Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Crazy Love of Francis Chan

Another great book I read over the Summer was Francis Chan's "Crazy Love". He does a brilliant job in attempting to fathom the greatness of God's love for us. He contrasts this with how so many of us seem so complacent and lukewarm in our faith. Chan believes that if we truly grasped the awesomeness of God's love, that alone would motivate us positively to live for Him in all areas of our life. Chan also has some videos at that will accompany your reading. His video on the "Awe Factor of God" and "Just Stop and Think" were both very compelling videos that helped to set the stage for his book. I know for me that there is a big difference between reading about God's amazing love in comparison to experiencing His love. Probably one of the biggest breakthrough moments for me to experience God's love was when I went on the retreat weekend called "Walk to Emmaus" at the request of my pastor about 4 years ago. Going with my arm twisted behind my back and having low expectations, I was completely blown away by being overwhelmed by God's love for me. So as I read this book, it took me back to the feelings, emotions and thoughts of that weekend. I just know from my life that those spiritual "mountaintop" experiences are precious moments to cherish but there is so much of life that is lived in "the valley". So at times I wrestled a little bit with Chan's book, knowing that in my head I agreed with just about everything he said, and I recognized very specific times in my life where I was "overwhelmed by a relentless God", but I also know that I continually wrestle with my imperfections, sin, the mundane stuff of everyday life, and doubts. I am a work in progress where God is continually transforming me through His Spirit and just about everyday is a wrestling match between my will and His Will. But I am still climbing up the proverbial mountain as God creates in me a new heart day by day.

Favorite Quotes

Chan on our View of God: The crux of it all is why we are this way, and it is because we have an inaccurate view of God. We see Him as a benevolent Being who is satisfied when people manage to fit Him into their lives in some small way. We forget that God never had an identity crisis. He knows that He's great and deserves to be the center of our lives. Jesus came humbly as a servant, but He never begs us to give Him some small part of ourselves. He commands everything from His followers. (p. 22)

Chan on the Irony about God: The irony is that while God doesn't need us but still wants us, we desperately need God but don't really want Him must of the time. (p. 61)

Chan on the parable of the sower in Luke 8: My caution to you is this: Do not assume you are good soil. I think most American churchgoers are the soil that chokes the seed because of all the thorns. Thorns are anything that distracts us from God. When we want God and a bunch of other stuff, then that means we have thorns in our soil. A relationship with God simply cannot grow when money, sin, activities, favorite sports teams, addictions, or commitments are piled on top of it. Most of us have too much in our lives. As David Goetz writes (in "Death by Suburb), 'Too much of the good live ends up being toxic, deforming us spiritually.' A lot of thinks are good by themselves, but all of it together keeps us from living healthy, fruitful lives for God. . . Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live? Do you see evidence of God's kingdom in your life? Or are you choking it our slowly by spending too much time, energy, money, and thought on the things of this world?" (p. 67)

Chan on Commitment: Jesus's call to commitment is clear: He wants all or nothing. The thought of a person calling himself a 'Christian' without being a devoted follower of Christ is absurd. (p. 85)

Chan on Failure: In the midst of our failed attempts at loving Jesus, His grace covers us. Each of us has lukewarm elements and practices in our life; therein lies the senseless, extravagant grace of it all. The Scriptures demonstrate clearly that there is room for our failure and sin in our pursuit of God. His mercies arenew every morning (Lamentations 3). His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). I'm not saying that when you mess up, it means you were never really a genuine Christian in the first place. If that were true, no one could follow Christ. The distinction is perfection (which none will attain on this earth) and a posture of obedience and surrender, where a person perpetually moves toward Christ. (p. 88)

Chan on Love: Personal experience has taught me that actions driven by fear and guilt are not an antidote to lukewarm, selfish, comfortable living. I hope you realize instead that the answer is love. . . . Isn't that what brings Him glory - when believers desire Him and are not merely slaves who serve Him our of obligation? (p. 101)

Chan on Change: God wants to change us; He died so that we could change. The answer lies in letting Him change you. Remember His counsel to the lukewarm church in Laodicea? 'Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.' (Rev. 3:20). His counsel wasn't to 'try harder,' but rather to let Him in. As James wrote, 'Come near to God and he will come near to you' (4:8). Jesus Christ didn't die only to save us from hell; He also died to save us from our bondage to sin. In John 10:10, Jesus says, 'I have come that they may have live, and have it to the full.' He wasn't talking about the future. He meant now, in this lifetime (p. 103-104).

Chan on Comfort: But God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through. (p. 124).

Chan on Christians: A friend of mine once said that Christians are like manure: spread them out and they help everything grow better, but keep them in one big pile and they stink horribly. Which are you? The kind that reeks, around which people walk a wide swath? Or the kind that trusts God enough to let Him spread you out - whether that means going outside your normal group of Christian friends, increasing your material giving, or using your time to serve others? (p. 168)

Chan on the Holy Spirit: What really keeps me going is the gift and power we have been given in the Holy Spirit. . . . Our view of the Holy Spirit is too small. The Holy Spirit is the One who changes the church, but we have to remember that the Holy Spirit lives in us. It is individual people living Spirit-filled lives that will change the church. (p. 171)

Chan on Christians: The world needs Christians who don't tolerate the complacency of their own lives. (p. 172)


Overall this is really a great book for all to read - skeptics, complacent, lukewarm Christians as well as Christ-followers who are living their faith on the outside of their comfort zone. Chan excites his reader about the amazing depth of God's love for us and how if we truly grasp that concept it will forever change our lives as we just can not settle for a dull, bland, vanilla faith that just gets us by.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Colson Takes on the Faith

Over the past few years there has been a rise in the number of books that have fallen under the category of the "New Atheists". As these intellectuals attempt to dispel Christianity there is another disturbing trend going on within Christianity itself - people who are becoming more and more biblically illiterate. Here is where Charles Colson steps into the gap. Colson has written an amazing book that helps to explain what it is that Christians historically have believed, why they believe it, and why it matters. Colson has been a profound thinker in Christianity, helping to get people to think through a worldview that reflects the faith and evaluates the culture through that grid instead of the other way around. He points out in the beginning of his book that: "the faith is a complete view of the world and humankind's place in it. Christianity is a worldview that speaks to every area of life, and its foundational doctrines define its content. If we don't know what we believe - even what Christianity is - how can we live it and defend it? Our ignorance is crippling us." (p. 28).
With that as a foundation Colson then begins to explain in detail the foundational truths of the Christian faith: God the Father, sin, the importance of the Bible, knowing truth, reconciliation through Jesus Christ, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, the transformational purpose of the Church. Colson does a great job in explaining the pillars of our faith in a way that is easy to understand. He not only is excellent at explaining the core truths of Scripture but he is also an excellent story teller. He tells some of the most fascinating stories of history to go along with his arguments of the faith.

Favorite Quotes:

Colson on the Bible: "Simply put, the Bible is the rock on which the Church stands or falls. It is the ultimate authority for all Christians - Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox alike. It is revealed propositional truth. The texts were written by men under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and thus are REVEALED to us. It is PROPOSITIONAL because it makes a series of claims. It is TRUTH because it is from God, and thus must certainly be true; God could not have spoken something that is not true because that would be contrary to His nature. This is why all true Christians take the Bible as their ultimate authority - and why no Christian should ever be intimidated in defending it." (p. 56).

