Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Post #1: Tennessee Mission Trip 2011

Well I know that there are most likely some of you who have been waiting to hear from us! We are on our second full day of our trip here at Mountain T.O.P. and all is going well. Very, very hot, but well.

To begin we had a fun adventure coming down. We made a stop off in Nashville for dinner. We headed right to the downtown district and headed for Broadway Street to go to my favorite restaurant in Nashville: Jack’s Bar-B-Que! Yuuuuuummmm. This would be my 3rd Epiphany mission trip that included this very restaurant!

After a tasty dinner and enjoying the sights and sounds of the strip, we booked it to our hotel. I did not originally set up a hotel stay. I thought that would be one of our “adventures”. But one of my mom’s caught wind of this and took it upon herself to make arrangements for us as soon as she got home from dropping off her teen at the church. I could not praise a mom more on this day. I was tired, it was dark, and we were way down in the South way past the Ohio River. I would not have been in the mood to begin looking for a hotel. I was tired and I just wanted to get to some place with a pool and a bed. So as we were looking for this hotel, it began to get a little scary as we seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. I was recalling the beginning of “Psycho” as the girl was also tired and just needed a place off of the main road to crash. I was nervously praying that we did not find Bate’s Motel. But then as we turned a corner a wonderful “Best Western” sign popped up. We have arrived!

We got everyone into the rooms. Strange enough, all the boys decided to pile into two rooms which left me alone in the third room. I did not complain. I am starting to realize that sometimes rejection can be a wonderful thing. So most of us all ran to the pool since it was closing in 30 minutes and we swam and hot tubbed as much as we could. Then everyone headed to their rooms and slept well.

The next day we got up, loaded up, gassed up and made our way to the Cumberland Pines site of the Mountain T.O.P. mission. The first day was interesting as the entire day was pretty much devoted to orientation. The teens got their team assignments and cabin assignments. There are about 180 participants this week. All the churches are split up into large groups of about 28. That is your large group for the week. Then that large group is broken down into 4 small groups. The teens are given the challenge to split up the large group into small groups trying to equally split them up according to the sexes, the churches represented, and experience in service project type mission trips. This means that each large group will have about 5-7 people from our church. But then when you break them down into their small groups you may only have 1 or 2 from Epiphany. Some of the teens were not happy with this but I challenged them to try it out and see this as a new and different experience from our previous trips. There is a lot of comfort in being in your small group of friends only. But the reality is that when they go off to college those friends will not go with them. And according to statistics, many teens fall away from their faith in college. SOOO if they can learn to adapt and take leadership in this context where they need to interact with a variety of teens from different backgrounds, churches and experiences and learn to work together as a team, then they will be better prepared when they go to college. They will know that they have the leadership skills to make and create spiritual opportunities with complete strangers instead of waiting for a spiritual group to come and find them.

Our first day started out with us heading out in many different directions. So it will be hard for me to tell you what we did “as a group”. Many of us Epiphany people eat breakfast together and spend the afternoon and evenings together. But the worksites are different for many of us. Henry is on my team. On the first day we helped to install some stairs for the back deck of a lady’s trailer. We also have two boys and two girls as well as a female adult leader from another church group. We had a good time trying to install these stairs. I have never done anything like this so I was not sure what we were supposed to do. But there were enough instructions that we slowly began to figure it out.

During the time that we were working, the lady came out in the front and seemed really upset. I asked her if anything was wrong. She told us her car was being repossessed. So I told her we would pray for her. We braked for our lunch and we did what we told her we would do. During our lunch she came out to talk to us with the news that her brother is taking it upon himself to just pay off the car in total for her. So she was very happy. It was awesome to see God use our prayers to help out the situation.

Once we were done for the day, we had some of our veterans to this mission trip introduce us to the ice cream shack that is very much frequented by Mountain TOP teens. Ice cream is soooooo good on a hot day working outside.

When we got back to the camp we had dinner, played group games, had a time of worship and free time before bed. So far, I think the food has been outstanding. Also the facilities have been great. The area we are staying at looks and feels like a Summer Camp ground. Of course it would be complete with a swimming pool but there is none. It is very beautiful here. A lot of pines just like the name of the camp says.

Also we are being introduced to many great goofy games. Monday nights worship experience was really cool as the theme focused on strength through the storms. They had the teens dip one of their hands in paint and make a hand print on a big sheet. Then they lifted of some tape that was on it, and lifted up the sheet with lights behind it. The sheet said “Strength” with a tapestry of hand prints in a variety of colors. It was a very cool way to artistically create a collective experience centered around the theme of the day.

This concludes our first two full days here!

Also, for your information, Verizon Wireless is not available where we are at. So you cannot get a hold of us through many of our cell phones. Maggie’s phone seems to be working as she has Sprint. So if you need to call us you can try to reach us at this number: 348-7135. Don’t forget the area code. Also, if you have left a voice mail on my phone I cannot access it right now. I can still pick up wireless internet so you can communicate to me through emails (scottruss86@gmail.com). I am checking that regularly. So please don’t leave voice mails or text messages because I cannot respond that way. If I need to get a hold of you in an emergency then I will use Maggie’s phone when I see her in the morning or afternoons). Thanks for your prayers! Now enjoy your time without your teen! They are all doing great! And you deserve a break.

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