Sunday, July 3, 2016

Sunday, July 2, 2016

   We've safely returned, full of memories of new experiences and affection for our new friends;  however, this return to our "normal" lives presents its own set of challenges.  I pray that our mission trip will not become the "typical, church camp-like" experience, where we sing "Jacob's Ladder" and "Kum-bi-ya", rededicate our lives to God, return tired, but excited and uplifted by our closer walk with Christ, are unable to talk about anything else with our families and friends for a week, only to be followed by the next week, in which our major concerns are the jean sale at Old Navy, and whether or not we like what we're having for dinner. 
   Obviously, our current sense of euphoria can't last forever, because the mundane facts of life intrude, but I challenge all of us to take this mission experience and tuck it into a special place in our hearts.  Then, when some kid is being picked on at school, or a co-worker makes a racist statement, and we know we need to act or speak up, but our tummies feel like frogs are holding a convention in there, we can release that mission experience from our hearts and do the right thing, knowing that Jesus is standing right there with us and 16 fellow mission trippers are right behind Him, loving and supporting us.  We were never promised that being a Christian would be easy, check out the lives of God's prophets and disciples; indeed, being a Christian in our increasingly secular world, will probably be the most difficult undertaking we will ever face, but we know God is on our side, and this old world doesn't stand a chance against the Creator of the Universe.
   All of you will continue to be in our hearts, and your names will figure in our every prayer.  May God be with all of us as we go about our daily lives, guiding, protecting and, when necessary, giving us a boot in the seat of the pants to spur us on to continue to do His work in His world, and to quote Tiny Tim, "God bless us, every one."

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Final Friday

  At approximately 3:00 AM, which is when I usually do my best thinking, I realized I allowed the tenor of  the this log to become too serious.  (I never claimed to be quick).  Make no mistake, the work we are doing is nothing short of life changing, but the moments within the experience itself go from heart wrenching to those filled with nothing but pure fun.  For example, before viewing AJ’s moving, awesome video of our week’s experiences, complete with appropriate music, we discovered that Ashley possesses a giggle that could really use a major shot of WD 40, followed by inspiring testimony by home owner, Michelle.  And speaking of major (pun intended), we’ve spent our week on tour with Elvis, thank you very much!  One evening, Sharon devised a "choose your own utensil” dinner, in which each individual had to eat using only a serving utensil.  We all enjoyed watching Pete slurp his mac and cheese from open-ended tongs.  We’ve discovered that Katie and Dralynn suffer from a severe, but highly treatable, sock-matching disease, and that Mrs. T in a towel is a fast moving object.  Kyle has learned an “interesting” new sound effect, and we’ve all increased our vocabularies- “skeewonkered” ( a Tori-ism) and “sgooch.”  (I forget whose gem that was).  You may want to ask Carmen about his icy, poultry “bed buddy.”  The week was filled with so many “stories” it would be impossible to explain them all, but I know we will all be expounding upon them for weeks.

The joys we’ve experienced have been twofold, the joy of interacting with Hedy and Michelle, and the joy of interacting with one another.  We have so mutually benefited from sharing, with like-minded individuals, our love for and understanding of our Lord and Savior.  Every individual’s personal faith has been greatly enriched through the sharing of everyone else’s ideas and testimony.  I don’t think any one of us truly wants to leave Bayville, because it will mean, in many cases, that we will be leaving behind so many new friends and the fellowship of just being together.  We marvel that God brought us here to live and learn and share His message, and we will always be thankful that he did so.  We pray he will grant us a safe journey home and allow us to continue to do His work.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Thankful Thursday

We mission trippers are finding such deep satisfaction in working for and interacting with Hedy and Michelle, to a degree much greater than I think any of us anticipated.  They have a deep-seated need to share “their story” to willing ears.  They seek understanding and acceptance, and we have attempted to serve as open sounding boards.  In return, those of our number who have not experienced such tragedy and loss, are reminded over and over again of how blessed our own lives have been.  As for our measurable accomplishments today, we are wrapping up all of our projects at both homes and hope to have those projects completed by Friday, God willing.

We need to make note of our Bayville area church “home,” Morningstar Presbyterian.  These people of God have graciously granted us the full run of their building for the entire week, and tonight they treated all of us to a fantastic, gourmet meal.  In fact, despite all of our hard work, burning off the calories, between Morningstar and our home owners,  we are feeling a little heavier!  We are so thankful that God chose to place us in their path. Also, today was our half-day of work, followed by much needed relaxation.  Half of the mission trippers embarked on a boat tour of Cattus Island, where we saw egrets, osprey and their huge nests and learned something of the history of the area.  The others went for sand, sun and salt water at Island Beach.  Sea breezes and sunburn were the order for the afternoon.  The sounds of laughter and teasing are a constant with this group and are a testament to the love and comradery building among us.

This trip has deepened our knowledge of and our commitment to Our Lord and the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ. Our lives have truly been changed for now and forever.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Blessed Wednesday

Another meaningful and highly productive day at the homes of Hedy and Michelle.  Hedy’s deck is nearly completed, which means tomorrow’s projects will include fence installment, planter box construction, flood vent trimming and landscape work.  Hedy has been so appreciative of our efforts and so kind with her hospitality, we feel unworthy of her generosity and thoughtfulness.  Our jobs at Michelle’s continued today with dry wall mudding, more struggling with the tile work and the additional frustration of laminate flooring “puzzles.”  The mission trippers were treated to a pizza lunch by a grateful Michelle.

I think we are all a little amazed and truly gratified by the warmth and caring demonstrated by our home owners.  We heard their often heart breaking stories of loss and devastation, both physical and emotional, and we were so moved by their resiliency in the face of so much pain.  we all feel so very blessed that God has led us to and allowed us to serve these two, remarkable ladies.