Colson on Truth: When the God of the Bible is rejected, people choose a new god. The postmodern age has anointed secular tolerance as its god. Tolerance once meant listening respectfully to all points of view, freely discussed in our common search for the truth. But the creed for the new god of tolerance is that knowing truth is impossible. So everyone is free to think and act as he likes, with one exception: those who have the audacity to believe that they know the truth, particularly if they think God has revealed it to them, are not tolerated. . . The task of this generation - as it will be in every generation - is to understand Christianity as a complete view of the world and humankind's place in it, that is, as the truth. If Christianity is not the truth, it is NOTHING, and our faith mere sentimentality. (p. 68-70).

Colson on the Incarnation: The revolutionary nature of God's invasion of our world is far more significant than all the other invasions of history taken together. This one establishes the possibility of the rule of God in every human heart and began the reclamation of our world as God's own. (p. 87).

Colson on the Cross: . . . the cross is the symbol of Christianity. It marks the dividing line between man's futile efforts to achieve God's righteousness and God's gracious act in sending Christ to redeem all who will follow. It represents the most decisive moment in history, when God answered the great human dilemma that we have all sinned and yearn for forgiveness: God took upon Himself our sins to set us free. It is where justice and mercy meet. It is scandalous. (p. 90)

Colson on the Trinity: The Trinity enables us to better understand the scriptural teaching that God is love. Love cannot exist without someone to love, which is why Allah and any unitary understanding leads to a cold, impersonal god. The essence of the God of the Bible is His intertwined triune nature of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The three continuously pour out love to one another and receive love in return. The Trinity exists as a perfect community of self-giving. In this life, Christians enjoy participation in this community through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and in the world to come we will be united with the Godhead in perfect love. The Trinity sums up our final hope. What could be more central to our faith? (p. 105).

Colson on a Christian Worldview: . . . Christianity is a way of seeing all of life, every aspect of reality; it is a worldview. This means that we have two divinely authorized commissions. The first is well known, the Great Commission, to make disciples and baptize them (Matthew 28:19). But the second is equally important. It is to bring the righteousness of God to bear on all of life, to take dominion, to carry our the tasks we are given in the first chapters of Genesis, to bring a redeeming influence into a fallen culture. I call this the Cultural Commission. (p. 107).

Colson on Salvation: It was an exchange of identities. Christ comes to the cross to die, giving His righteous life for us; we in turn come to the cross to die, surrendering our old sinful life for Him. Thereafter Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20). This is the heart of the Christian conversion. . . . Our past sins are not only forgiven, but we are transformed to live a new life with God's power and grace. (p. 113).

Colson on Holiness: When you look at the history of these Christian awakenings and movements, you find one common denominator running through all of them. . . . They acted because they believed, as God's holy people, that they were called both to end systemic evil AND reform cultural attitudes. (p. 170)

Colson on the Origin of Life: I believe the Intelligent Design movement has provided good reason for evolutionary theory to be reconsidered; what we have learned about DNA tells us that all of life is governed by intelligent information. But however we regard evolution, all serious Christians take issue with the secular view and affirm that God created humanity with a specific purpose in mind: that creation is intentional and cannot be random. The argument for design is clear in Scripture. which records that the 'heavens declare the glory of God' (Psalm 19:1) - in other words, God has left his imprint on creation. Created by God and with His purpose for us clear, human life is sacred. (p. 175).

Colson on the Influence of Christianity: Christianity does not seek to impose, it proposes. The Gospel is the great proposal: Come to the wedding feast, one and all - black, white, rich, poor, East, West, Muslim, Jew, Christian - all are welcome, and it's never too late. God turns no man or woman away, not one. Through His Son, Jesus Christ, the Father brings us into His Kingdom. This is the promise He holds out to individuals and nations alike, a Kingdom not of eating and drinking or of marching armies and clashing swords, but a Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy forever in the Holy Spirit. (p. 225)

In conclusion, this is an excellent book that not only helps to respond to the New Atheists, but it is a great book for all Christians to be reminded, maybe even for the first time, what it is that historic Christianity has believed and how that has transformed peoples lives and impacted the world in which they lived. This is a book to be read and re-read. We constantly need to be reminded of what we believe, why we believe it and why our beliefs matter in the world that we currently live in. And finally, if you want to dive into more of Colson's concept of the Cultural Commission read his book "How Now Shall We Live?". His argument for the Cultural Commission profoundly changed my views on how I look at culture how Christianity should approach it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Seeing Gray

Adam Hamilton is not afraid to address the big issues of the day in his book Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White. In this book he addresses the issue of how often the church seems to be reactionary in its approach to issues and has become politicized. So much of our society has been pushed into categories of conservative or liberal. Growing up in the church at the tail end of modernistic thinking, many churches promoted a very "black and white" view of the issues. For instance after I attended three years of college to be a film major I ended up completing my undergraduate degree at Liberty University as a youth ministry major. Many, many times I heard some very dogmatic things said in chapels and from the pulpit railing against Hollywood, feminists and homosexuals. In a lot of ways it was shocking to me in how these groups were stereotyped and villainized instead of trying to be understood.

In the book, Adam attempts to look at many of the major issues that have been divisive among church people and tries hard to bring both sides to a point where constructive dialogue can occur. Now depending on your views of such issues which he attempts to tackle, I am sure that there are at least a few chapters that will make anybody a little uneasy. In fact, as I read the book I began to feel that each chapter was only barely scratching the surface of the issue and could possible deserve an entire book devoted to each one of the topics he writes about. What I did like about the book though was that Adam is trying very hard to get people to stop villainzing those who may disagree with them, but instead at least consider the other side of the arguments and see if there is a middle ground that can be agreed upon or at least come to a point in which we can open up a dialogue instead of judging and criticizing those we don't even know.

Adam states in Chapter 4: "Our culture is in the midst of an important shift in which more people will be able to accept paradox and to hold fast to a compelling faith while living with ambiguity." (p. 30). On one had I agree with this. In fact this resembles the philosophical shift of modernistic thinking to post-modernism that we have seen occurring over the past few decades. It was when I was in seminary that I studied the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard and he was way ahead of his time in bringing about this concept of paradox within Scripture. By systematizing our faith like a science, we have lost the absolute mystery and wonder of God. Post-modern thinking brings us back to that concept of paradox and ambiguity though. But the important thing here is that we remain clear on when Scripture is not ambiguous.

Quote from Chapter 5: "Christianity, when most effective, most faithful, and most empowering, is found in the sweet spot between legalism and libertinism. It holds together, in tension, the seemingly opposite ideas of grace and holiness, faith and works, legalism and libertinism. Black and white are found at the poles: The legalists are ready to judge all who don't live the gospel according to their rules, and their rules have served to push many away from Christ. The libertines have often failed to recognize that there are boundaries, that there could be anything we should refrain from doing simply because the act itself might displease God. The Christian life is found in the sweet spot between these two." (p. 36). This is a compelling quote and gives us reason to recognize that we need to approach these issues with a sense of humility knowing that when it comes to sheer knowledge on such issues, we don't know everything. In fact, I remember in seminary studying the theology of Charles Finney. He was one of the main people responsible for the Second Great Awakening and called the Father of Modern Revivalism. He had a huge role in American Christianity. But as we studied his theology, I remember being troubled by some of his views. It was then that we realized that most-likely on a subconscious level modernistic/scientific thinking was permeating the way everybody thought in those days. Enlightenment thinking was the mental grid that shaped peoples worldviews and theology. Discovering this caused me to approach theology with more humility than dogmatism, recognizing that culture plays a huge part in our thinking whether we want to admit it or not.

