Thursday, July 26
Well, Doug and I switched back to our original groups. We started the day out a few minutes early with me running down to get the van so that I could take the teens to the 7-11 right across the street so that they could buy some drinks for the day. The weather report was warning us that it was going to be a very, very hot day. So I wanted to get a head start and make sure the teens had drinks. Unfortunately, our fearless leader caught our attempt to get drinks and said we didn't have time. I grumbled inside my head but did not want to challenge him in front of the kids. So we pressed on! Ironically, we got to our mission site early and had to sit around until the kids started coming. Grumble, grumble.
We headed across town to a ministry call Brighter Day Ministries. It is a kind of day camp / summer school for lower income kids. Now if there was one thing I was beginning to feel as a result of these mission trips, it was that kids are much more challenging to me than working with teens. I am in my element when I am working with teens. I ended up in a room with our leader Brad. He and I tried to entertain a group of kids who were probably 5th-6th graders. They were a very lively bunch. Especially since any of the regular adults running the ministry seemed to disappear for a while as we played games with them. After some time, Brad needed to leave and some other adults at the church came to be with the kids. I took this as an opportunity to go to the other rooms to see how my teenagers were doing with the other age groups. I found one group watching a movie so I settled in and enjoyed about 2 minutes of the movie before I was asleep on the floor. When I finally woke up, I visited some other classrooms. Jennifer was talking with one little boy and invited me over. Once there, she told the kid to speak to me. He looked me square in the eyes and said, "You an oooooold man!". I casually smiled at him and said, "And you're a little punk!" I got a great facial expression out of him because he clearly did not expect that. But I told him I am just teasing him back and moved on!
Many of the kids had an awards banquet the night before. So technically their schooling was done. So there really was not much structure to their time. As a result things started getting a little bonkers. A small fight broke out between some of the older kids and I got to witness first hand how the teachers took care of it. It was real tough love, guilt trip kind of stuff. The kids at fault ended up apologizing to each other and the class so it seemed to end well just as we were getting ready to leave.
For lunch, we stopped at a little Jamaican restaurant. We had a lot of fun eating some spicy chicken.
Now after lunch, we had some time to kill until our next ministry site. So we headed over to the museums and as quick as we could, we took in some of the sights. First, we ran into the National Archives to see all the important documents. But since there was a line and I was with impatient teens, we saw then from across the room over the crowd in line and took off for a gander at some other things. Second, we stopped for about 45 minutes at the National Museum of Natural History. There was so much to see that it just did not do justice to rush through it all. But the few things I was able to stop and look at were amazing. Next we hiked it over to the Air and Space Museum. I got to see the actual Apollo 11. I could not believe how tiny it was. Talk about claustrophobia!
After that, we headed off to our ministry site for the evening. We went to the DC Central Kitchen. This was an amazing ministry. Many restaurants in the area donate leftover food to this mission site. They then take all their donations and make tons of meals out of it. They are a main source of food for many soup kitchens throughout the city. The organization of this place was amazing. For the majority of the time that we were there, we cleaned, pealing and cut collared greens. We had a lot of fun. One of the guys who worked there was wonderful with us. He told us his story of being a well paid cook but not feeling very content with his job. He wanted to do something else that he knew would help people. So he ended up taking on the job here at the DC Central Kitchen. He said as a result, he feels more fulfilled knowing that he is helping to feed the hungry and teach and train them in how to be cooks.
We ended up eating dinner at this site. As we were waiting to eat, our teens broke out into a wonder rendition of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. I wish I could have tapped it and put it on YouTube. It was priceless. Then we sang the Benediction as our prayer for our meal. The workers there were loving the attitude and spirit of our teens. We then headed back to our home base.
Friday, July 27
Of course being our last day of ministry, we had to wake up extremely early for our morning site! I had to be up at 5AM! I remember the alarm going off, feeling quite groggy. And then noticing the shape of something on the floor that did not seem right. As I cleared the sleep out of my eyes, I began to notice a very large cockroach staring back at me as if to greet me as the first one up! I tried to move fast with a deathblow, but I did not move quick enough. The roach darted quickly right to my luggage! Ooooooh great! What a way to start the day!