Speaking of incredible, we have all been amazed by the attitudes and work ethics of our young adult mission trippers.  These “kids” are eager to work, actively search out ways in which they can help, and walk with our Lord so closely it blows the minds of we “old folks.”  For anyone who questions or bemoans the state of America’s youth, I direct you to encounter this great group of kids with whom we’ve been blessed in our mission.  Thank you, God!


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Joyful Tuesday!

Monday evening Peter led us all in an inspirational hymn sing, as he accompanied us on his guitar, and once again we explored scripture together under Carmen’s capable leadership.  The discussion topic, the Light of Christ and what that means to all of us seemed especially appropriate, considering that we are striving to follow that Light, and to become so filled with His illumination that the Source of the love we show to those we are serving can never be mistaken.
   I neglected to mention in Monday’s “report” that we were joined by a friendly group from Baltimore, who helped with the painting of door and window casings and baseboards at the home of Michelle.  The Baltimore folks joined our drywall crew today, as Greg taught AJ, Dralynn and Pete the finer points of mudding and sanding drywall.  Our young adults proved to be willing and hardworking students, as their dusty faces and clothing attested.  Ashley, Hannah, Katie and Jimmy spent the day in Michelle’s bathrooms attempting to salvage and repair the tile originally installed by her father, under the capable, and constantly teasing, direction of Carmen and Bob.  For Michelle, that tile represents a family legacy, and for that reason the tiling crew has been willing to struggle with a difficult and time consuming job.  The excitement at seeing her home’s transformation is palpable anytime we are in her presence.
   Hedy’s home was the focus of the rest of the mission trippers.  Our project was continuing the extension of her home’s lower deck.  “Measure twice and cut once” has been our mainstay.  Peter continues to serve as our “fearless leader,” ably assisted by Elvis and Allan.  They’ve managed the technical aspects of the project, while Tori, Sharon, Kyle and Cheryl have “mastered” the grunt work.  We’ve become experts at gravel removable, and Tori wields a mean screwdriver.  Hedy expresses her deep appreciation by spoiling us with special treats, which are our secret-shhhh!

   Tonight, at devotions, the joy in the hearts of everyone spilled over in laughter, teasing and the revealing of our true selves to one another.  It’s difficult to believe that only three days ago, many of us were total strangers.  God has gifted us, not only with the opportunity to share his love with the suffering of Bayville, but also, joyfully, with one another.  We are so very blessed.  Praise His Name!
 Carmen working on ceramic tile.

Greg, Pete, and two girls from the Maryland team finishing drywall

People from the Maryland team finishing drywall.

Greg finishing drywall.

Bob cutting ceramic tile.

Allan, Sharon, Julia (Maryland team), Kyle, and Elvis eating lunch with Hedy (the homeowner).

Kyle, Allan, Elvis,and Sharon prepping the ground for a walkway.

Kyle watching Sharon and Cheryl riding double.

Homeowner Hedy.

Tori and Cheryl laying decking.

Sharon getting "board."

Elvis in the weeds.

Team Picture (except for photographer AJ)

Monday, June 27, 2016

Challenging Beginnings

  With God's will, we arrived safely Sunday evening, though quite late, after witnessing an unfortunate traffic accident, to a warm welcome from our friends at Morningstar Presbyterian Church, and an enthusiastic, tail-wagging Memphis.  We participated in an information exchange with our hosts, were given a tour of the facility, viewed a video detailing the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, devoured take out pizza and shared in meaningful, evening devotions.  While the majority mission trippers retired to our cots, our Kitchen Queen Sharon, Kitchen Princess Hannah and Driver Greg, ventured out to purchase our groceries in the wee hours. Adjusting to our sleeping arrangements, including our close proximity, took a little effort, but we eventually settled down in comfort.
   Monday morning arrived in a glory of sunshine and eagerness on the part of the mission trippers to experience God's plan for our first work day.  Following breakfast, we headed out to the home of "Michelle", whose own home was destroyed by Sandy, and who also had a number of family members severely affected by the storm. Upon arriving at the house, we quickly divided up into "work units" and began finishing drywall, painting trim and installing bathroom wall tile.  We were blessed to have the opportunity to interact with Michelle, sharing thoughts and stories, while working.
   We learned of another victim of Sandy who could use our help, a widow named "Hedy".  Although her initial requests were small, members of our group, left to evaluate her situation, and determined they'd really like to make more substantial improvements to her property.  Those group members worked on grading the area under her deck and refigured some of the deck pilings.  Hedy pitched right in to help the group, even considering her 70 plus years.
   We all celebrate this mission to which our Lord has led us.  Serving His people is enriching their lives and ours, and we praise His name and offer our thanks for calling us to this joy-filled experience.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Almost Underway

June 24, 2016

   With the departure date rapidly approaching, and preparations being finalized, both our excitement, and more than a little trepidation, are building within us.  We mission trippers are deeply thankful for this opportunity to which God is leading us, but we wonder exactly what He has in store for all of us in the week ahead.  Many of our number are "seasoned veterans" of this type of mission, but some are completely new to the experience.  We vary greatly in age, profession, abilities and interests, but the one trait we all share is the knowledge that God has called each one of us to bear witness to His love, and we pray He will grant us the strength, discernment, open ears and patient hearts necessary to result in a safe and successful trip.  As you follow our mission, and we sincerely hope you will, we ask and give thanks for your continued prayers, not only for ourselves, but for those Bayville residents who are troubled and suffering.  Thank you for your support, and God bless you all.