My final favorite quote comes from the last chapter: "The radical center within the Christian faith embraces the evangelical gospel that proclaims that human beings are wounded by sin and are in need of saving, and that Jesus Christ is God's antidote to our human condition. AND it embraces the social gospel that seeks to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and recognizes that Christian's responsibility for addressing the great problems of poverty, oppression, racism, the environment and war. The evangelical gospel without the social gospel is spiritual narcissism. The social gospel without the evangelical gospel remains afflicted by sin and holds, in the words of the Apostle Paul,'to the outward form of godliness but denying its power' (2 Timothy 3:5a). The radical center holds that the gospel is incomplete without both its evangelical and social witness. . . . The radical center holds together a liberal spirit that is open-minded, searching for truth, generous, and always reforming, with a conserving spirit that is unwilling to discard historic truths simply because they are historic. It is willing to question anything but requires a very high level of evidence before setting aside what has been treasured as truth by previous generations." (p. 232-233). As I read through his book I knew that on certain issues I leaned more conservative and on others more liberal. There is a general uneasiness with considering the other side because it is much easier to categorize and label those who think differently than you. It takes patience, humility and maturity to step to the "radical center".

I highly recommend this book, and if you are daring enough, use it for a small group discussion. You might find out that all Christians do not think alike. In the politicized culture that we live in right now it would be amazing to see the church begin to lead by example by uniting at the radical center instead of allowing our culture to fit us into polarized categories and inflame arguments instead of pursuing reason, dialogue and love in our conversations with one another.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Junior High Mission Trip to Cincinnati 2009

Well what can I say about the Junior High mission trip? A lot!!! I saved the biggest team for last. We had 30 Junior Highers with 3 adults and a Senior guy to help me out with the boys. This was also the most boys we have ever taken on one trip: 15 boys, 15 girls. We signed up with the organization called "Christ in Youth" who put on "Know Sweat" mission trips. We staid on campus at Cincinnati Christian University and then would travel out to our work sites during the day. It was nice not to have to travel at all. We had a 20 minute trip to the downtown area. Before we left the church though, I had each Junior Higher quote one of their memory verses to me (without repeating the same verse as the person in front of them) before I would let them get into a van. This caused complete pandemonium but it was fun to see them scramble to refresh their memories on the verses they learned earlier.

Once we got down there, we got ourselves situated into our rooms. It was a complete joy to discover that the boys were put into a dorm that actually had air conditioning! I can't even remember the last time I had an air-conditioned room to sleep in on a mission trip. I was also excited that I might have my own room all to myself. But that was a short lived dream as I acquired some room mates by the end of the day. It seemed that it was punishment to make some of my junior high boys come into my room. This was new territory for me. I was not sure how I felt about being feared this way. Anyhow, I stuck to my guns and by the middle of the week I actually had a great time with my room mates. We had some good conversations going into the night.

On the first work day we ended up over at Walnut Hills High School. Just out front of the school is a large patch of ground owned by the Cincinnati Parks. The issue is that the honeysuckle shrubs have taken over the entire area. In fact, the entire school was pretty much hidden from site as a result of these shrubs and vines. It was our task to get into the woods with saws and trimmers and pretty much level any and all honeysuckle shrubs and vines. Our Junior Highers attacked it with a passion.

During our lunch we talked about some of the things that we observed while getting down into the woods. The teens saw a lot of alcohol containers, some condoms, and several other things that made you wonder just what was going on deep down in these woods that are just a few steps to the front door of one of the best high schools in Ohio. We were able to see the spiritual significance of what we were doing: shining light into the darkness so that all may see the truth and the things that happen in the darkness will vanish in the light.

On our next work day we went to Ault Park. This was a beautiful park. The issue here once again was that the honeysuckle shrubs have taken over the trails. In fact, some of the trails were just about unrecognizable as trails because of the overhanging plants, trees and shrubs. All the trails needed to be opened up in a big way. We attacked the trails from several different directions. Once again, our teens worked very hard and had a lot of fun.

At one point I was using a chainsaw to cut a fallen tree trunk in half. As I was working hard at splitting this log, I could feel several things hitting me in the back. Turns out that the rest of my team was right next to a bush that had tons of briers. The teens were picking them off the plant and using me as target practice. We ended up with a mini-war as the briers were being lobbed back and forth.

During our lunch break it just so happened that Tyler accidentally dropped his dorm key into the trash can. We had a good 10-15 minutes of entertainment as he went digging through every speck of trash trying desperately to find his key. He would lean into the trash can and reach down to try and dig out piece by piece everything he could grab to find this key. After a while, I suggested that he just lift the lid, take out the trash bag, rip it open and look through it like that. He finally took my advice and found the key.

We attacked the trails for another hour or two while some of the other teens did some mulching. After we finished up we decided to make a trip to a UDF for some ice cream. Once we got inside the UDF store a huge torrential downpour happened outside. It was fun to eat ice cream and look outside in amazement at the storm that was passing though.

On the third work day, we ended up back at Walnut Hills High School. We had a very interesting morning as several city officials gathered together to thank the teens. One in particular was from Xavier University. He encouraged the teens to continue to serve. He also mentioned that Xavier gives out 10 full-ride scholarships for students who have demonstrated a life of service. This struck me as a much easier and cheaper way to help get your teen through college than putting all your time and effort into the slim chance of a sports scholarship. It was really a great honor to have so many important people take the time out of their day and leave their air-conditioned offices to thank a bunch of hot, sweaty Junior Highers for their hard work. It was pretty sweet. After that I challenged the teens to double their efforts and try and get as much done as they can today. Our teens took that challenge personally and did a tremendous job attacking the woods with their saws.

Part way through the day Bill Schnure, who is one of our parents and a Science teacher at Walnut Hills, took us to see his classroom and the courtyard in which he and his classes have designed several biological environments. He just got a shipment of several different types of fish in that day that he added to some of his displays. It was very cool to see Bill's classroom and the projects that he and his students have created out in the courtyard.

When we arrived back at the college we cleaned up, ate dinner, and went to the last session. The sessions in the evening consisted of a worship band and a speaker. We had a great experience processing all that we were learning through these sessions. The speaker was challenging and the worship band was energetic although all the songs they sang were songs that I was hearing for the first time. As we were chilling out on our last night, another torrential downpour occurred. This time, many of the Junior Highers did not just look from the inside-out. Instead they ran outside and enjoyed the shear power of the storm. As it took seconds for them to become completely soaked, someone decided to slide down one of the many steep hills on the campus. This lead to a lot of sliding that was fun to watch. In fact, all of the water that was coming down the hills had one spot that it all collected. Some of the teens started sliding down that hill into the massive puddle. They had a lot of fun getting wet and muddy. Unfortunately, the next morning I ran into a maintenance guy who was looking up at the hill as we were loading up. He was not happy about the hill commenting on the grass being destroyed and how troubling it is that kids would do this. I had a difficult time seeing things through his perspective though. I have spent Summers doing landscaping in my earlier years and I did not see any damage other that grass that was pushed down and given a day or two it would pop right back up. Plus when you consider all the good that was done all throughout the Cincinnati area with unleashing over 300 Junior Highers for the week to serve (for 4 weeks even), I think sliding on the grass is of little significance. But I knew I was talking to a grounds keeper and not a youth pastor so I quietly sympathized with him and moved on.