We headed off to an Episcopal Church that has a ministry called Charlie's Place. This was an early morning ministry in which they provide a warm meal and clothes to anyone that needs it. We were right by DuPont Circle which is a popular destination for the homeless. Our teens did a great, great, great job with this ministry also. They dove right in to help serve the meal, give out clothes, and also sitting down and talking with just about all the guests. At this point, I am not even needing to nudge the teens at all. They are attacking the opportunity to minister however they can. It was inspiring to watch.
From there, we had a few minutes between sites so we headed over to the Fredrick Douglass National Memorial Site. We saw a brief film on the life of Frederick Douglass. And we got to hang out at his house. He had a great view from his front porch overlooking all of DC. Austin demonstrated just how steep his front yard was by rolling down the lawn. This was a very funny thing to see as he was going much faster than he expected, with arms and legs flailing.
Our final site was at the Children of Mine Youth Center. We helped with some cleaning in the kitchen, a bunch of weeding in the gardens, and clearing out the tall grass and vines along the perimeter of the fence around the property. The teens did well despite the fact that we were all tired. The lady who runs this mission was very inspirational and passionate about all that happens at Children of Mine. She was enjoyable to just listen to her tell stories and to hear her vision for the future of this mission site.
For dinner we met up with our other team and all ate together at the Old City Cafe of Jerusalem. We ate some of the best Middle Eastern food shoved into a pita. Some of the teens did not like it but I ate it up! We also celebrated Kerri's birthday right after dinner.
For our debrief time, we all headed over to the Washington National Cathedral. It was closed so we did not get to see the inside of it. But the architecture of the outside of the building was breathtaking. As I gawked at the intricacies of the building, our teens started a lively game of Ninja in the yard. After a while of fun, we had a long time to debrief as we spent some time talking about what we were taking home as a result of this mission trip. All of the teens responded very positively. When we got back to our home base, some of us ran down to Rita's for our last shot at the most delicious frozen ice ever!
Saturday, July 28
Well we got up bright and early with every intention of getting back to Loveland at a reasonable time in the late afternoon. But before we hit the road, we had to make a few more stops in DC. All of the teens insisted rather emphatically that the very first stop had to be Starbucks. I tried to convince them that McDonald's coffee is just as good and so much less expensive. But they would not listen to my sage advice. To Starbucks we went.
Then we began the Monument March of Death! I took them on a quick tour of some of the big monuments that happened to be relatively close to each other. We saw the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the World War 2 Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. At the WW2 Memorial we were able to take a picture with a veteran and thank him for his service. All of these monuments were amazing and very touching. I was especially moved at the WW2 Memorial. There was a lot of emotion that you could feel in the air at just about all of these sites. And now that the teens are really good and tired, it was time to zoom home!
But part way into the trip, we realized it was going to take longer than we had hoped. We realized that one of the tires on the van was vibrating heavily. So we pulled off into a small town in the middle of nowhere. We found an auto parts store. The guy at the counter recommended a local mechanic that would see us even though all the garages were closed for the weekend. We showed up at his house and over the next couple of hours, he spent time fixing the tire while we ate lunch at the local Sheetz. It ended up being a good place to chill for a while.
Once the tire was fixed we headed off. It took a while, but we finally arrived back in Loveland close to midnight! Although the ride home did not end like I had hoped, overall this entire trip was amazing. Once again, our teens rocked and were not only an inspiration to anyone they came in contact with, but they continue to be an inspiration to me as well. Doug, Ally and Hannah all did a tremendous job helping out as leaders. It was a very memorable trip with teens who were just excited to do mission work together.
Thanks again for the opportunity to serve you and your families. It is an honor to create and share experiences that, for them, hopefully will shape their spiritual lives forever and help them develop into the men and women that God is calling them to be.