QUINCY -- A mission's trip over the New Year's holiday to one of Los Angeles' largest homeless communities changed the way Michaela Meyer sees the world around her.
The trip changed the world around her. After making her way through Skid Row, Meyer began to look at everything differently. She passed by countless tents that line the streets of Skid Row, a Los Angeles district that houses between 5,000 and 8,000 homeless people at any given time.
"Going there was really hard," Meyer said, "but after you see that place, you appreciate everything more -- the simple things, like getting a meal every day."
The streets were lined with trash, a byproduct of the consumption-based culture that Meyer's father, Lutheran Church of St. John Pastor Kendall Meyer, said defines Skid Row. Things are used and simply tossed aside.
"It was really shocking to see how they live and how they spend their lives," the 17-year-old Quincy High School student said.
Meyer and almost 30 others on the one-week trip -- they left Dec. 28 and returned Jan. 4 -- helped feed 1,000 people at the Union Rescue Mission in a single day. They also distributed more than 1,000 health kits containing soap, a razor, candy bar, notes of encouragement, Bible verses and other health and hygiene necessities. Meyer was accompanied on the trip by her mother, Lynn Eggers-Meyer.
"It opens your eyes to poverty," Eggers-Meyer said. "It tenders your heart."
Taking a note from the mission trip's playbook, the family has constructed their own care packages since returning home and keep them in their car, giving them out to people they encounter who are in need.
Four members of the Lutheran Church of St. John congregation made the journey to California to feed the homeless and to help decorate floats for the Tournament of Roses Parade through Lutheran Hour Ministries' Petal Pushers program. The Meyers had previously gone on the trip each year before moving to Quincy from Iowa, and they have continued the annual tradition in their adopted city. The trip was Michaela Meyer's first.
The Petal Pushers is a group of more than 4,000 volunteers who decorate the Lutheran Hour Ministries and other floats for the Tournament of Roses Parade held in Pasadena, Calif., on New Year's Day. The Lutheran Hour Ministries float, which has appeared in the parade each year since 1951, is the only religious float.
This year's float bore the words "Bringing Christ to the Nations" on the front. The float was crafted as an ancient sailboat sitting on a bed of flowers. Palm trees decorated the back, and the flag's sail was a map of the world with a large cross hanging in the middle.