On Friday we heading over the river to Newport. We went to the aquarium for the morning. I built up the fact that in the past I have always missed the feeding of the piranhas and I was not going to miss it this time! We had the time down! At 11AM the piranha's would feast. As we made our way slowly through the aquarium, we made sure that we doubled-back to the tank with the piranhas at 10:45. The excitement was building up for a savage and bloody feeding. As each minute past, the excitement kept on building. Finally, the moment came as food was dropped into the water and then . . . the freakin' piranhas ate them like goldfish eat crumbs. It was such a letdown. I got ragged on for the rest of the time. I wanted to see a piranha feeding frenzy that would savagely rip fresh meat right off the bones of its victims. Instead we saw these passive, docile fish dine quietly and elegantly on dead fish. No excitement. No savagery. I wanted to turn the dumb piranhas into fish sticks.

After the fun at the Newport Aquarium we went and had lunch at Dewey's Pizza then headed home. It was an excellent trip especially for our Junior Highers. It was important to me to instill within them that missions must start first of all in our own community before they head off on mission adventures elsewhere.

I have also been told that I need a GPS! This has been a theme that has continued for a while now and I think that I am beginning to agree. I am never, ever, ever going to do another mission trip without a GPS. I am tired of trusting Google Maps or Mapquest or just going on instincts. These three have not served me well. Plus I have been teased about making a wrong turn with the team on just about every mission trip I have ever lead from my first year as a youth pastor. So as we look to next year, there will be a new tool added to my backpack.

I also want to say a very, very big thank you to my adult leaders who helped with all of the trips, and to all of you who helped with your prayers and financial support. We would not have been able to have such a great Summer of missions if it were not for adult assistance on all of these levels. It was truly a remarkable and amazing Summer! Thanks again!!!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Blog Post #4: Senior High Youthworks Chicago Mission Trip - Lisa Wachenfeld

Just returned from a this year’s mission trip to Chicago with the senior high youth. They are really a great group of kids – kind and accepting of each other, compassionate toward those less fortunate than themselves, and willing to share their faith and pray out loud for a group. And Scott Russ has had a lot to do with all that. He’s really fun, but he’s also very open with the kids and serious about the word of God and how it affects their daily lives. I had always thought our youth program was good, but didn’t have any real frame of reference or comparison. We worked side by side, day and night , with four other youth groups. It was really clear - our kids are in the right place with the right influences.

We stayed in the Humbolt Park area of Chicago – a mostly Hispanic neighborhood. We slept on the floor of a classroom in a small Christian school and packed a change of clothes each day so that we could stop at a public pool or park on the way back from our work site, to take a shower. It amazed us each day that the nine girls in our group could be showered and out before the two guys! Then back to the school where we had a bit of free time before dinner and usually ended up socializing at Tastee-Freeze or on the steps listening to Ben play guitar and singing along. A night activity – a speaker, trip to Millenium Park, a local worship service, trip to the beach – a group worship service and finally, time with our own Epiphany group to download the day. Each morning, we had breakfast, devotions and then off to the work sites by 9:00am.

We were divided into four mixed groups. So I was with Chelsea, Sarah and Zana plus six other youth and a leader from a church in Grove City. Most of the week we spent at Casa Centrale, a social services organization serving the Hispanic community. The first two days we were with the older people that were in adult daycare. Many of them did not speak English, so we were a little apprehensive going in. Fortunately, our three girls have all taken Spanish, so that really helped and eventually the language of love took over. We talked, played games with them, did crafts, gave them hand massages with lotion and played lots of bingo! Our Spanish numbers are now very good! We got attached quickly and it was sad to say goodbye.

The next two days we spent in the Head Start program with children ages 2-5. It was crazy but the kids were very interested in having us there and liked all the extra attention. And we were able to do some cleaning and organizing for the teachers. The last day we worked to fix up the gardens and landscape at a school for disabled children.

You mostly think of youth mission trips as physical work, but most of ours was relational, which is a nice change and opportunity for our kids. And it expands their ideas of what kinds of service they can do back home.

And the trip back and forth in the 15 passenger vans…? What happens in the van, stays in the van!

Lisa Wachenfeld

Blog Post #3: Senior High Youthworks Chicago Mission Trip - Tom King

Our mission consisted of work, play, work, work, and more play. We plastered and painted walls, pulled weeds in gardens and manicured some former empty lots into gardens. Besides the physical labors we experienced, we got to really experience this mission trip several different ways. It had several aspects that consisted of Relational, Educational, and Spiritual.

It terms of being a relational aspect on this mission trip, with the Puerto Rican/Latino neighborhood, we had the assistance of our Leader and Pastor Tomas Sanabria, who comes from Chicago, (born and raised) and is of Puerto Rican ancestry.
He is President and Pastor for Ekklesia Ministry of Helps– a neighborhood outreach program involving work projects.
Pastor Tomas shed light on the life of the neighborhood – the issues he sees with violence, drugs, gangs, and overall attacks on his ancestry for some being undocumented persons. He offered many opportunities for the team to go and reach out to those on the sidewalks, in the alley’s, and in the store fronts. We were introduced to Mikey – a young child next door who rode his bike and did foot races in the street against Marissa, Hannah, Claire and others. Mikey claimed no one could ever beat him – pretty good for a 7 year old. We met Emmanuel – a young teen who had gotten into some trouble with the police that Pastor was trying to help with his leadership. Emmanuel had to do some Community Service, so he worked side by side with our youth and he was a very sincere teen who will be successful with the example of Pastor Tomas in his life.

The youth met many other people that we shared faith time and play time with. Johnny and Estefan came to meet us and we played Alley Ball (which is played with any kind of ball in the Alley where the Garbage Trucks use to pickup garbage).
Natasha and her little sister came to help in the Garden and play Four Square.

The parents of EUMC and the EUMC Sr High Youth should be very proud of there children. They are an amazing bunch to watch them work unselfishly with Christ in them as they spoke, worked and played with these kids all week; simply amazing!

We also had the privilege to meet Flor (Spanish for Flower), at a UMC church that is a ‘Sanctuary’ for her. She is what we people in the USA most likely would tab as an ‘illegal immigrant’, but after hearing her talk, she is what I would like to call an undocumented person. It was an eye opening experience for all us as we sat in that ‘sanctuary’ of hers, listening to her words of why she is doing what she is doing, seeing her tears of joy and pain through her travels, and seeing God in her eyes as she spoke of the reasons why she is doing what she is doing. This experience and time with Flor will undoubtedly have a big influence on the opinions our youth will form on the present day situation with undocumented persons. To quote what the Pastor of this Sanctuary Church says on this situation (from Fox News): The church’s pastor, Rev. Walter Coleman, has defended his recurring choice to provide shelter for illegal immigrants running from the law: “I fear God more than Homeland Security.”

