I just got home today from a week long Youth Mission trip. It was a long, hard week, but it was good because God is good All The Time! It was a week full of mud, corn, dust, heat, KIDS, no sleep, challenges, learning, praising, worshiping, growing and blessings. All The Time, God is Good!!!
The Boy and I left from home last Sunday around 1:30. It was hard leaving the others behind especially since I had never left Little Dude home before. 9 youth ages 11-16 and 4 adults piled into two vehicles and headed for Quincy, Illinois. When we got to Quincy we met up with another group from Lincoln, Illinois which was made up of 5 more youth and one more adult. One of the United Methodist Churches in the area had offered to let us use there Church for the week. Bless them for their willingness to allow us to literally take over their church the week of their big Ice Cream Social.
We began our work on Monday morning on a family farm. The water had filled to about 6 inches below the ceiling. The dry wall and insulation was out. But it was amazing at the difference that our crew was able to make. As a group we did things like remove nails from the studs, gutting the basement, cleaning out buildings, cleaning up around the yard, removing nails from the sub-floor, cleaning off the bricks that had been knocked off of the house from the waves of the river pounding up against the house, did lots of sweeping, finished gutting the garage, took out the duct work from the home, walked the length of the fields picking up garbage and debris left behind by the water. This was most of the kids first work trip, and they all worked their tails off EVERY DAY!!! The first day we were there The Boy was eager to try out his new rubber boots in the icky basement. He and I worked down there together taking down paneling and getting it gutted....I found it ironic that I HATE my basement but had no problem working down there for three days. I suppose it's different when you are doing it FOR someone else whose needs are more than you can imagine. On Thursday we went to another farm just down the road and did various odd jobs. I spent the entire day raking corn husks that ended up in their yard.
We were so blessed in so many ways while we were there which made this trip possible for these kids. The church that opened their doors to us for sleeping, cooking and eating the week of their big Ice Cream Social, the same church provided us dinner one evening so that we didn't have to come back and cook, Chaddock which allowed us to use their showers at the end of the day and let the kids also use their swimming pool, another UMC offered to buy us dinner out one evening at Buffalo Wild Wings the week that they were doing VBS at their church and then invited our kids to join them for their VBS swim party afterwards, the Red Cross for bringing us our lunch to the work sight everyday, the son of the homeowners who took the time and patient to help the kids whenever they needed something, his wife for designing our t-shirts and the home owners for paying for them. The hospitality and generosity itself was overwhelming.
Then there were the kids. 10 out of 13 of the kids on this trip were from broken homes. Some were being raised by grandparents, some had parents in jail, one girl lost her dad a few years back in a car accident and was moving across country with her family to start over. One sweet, hard working girl was clearly having a down day and said she didn't sleep well because she didn't want to go home....not because she wanted to continue to work necessarily but because home was that bad. Two of the kids were in constant need of attention and nurturing and guidance. It was a very high needs group of kids which in itself drained you mentally and spiritually. But my prayer is God remains their rock and that they continue to trust in HIM for the strength they need to preserver. I also pray that they were each able to take something home with them in which they learned from this experience that will help them continue to grow.
After 5 days of hard work we ended the week at Six Flags in St. Louis. What a BLAST I, uh, WE all had!!!! Roller coasters and water rides seemed to be the favorite for everyone. At 7 we saw Newsboys in concert there in the park. They were AWESOME!!! All of the kids really seemed to enjoy it. When the concert was over we had time to ride a roller coaster in the dark!
On a personal note, this was an AWESOME time with The Boy. I really enjoyed working side-by-side with him in the yucky, yucky basement, I enjoyed being there to help encourage him, I enjoyed the one-on-one time that I was able to give just to him without the interruptions of little brothers, I enjoyed screaming our way (my way, he didn't scream) through roller coasters and singing and dancing next to him at the concert.
On a spiritual note, I thought that maybe youth ministry and missions was the place that God has been calling me to serve. This past week just proved those feelings to be true. I know I'm serving in my church just where I should be. I hope that I can be more involved in youth ministry and missions as God allows.