to Africa and take freezing cold showers and go out in the mud and dirt, but it’s really worth it. There’s so much more to your life when you go out and help other people. Like giving a blanket to this person you’d think wouldn’t be a huge deal, but they’re in tears because it’s freezing cold and they don’t have enough to keep their children warm at night.” Eldridge still needs to raise a little less than $2,000, and is confident she can do it. She first learned about the mission to South Africa at an Acquire the Fire event put on for teens by Global Expeditions, an organization formed by Ron and Katie Luce of Texas in the 1980s. Jeremy Steiner, Programs Operations Director for the organization, has been on a previous South African trip and described a typical day. He went to Diepsloot whereas Lydia went to a refugee camp at Msawawa, near Johannesburg. Msawawa was considered a small “squatter camp,” having only around 5,000 inhabitants. “We get up in the morning, have our quiet time, have breakfast, and then we load a bus and go into those slums,” Steiner said. “One of the areas that we work with a lot is called Diepsloot and then once we go into Diepsloot all the team leaders will break up into individual groups, less than five, that actually go hut to hut talking about God, and offering acts of service.” The process is well organized. Oriana Meyerhoeffer, who works for the organization in Texas, is an Encouragement Representative, and has been Lydia’s contact with the organization once she made the decision to go. Meyerhoeffer has helped her through the application, paperwork and fund-raising processes. The levels of leadership for a trip are: Project director at the top level, team leaders (one male and one female) who travel with the group, and missionary advisers who work directly with a smaller group of teens. “We try to keep that ratio (of teens to adults) at 5 to 1,” Meyerhoeffer said. The result of a missions trip can be profound not only on those served, but also on the teens who go. “They could take away as much as a life change,” Steiner said. Lydia said she has also learned the importance of attitude toward your circumstances. “It’s not really the circumstances that matter, it’s how you look upon it,” she said. “Like these kids who grew up there, they’re perfectly happy. They don’t know any different. Then you have children in America who want more and more and more and they’re not happy. So it definitely helps you appreciate what you have.” Lydia’s mother Deanne “Deedee” Eldridge has been through this before. “My oldest daughter went on a missions trip when she was 15,” Deedee Eldridge said. “So she sort of broke the ice about my kids leaving me and going overseas. And my second daughter went to some really hard crime areas in Mexico. … The hardest thing is letting your kids go anywhere.” To find out how you can help Lydia Eldridge with her South African mission fund, call (916) 983-7994.