An article / opinion on Flor from the Chicago Tribune and Fox News are linked below. Please read and then discuss amongst your youth as it brings up some good conversation: Please remember we were on a mission trip to serve ‘unselfishly with open spirits and open heart’. Not too many times are we like this when we hear words.,2933,327147,00.html

Pastor Tomas led us each morning in devotion with a Bible verse and a personal reflection. He shared some of his own faith and that led to some personal sharing times from the Senior High youth regarding where they stood in their daily faith. We had some great tie-ins to the message from his personal experiences during his life in Chicago. He spoke of many friends and family members.

Take for instance Boco, who was gunned down in a gang related target. The gang members expressed piety due to Boco’s death by creating an Alter at the corner of the street where he was killed. This was a block away from Pastor Tomas’ home. They had made a little bench with candles around and other objects such as empty whiskey bottles and crafts made of yarn. Pastor called this Gangland Piety, and he came out of his home to pray and minister to the Gang members and there Alter they had built without a church.

Then there is Tommy Soto, one of nine children from his mother Margariutte. She was a woman who had tough times staying with the same partner or choosing her partners. Anyhow Tommy Soto grew up without a father and had many siblings with different fathers. He came to find an adult mentor at a Florist in town at the age of 11 where he worked. This mentor took Tommy in and did all kinds of good deeds for him. He did well up until they had a falling out when he was 17. Tommy then joined the Marines and off he went to Viet Nam. Then he had an incident where he punched an Officer of the Military and was given his Dishonorable Discharge. So, where does an 18 year old who was in the Viet Nam War with a Dishonorable Discharge go when they weren’t welcomed back home to the states? He turned to drugs and alcohol and a lost for God in his life. He succumbed to eternal life at a young age of 22, with Pastor Tomas being the last one to see him take his last breath. Tommy Soto was Pastor Tomas’ little brother. It is Pastor Tomas’ creed to fine those Tommy Soto’s in the world to help and minister too, and share together the love of Jesus Christ and his Father.

Lastly, this should not end without saying the YouthWorks organization did a great job with the evening activities they had planned.
God Bless,
Tom King
Sr High Youth Team Leader
Epiphany United Methodist Chuch

Blog Post #2: Senior High Youthworks Chicago Mission Trip - Meg King

Wow, what an incredible trip this was for all of us. The anticipation and excitement of what kind of service we would be providing to those in the south side community of Chicago was prevalent in everyone’s minds, or least I’m sure in mine, on the trip there. Great group of kids in my van. Sleepers on the way there; chatty and singing on the way back!

The trip proved to be an eye-opening experience for me in two ways: 1) Just how awesome it is to be given an opportunity to immerse your mind, heart and soul in doing the Lord’s work and helping others in such a hands-on way, and 2) To fully realize what a spiritual, respectful, intelligent and hard-working group of senior high youth we have at Epiphany. Their work ethic and compassion really shined through– even at moments of exhaustion or boredom. Proud to be their youth leader for the week! I learned as much from our own youth while in Chicago as I did at the different ministry sites.

Once in Chicago, our particular group was assigned to the ministry site that was actually right there onsite at the school we were staying/sleeping at. At first, this seemed like it might not be as “interesting” as those groups that got to go offsite but that thought quickly left our minds as we made our own adventure right there at the Salem Christian School – and once we realized our showers were right down the street!! The majority of our work there was more of the physical labor type – painting (we have quite the painters in our group – Julia and Lauren did a bang-up job on the stairwell of the school!); caulking, plastering/sanding (our interior decorators Kelsey, Marnie, and Lauren will certainly now know how to renovate their own homes one day!); moving heavy boxes of classroom supplies, constructing sturdy wooden tables for the classrooms (Wynn and Phil were such the hard-workers and covered in sweat most of the time!) One of the best parts of the week was the day we visited the Dream House, an organization who focuses on rebuilding and renovating abandoned houses. They had a house they needed help with right down the street from their offices –and this was our job for the day! We spent hours ripping walls down and tearing them apart with axes – you should have seen the look of excitement in Winn’s eyes when he found out we were going to be doing this. I think he ripped down the walls in an entire room or more! We all felt like we got quite a bit done at the house and then spent some time cleaning up and shoveling all the garbage into bags. The kids worked very, very hard this day. LOTS of sweat that day!
Another experience that our group had that definitely opened our eyes to the needs of some of the young ladies in the inner city was the day we went to the Young Mothers organization down the street from the school. We helped them collate and package some of the newsletters they were sending out. We also watched a video about the people that this organization serves: young mothers between the ages of 10-18 that have had children (most of whom are single mothers) and are struggling to make it in this world. Something like 84% of young girls in this part of the city had babies before the age of 18. A startling statistic that made us all realize what a dire need these folks had for an opportunity for an education, to make money and possibly start a career in order to provide for their families and provide a roof over their head. The Young Mothers organization provided just that – a shelter for a limited number of participants in the program, an educational opportunity, and career development training. They have helped many, many young women face this feat and beat it!

And a favorite day for many of us was the day we got to spend time with the children who attended the Salem Christian School. The teachers needed help tending to the children while they had a staff meeting so we played games with them, ate lunch with them, listened to their stories and saw God in the eyes of these children and their innocent and carefree ways. It was obvious that some of these children were so appreciative of all the attention and laughter and fun that they were able to have that day with our teens. A few of them especially fond of a couple of youth! They were sad to see us go, and we were sad to say goodbye as well. They touched our hearts in a special way that day!

The other very unique and special experience for me and my husband Tom was that we were able to go on this trip with two of our daughters –and this was such a special and meaningful thing to do this as a family. I hope the girls will never forget it and how it seemed to touch them so deeply to serve others in need and be in fellowship with each other and with so many other great youth and adults.

The Chicago trip was such a wonderful experience – and couldn’t have been with a better youth group! It’s so special to see that all of our teens are being exposed to this type of experience at a young age. I never had that opportunity as a child/teen. I can’t imagine the impact it will in some way be sure to have on their futures!

Meg King

Friday, August 07, 2009

The Death of the '80's

It is a sad day for many of us who went through our teenage years during the 1980's. A director that help to give a voice to our generation has passed away. I absolutely loved John Hughes movies and connected with many of them. It was especially awesome to see "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" on your freakin' Senior year! He gave us the dream of what the perfect skip day would look like.

Of all the movies he directed, I believe that it was "The Breakfast Club" that so many of us could relate to. It was much more than a Molly Ringwald film although I love Molly. "The Breakfast Club" looked at several personalities, both guys and girls, of which just about everyone could relate to at least one of them. His take on parents and teachers were something we could relate to as we struggled to find our own identity. We wrestled with previous generations who did not fully appreciate who we were becoming. While many Baby Boomer authors would waste time writing books about Generation-X which mostly turned out to be one big negative rant against the younger generation, John Hughes tapped into the things that help to give us a voice against the negative images we constantly received from print and news media. As many Baby Boomers tried to recreate the concept of family apart from their parents the grand experiment was not full-proof. Divorce, neglect, abuse, and abortion took its toll on my generation. As the teen culture developed, a lot of other issues came with it: teen angst, insecurity, self-identity, consumerism focusing on the teen culture instead of the older generations, materialism, teen sexuality, and finding a place in life to just fitting in.

Thank you John Hughes for understanding us and giving us so much to smile about. I will always cherish those films that came out in the 80's that helped us to understand a little bit about what was going on around us and letting us know we weren't all that crazy. In fact, there was a lot to celebrate with Generation X. We really didn't turn out all that bad.

Blog Post #1: Senior High Youthworks Chicago Mission Trip 2009- Scott

Well it is Tuesday and I am finally getting my thoughts together for my first report. We had a relatively uneventful trip up to Chicago. I ended up in the cargo van so I got the pleasure of listening to the music that I wanted to listen to. We managed to find our location easily. The only pain was once you cross into Illinois there is a toll ever 10 feet. Those of you who travel up here know what I am talking about. Our first night was orientation as we split up into teams and get our assignments. Our teams go like this:

Team 1: Lisa W., Sarah, Zana and Chelsea are with another youth group who are going to a place called Casa Central for the week. They will be ministering to Spanish speaking elderly people.

Team 2: Meg K., Wynn, Phil, Julia, Lauren, Kelsie, A.J., and Marnie. They are with another youth group who are staying at the location we are housed at and helping the main guy who is kind of like the care taker for a large section of this neighborhood. They are doing a bunch of manual labor type jobs.

Team 3: Tom K., Paul, Matt, Hannah, Marisa, Erin and Claire. They are with another youth group helping with a church called Ekklesia. They are assisting Pastor Tomas with a variety of things he has going on in his neighborhood.

Team 4: Scott, Ben, Eric, Lindsay S., Ally, Maddie, Sidney, Ellen, Abby and Kate. We are not with another youth group. We are on our own. We go down to a local Boy’s and Girl’s Club and assist Nick Sanchez with many of the programs that he has running for a bunch of inner-city kids.

I will have specific teens write a blog post about their teams experiences once we return. So with that in mind I will tell you about the fun stories of our teens that pop up when we are together!

Day 1: This is always an awkward day for everyone. Everyone is checking out their ministry site and sizing up what the week is going to be like. If it involves interaction with people it can be a little bit more awkward depending on what kind of situation you are walking in to. Plus a lot of our guys including me felt so tired the first day. I had no energy. I just tanked.

Our morning started out with breakfast and devotions. Then we all headed out to our ministry sites for the day. We typically finish up whatever we are doing around 3 and go take our showers and the designated public shower facility that we have been assigned to - yes, icky; but at least we feel clean and it is only for a few days.

After dinner we have a special activity, then club time involving everybody together. We usually have time for worship and a lesson from one of the Youthwork leaders. Then after that we meet in our own individual youth groups.

On Monday night we took the Loop train (L-train) into the city and wandered around Millennial Park. We ran into the famous Chicago Bean. It is this giant metallic bean shaped piece of art. You can see your reflection many different crazy ways. We took a bunch of cool team pictures. Then there was a band trying to shoot a music video right there and they asked us to be in it. All the teens gathered around the band and acted like it was a party! It was funny to watch. It will be interesting to see if this becomes the next big hit on MTV. Next thing I know they will be asking to do the next season of The Real World with our youth group because we seemed so cool in the music video.

After that we headed back to our mission site and had club time followed by youth group time. It was a good first night to get into the grove of what we are supposed to be doing.
Also, every day seems to bring us a new story about Wynn. It was announced at dinner time that those who had the letters A-K could get in line first for food. Wynn immediately jumped up all excited and ran to be the first in line. Thinking that he did not understand the instructions or was using some other type of alphabet, I called him out on it. He then explained to me that his first name is actually Albert. So regardless of whether the first half of the alphabet or the last half determined who goes first, Wynn had all his bases covered so that no matter what, he would make it to the front of the line either with Albert or with Wynn. I was very proud of him.

Day 2-5:

As you can tell I did not have the time to blog like I wanted to during this trip. Youthworks keeps a pretty tight schedule throughout the week and it lends to very little down time. But now I am sitting in my room getting ready for the first evening of the Junior High mission trip and I thought that it would be a good idea to reflect on the Senior High trip before I get to far into this trip and they begin to blend into each other.

Every day started out pretty much the same with breakfast, we make our lunches and then we head off to devotions. The morning mealtimes are great. The sack lunches bring back fond memories of elementary school with PB&J’s and Salami sandwiches.

Devotions in the morning were interesting. The teens felt that the themes were kind of repetitive with just a different theme word each day. It took discipline for some of them to have the 20-30 minute quiet time. I know for some of them prayer time turned into snooze time easily with the quietness and white noise.

Once we were done with devotions we headed off to our sites. My team had a fairly easy task this week. We were helping out a Boys and Girls Club with their day time activities. Just about every day involved swimming. I almost felt guilty at first and then some of our teens struggled with the challenge for the week. We discovered throughout the course of the week and through many different conversations that many of the government programs in Illinois were getting cut due to budget cuts. Many of the employees at the B&G Club went from full-time to part-time pay just to keep the programs afloat. So our presence and help were very much needed. It was just hard doing something that felt like we were baby sitting. We were told we really couldn’t speak about our faith so that we would not jeopardize their government funding.

As the days progressed though, we began to get to know some of the kids and really begin to start enjoying playing with them and serving them. At first for me it was hard to see some of the ways in which some of the kids treated each other - a much harsher level of heckling, bullying, and trash-talking than I am used to from our local teens. But as the days progressed, and we began to warm up to some of them, you could see the relationships starting to form between our teens and the neighborhood Chicago kids. Each day we did something different but it seemed that most of it involved swimming. On the first day we went to the local pool. On the second day we went out to the beach. On the third day we went to the theatre and saw Mall Cop and then went to the local pool. Many of us played a very intense game of Sharks and Minnows until our arms were about to fall off. On the fourth and final day we took them to a really nice local pool. At that pool we had a high dive platform where I finally got up the courage to do some flips off of it. A bunch of us did laps with several of the kids and their leaders. I ended up doing about 16 laps until my arms and legs were beginning to burn and I was physically about to die.

During the evenings we would start out with an evening activity usually right after dinner. On the first night we went to Millennial Park. You can read about that adventure above.

On the second night we had some special speakers. The were local people who decided to take action to change their neighborhoods for the better. The transformation of what they were able to accomplish by beginning with small changes that would eventually lead to massive cultural change in their communities was astounding.

On the third night we attended a local church that met at on of the area high school theatre auditoriums. I forget the name of the church but when I heard that the pastor was speaking about the tabernacle on a Wednesday night I had very low expectations. I began to wonder what exactly was going on when the entire auditorium packed out with hundreds of people. The pastor spoke on a small passage out of Chronicles about the basin that is to be in the tabernacle. He had an entire miniature tabernacle built on the stage. The images that the priest had to confront as he progressed towards the presence of God was interesting. He first had to deal with his sin by sacrificing blood on the alter. Then he had to confront his image in the water found in the basin and use the water for cleansing. There were so many amazing applications that he pulled out of that relating it to the death of Christ and the cleansing of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

On the fourth and final night we went to the beach. Lake Michigan was beautiful. Unfortunately it got very cloudy and even a bit chilly at points. As much as I am very fond of the Great Lakes, I just could not go back into the water. Many of the teens who worked hard and sweated great amounts of water actually took the plunge despite the weather.

After the activities we would have rallies with all of the other groups including the rest of our youth group who were at three other sites. We had decent worship time and teaching time. After that we would have our youth group time where we shared what each one of the teams accomplished that day and how they saw God through their efforts. These are always neat times where you can just sense the closeness and camaraderie of the youth group. The other teams shared stories of working hard within the community doing skilled labor, others assisted with the elderly, and others assisted with a local church pastor and his area of mission.

Funny Things:

The boys always insinuated that they were going to “get into trouble”. The joke behind it was that the Parker Brothers game Trouble was right in the middle of the room we were all sleeping in and they quite literally meant it when they said the were getting into trouble. They played it quite a bit and had fun with it.

Wynn and Matt decided to compete in a nacho cheese eating contest. I was excited because their only other competition was a girl from another church. I thought, hands down, Wynn would devour his cheese and shame the rest. Unfortunately when the clock started Wynn took one taste of the cheese and put his bowl down and looked straight ahead for the rest of the time. Everyone was going nuts at him but he would not respond and just stared ahead. Matt seized the moment and went head-to-head with the girl and squeaked out a victory. I was appalled by Wynn’s “tuned-out” demeanor. At the end of the game though he said that after one taste he was reminded just how much he despised melted cheese. I supposed I couldn’t blame him. I just want to see him as the next host of “Man vs. Food” if God grants me one wish involving the life and times of Wynn Rice. Wynn also had some amazingly great quotes throughout the week but let’s just say here that one involved Marisa putting out peanut butter and jelly for any of those who did not like jambalaya and the other involved Phil shaking Wynn awake if he moves around too much. In order to understand the humor behind that, you will need to find someone on the team to explain it. Both quotes were full-on belly rippin’ knee-slappin’ quotes that only Wynn could pull of in his uncanny sense of humor that shows up at unique moments.

As we rapped up the week we took our teens downtown for the day before we returned home on Friday. We had a lot of fun together. We showed up at the Water Tower Mall and went floor-to-floor window shopping mostly. Every store that had some kind of body spray, perfume or cologne Paul, Wynn and Ben seemed to dump half a gallon of it on themselves. They stank BAD after a while. Like “Pepe Le Pew” bad. We then ventured outside and made our way down to Ed Debevic’s. Half of our team ate lunch there and the other half went to Gino’s East. Each group enjoyed their culinary experiences.

Final Thoughts:

I believe that our trip accomplished what I always hope that our mission trips will do: deepen our faith, bring us closer together, learn how to become more like Christ, and just see the world through a different angle that the one we are used to. I am confident that many of our Seniors will do well in taking their faith to college and continuing to grow in their faith. And I believe that our new school year is going to be awesome. We had many students and leaders who were new to mission trips and strangers to youth group. I think this trip helped to connect them a little closer to the group so that they can feel even more apart of the family once we kick things off in the Fall. I really enjoyed getting to know Kate and see how she is coming out of the shadows of her big brother. It was awesome to see Zana finally connect in a deep way with our group. Matt fit right in with the guys as if he has always been one of us. Now he is! I don’t want to accept that Ally, Marisa, Chelsea, Julia, Claire and Trent are going off to college soon. They have been just as much a part of my life and spiritual growth as I hope I have been to them. I will miss not seeing them on a regular basis but thank God for Facebook and a darn good reason for me to go on a college road trip with some dads and act like were in college again!

Blog Post #12: Africa Team #2 - July 1, 09

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Blog Post #11: Africa Team 2 - June 30, 09

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Blog Post #10: Africa Team #2 - June 29, 09

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Blog Post #9: Africa Team #2 - June 28, 09

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Blog Post #8: Africa Team #2 - June 27,09

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Blog Post #7: Africa Team #2 - June 26,09

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Blog Post #6: Africa Team #2 - June 25, 09

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Blog Post #5: Africa Team #2 - June 24, 09

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Blog Post #4: Africa Team #2 - June 23, 09

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Blog Post #3: Africa Team #2 - June 22,09

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Blog Post #2: Africa Team 2 - June 21, 09

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Blog Post: Day 1 - Africa Team #2 June 20,09

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Post #4 from the Senior High Mission Trip to Hamlin, WV

While going through my blogs I just realized that I never posted anything about my team from last year! Our team spent a lot of time in a neighborhood that was really run down. We spent the majority of our time focused on painting the outside of a house where the family had so many issues going on that they just needed some help. While we worked we were able to build relationships with some of the people.

One little boy that lived in the house would come out just about every day and hang out with us. He took a particular liking to Jimmy. The girls also made a big deal about him so he was enjoying all of the attention. While we were working on his house one day someone from the water or electric company stopped by when the family was not home. He told us to tell them that they were there to shut off their electric/water unless they paid their bill immediately. We were shocked at hearing this.

Another person was this older West Virginian lady named Patty. She made a huge impression on me. From all appearances she looked like the kind of person whom you would not give the time of day. She lived in a trailer that was recently condemned until Youthworks fixed it up enough so that it wouldn't get destroyed. She had a very thick West Virginia accent so you really had to pay attention to catch everything. But through getting to know her the Lord convicted me in a lot of ways. He taught me that appearances in many instances mean absolutely nothing. Patty had a house that she stored stuff that she collected that could help other people. It was called the Jesus house. The outside of the house was painted a funky purple with all kinds of spiritual murals and Bible verses painted all over it. She saw this as her mission to give to others in need. The irony here was she was in every definition of the phrase on of those "persons in need". The fact is though, she had a deep faith and knew that her spiritual gifts were to give and be hospitable. Every day she would provide food for our lunches despite the fact that we had sack lunches with us! She wanted to make home cooked meals for us just about every day. On the last day, she cooked a huge chicken dinner for us and stuffed us like pigs. I tried to tell her midway through the week that this was unnecessary and that we are here to help and assist her and her neighborhood but she continued to want to give from the goodness of her heart. The issue that plagued me here was how in the world did she have the money to feed us anything. I found out later that she spends a part of her day collecting metal to turn it in for money so she has enough to give to others. I was humbled.

We also had quite an adventure going white water rafting on our last day before we headed back. At the tail end of our rafting trip I had one of my girls go into a asthma attack that for the most part began paralyzing her. At that moment I realized one of the weaknesses of cell phones. My phone was back up at the lodge and I had no way to get to it because I needed to jump in the ambulance with my teen. Unfortunately I decided at the beginning of the rafting trip not to wear a shirt. Another decision I could do nothing about once I jumped into the ambulance with just a wet bathing suit on. Once we got the the hospital my teenager got the attention she needed to feel better. But then I began to wrestle with how to get a hold of the rest of my team. Because of cell phones, I have never memorized any ones phone numbers because I just have to look up their name and press the green button. So I went through the process of using the antique called a phone book and tried to locate the rafting company where the rest of my team was so that I could tell them which hospital I was at and have them come get us. It was a little frustrating realizing how much we are tied to our technology.

Overall our teens did another amazing job working hard and relating and ministering to people in a rural setting. This was my first Summer where we focused on doing mission trips to rural areas. Rural poverty was much more different than urban poverty. I wrestled with why some of these people didn't just move far away from here and move to a spot that is a little bit more civilized and active. But for many of these people this is all they know and this has been where their family has always lived. This town did not have a local Walmart (40 minutes away) or even a movie theatre. When I ask one of the local teenager what they did for fun around here the activity at the top of the list was hunting.

Our teens also did an amazing job getting to know the other youth groups that were with us and really warming up to the Youthworks staff, especially this one dude named Alex. He was very outgoing and extremely relational with the teens.

Post #3 from the Senior High Mission Trip to Hamlin, WV 2008

Kids Club: We went to West Virginia with the Youth Works organization. The youth g group was split up into different work projects. Me, Emily, Jessica, Amanda, and Ben were put in the kids club group. Our job was to help run the day care/ fun time with the kids of Lincoln County. The day we found out, everyone but Jessica really would have rather not worked with kids. We tried to get out of it and switch but didn’t. During the first day everyone felt that their work would be better used elsewhere.

Then the kids showed up, and we realized that we were put in this group for a reason. Throughout the week we got to know the kids better and started to really grow close to them and realized that our services were truly being put to use in the best way. There were a few kids in particular that we got to know especially well:

DJ: To put it lightly DJ was the problem child. The first day he came charging out of the van started hanging from rafters and punched one of the workers in the stomach.

Clayton: He was the screamer of the group. If he had an emotion he would express it through screaming. Whether he was happy sad mad or just bored he screamed about it. And because he was so cute it helped him get his way.

Mackenzie: He was a guy despite his name. But he was the face of kids club. During skits and songs on the first day even though none of the kids like skits and songs he went up front and led three worship songs.

Logan: She was a girl despite her name and she was Mackenzie’s sister. She was the sweetest kid out of all of them. She never complained about anything and always did what we told her to.

Chris, Dustin, and Trevor: Chris was the oldest. He was eleven. The first day he came up to me and showed me that he was dipping chewing tobacco. The previous weekend he told me his dad taught him to spit tobacco. He also beat up on his little brothers. But he also had a sweet side and would help his brothers out.

Isabelle: She just started going to kids club two weeks before we got there. She was very volatile. She attached herself to one person and never left their side. She was very emotional due to her problems at home.

The first day started out with us waiting for about an hour for the kids to show up. Then the van pulled up with them. DJ charged out hung from the rafters and punched a youth worker within the first five minutes. Then he picked up a board that had nails coming out of it and hit another worker with it. Finally he settled down a bit and we thought we had him under control. Then out of nowhere he slapped his cousin in the face and Beth (A youth works leader) had to take him home. And this entire time Clayton was screaming!

Then I got to meet Logan. She was with Jessica and they were just talking. I went over and got to know her and instantly liked Logan. She then introduced me to her brother Mackenzie and I played on the play set with him. While I was doing that I noticed Chris spitting a lot but I didn’t know why. So I went over and started talking to him and he showed me a can of SKOAL in his pocket. I was shocked because he was only eleven, but doing something that would still be illegal for him to do for another seven years. This was when I started to see how little all of these kids had. None of them came from wealthy families and many of them were forced to grow up at a very early age.

No one was quite ready for that first day but in the following days we got into a rhythm and we didn’t have all that many more problems. Except throughout the week we learned more and more about all of the children and we got to realize that many of them had a terrible home life and that the only constant that they had in their entire life was kids club. We had snack/lunch every day and for many kids that was the first time that they had eaten all day. Some of them took home food so they had something to eat that night. It really helped us realize what a huge service we were providing for these children.

Although at the beginning of the week I dreaded being on the kids club team. By the end I was extremely happy that I got to work and help the kids that I interacted with. I truly felt that I was a huge blessing to these kids. But not only that but they were a huge blessing to me. I got to actually understand how lucky I was and I realized that you don’t need everything you want to be happy. Because some of these kids had barely anything but they were still happy as can be.

Post #2 from the Senior High Mission Trip to Hamlin, WV

Firefighters’ Story: We went to work in a trailer park. The trailer park was owned by a man named Vernon. He was amazing because he would let people who didn’t have home live there without having to pay. Whenever he would come by to see how we were doing, we could always count on hearing a story from his life when he was younger. Rusty was the man who was going to move into the trailer when it was finished. He also told us stories of his past, especially from when he was in the military. We also learned that he had three ruptured disks in his back, and it was very painful for him to do much. However, while we were outside painting the trailer (we couldn’t tell if the paint was very light green or gray), Rusty was inside working on the interior of the house. The inside needed much more done than the outside. The trailer had dealt with some flooding, and the floor needed to be redone. Most of the windows were broken and needed to be replaced and the walls were a mess as well. There was a large pile of junk behind the trailer that included an old bathtub. There was siding at the bottom of the trailer that had been taken off so the people could go under the trailer to work too. Aside from this, there were large spiders, mosquitoes, and red wasps. Despite all this the trip was absolutely amazing, and I would not trade one thing out of it. We had the chance to give someone a better home and meet really great people from other youth groups outside of Ohio. We were definitely beyond the limits of our comfort zones, but it was definitely for the best. written by Ally Ballentine

Post #1: Letters from the Senior High Mission Trip to Hamlin, WV 2008

The Hornets team was Mrs. Mosby, Wynn, Robert, Marisa, Chelsea, and Trent from Epiphany. We also had Mike, Breanne, Lindsey, Brian, and Tom from Freeland, Michigan. Our entire team clicked right away. Our first project was to finish painting a trailer, because the group before us had not quite finished it yet. This trailer belonged to a man who drives 2 hours to and from the hospital everyday to get his chemo treatment. A man whose yard and house are full of junk. A man who would take care of these things if he had time, but something always comes up to forestall him. In this case, a cancer that requires so much care. What we thought would take an hour or two ended up lasting all day. We found that there was much more to do, such as scrubbing off all the caked-on dirt and algae from the skirting around the base of the trailer. Even though we walked up to this house almost finished, we were shocked at how much of a difference our day of work made. This sense of completion inspired us and kept us going when we were given our next project: another trailer that would give a homeless person somewhere to live. The Firefighters team also worked on a trailer in this “homeless trailer park”. This was a group of several trailers that a man named Vernon looks after. With dogs running all over the place, and people sitting on porches with each other, it seemed like a great community for people without money for homes to be a part of. The trailer we worked on was very dirty and green from all the algae. Our first day on this project consisted of scrubbing off all the algae with rags and sponges. Once this was completed we worked on the trim, painting it white. The next day we nearly painted all of the house a very nice-looking sage color. We had all intentions of finishing the painting and putting on final touches on Thursday, however the weather didn’t cooperate. Thursday we had rain, so we played “Bear, Ninja, Cowboy” (a variation of Rock, Paper, Scissors) to see what team had to do which chore around the site. Since we lost both times, we were stuck cleaning the shower rooms. We thought it wouldn’t take more than an hour, but it turned into a whole day’s project. The boy’s showers were mopped and cleaned in half an hour. The girl’s showers took much longer. We couldn’t mop until we had “Shop-Vac”ed all the standing water out, only to notice that the floor’s paint was peeling left and right. So we got paint scrapers and scraped chips of cracking latex paint from the floor (a total of 2 garbage bags full). Once that was done, we broke out the Drain-o, Comet, and Tilex and went to town on every square inch of this shower house. When we were done, the room smelled and looked fresh and clean, probably the first time it had been all summer. (written by Trent Compton)