Thursday, June 30, 2011

Spruce Pine, NC Mission Trip, Day 4 (Wednesday) written by Savannah Wingard

Today we woke up 7:30 and everyone was still sitting in their beds for a while because we are super tired! For breakfast Althea and Brenda made us biscuits, sausage and lots of fruit (and we also had some delicious zucchini bread). After breakfast we met up with Mr. Neil (the site leader) and we all lathered up with bug spray and sunscreen and headed to Mr. Stayton’s house to finish the wheel-chair ramp. The senior highs headed over to finish their work on the stairs at their house. We had to finish the ramp … We had to finish extending it and it was tough to cut it to make it fit. We had to dig out some of the ground to make it fit. We started to cut and make the rails and bolted them into place. It took us all day and we didn’t quite finish but we will go back tomorrow!

For lunch, Jillianne picked us up in the bus and the mid highs headed over to the senior high site to see their work and eat lunch together. We ate ham/turkey/PB&J sandwiches and laughed together! There was a beautiful creek on the property and some of us got in and soaked our feet. We then headed back to work some more at Mr. Stayton’s wheelchair ramp. The senior highs finished up their stair project after lunch. Before they left they told us that they got to walk in the creek and cool off for a while.

It was only about 80 degrees today here but we were very sweaty! Just before Jillianne picked us up at 4:00pm, Mr. Stayton brought out and showed us his bird, “Tookie-Bird.” We also got to play with his dog, Trixie. We sat in the shade and talked with Troy about our work for the day and where we saw God. Jillianne finally got there to pick us back up … after she accidentally ran over a squirrel (which we all thought was funny).

After we got back to the bunk house, we all got showers … the bunk house where we are staying has a boys bathroom with 2 toilets and 3 showers and a girls bathroom with 3 toilets and 2 showers so we have to take turns and it takes a while for everyone to shower. After we took showers it was time for dinner around 6:00pm . The gracious people at a local church brought us pizza, drinks, and salad and we sat outside our bunk house at some picnic tables.

After dinner we all decided to walk down to the park at the bottom of the hill. There were some 3rd-6th grade girls from a local youth group who were there and they offered us water bottles with Scripture on the side of them. We played on the playground and then walked around the walking trail by the Toe River. The boys decided that they wanted to go creek walking. They stayed dry for a while but then one of them tripped and fell in; and before we knew all of them were swimming around and being silly as they fought against the current. We encouraged them to get out the water but they decided to swim upstream. Finally, Jillianne made them get out and they smelled terrible. We decided to go back to the bunk house so they could shower … again!

After the boys had showers, we met to talk about our day and do some games and lessons. One of the games was called “Caterpillar Eating Banana.” In this game there were three teams competing in a relay race. One team member was wrapped in plastic wrap and had to crawl across the floor to eat a banana. The next game was called “Bologna Darts.” It was exactly what it sounds like – throwing bologna at a bull’s-eye. Mrs. Brenda decided that she should be the center of the bull’s-eye and the youth all got to throw the bologna at her! We laughed and laughed!

Then we had a more serious time where we talked about poverty and why it exists and what we can do about it in our nation and world. After a long discussion, at about 10:00pm, we decided that it was just about time for bed. Goodnight! Thanks for your continued prayers for tomorrow, our last work day! We’re doing a great job at staying safe on site and we’re working hard!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Spruce Pine, NC Mission Trip, Day 3 written by Jordan Sommer

Today was a very successful day. We went to the Moore’s house in the morning and finished staining the deck. It looks so much better and it was hard to leave because I wanted to do more and make the house look even nicer. Kara was weed-eating almost the whole time we were there and I pruned some bushes in the front yard. Several other youth worked on finishing the floor inside and other various little projects like adding molding to some cabinets and replacing the door lock.

We went back to the bunk house to eat lunch and then we were off to some other houses to start some more projects. The senior and mid-highs split up on two different projects for the afternoon. The senior highs went to an elderly couple’s house to rebuild some steep stairs and the mid-highs went to a man’s house that was on oxygen and needed his wheel-chair ramp rebuilt because it was falling apart. From what I heard, the mid-highs got far on their project, and the man had a talking parrot that could say Maddie’s name. The senior highs took a while to get going because the area we were trying to build in was very small, so not many people could work there. The couple had their three year old grandson over and he came out and played in the yard with a few of us as the other girls were working. Haley and I held his hand as we splashed in the creek in front of the house.

We’re going back tomorrow to finish the stairs and the mid highs are headed back to finish up their wheel-chair ramp! I can’t wait to complete another project and check another successful day off our list. When we finish tomorrow, we will move on to another house to do some different work! Stay tuned ….

Monday, June 27, 2011

Spruce Pine, NC Mission Trip - Day 2 written by Blake Rauch

Here is an update on our first day of work and our second day on the trip, Monday, June 27th! It is written by Blake Rauch:

I woke up at about 5:45a.m., ready to go. Everyone else was up (in my room - meaning the boys), and we headed out to go for the river just down the hill from our cabin. We walked for a good 30 minutes, got a little wet in the river, then began hiking all the way back up a steep hill (that part wasn’t fun) and had a great breakfast of pancakes and sausage. We chilled out for a while in the cabin, then headed out for our first job.

We went to the Moore’s house, and got started on the shed. Some people painted, some cleaned out the shed (I was in the second group). Afterwards, we started to put up insulation on the walls. We put it up, and then stapled it in. Then we had a nice little water break, and I got to work on my project for the rest of the work day: the porch.

I started off by sanding, and I sanded for a few hours until lunch. I ate, then continued trying to make it perfect, and then, after it was done, I sort of had to leave, because everyone else wanted to do the fun part of actually staining the porch, so I couldn’t finish with my project. I stood around, doing a few random things, then left and slept on the bus ride home. We came back, and rested at the cabin.

Then we left the cabin to go eat an amazing dinner ith Berry Baptist Church. They fixed us ham, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, Salisbury steak, creamed corn, biscuits, green beans, and banana pudding. I had some of everything. Then we got a little lesson from the youth leader of their church that was providing dinner, and drove back to the cabin in the rain. We came back, and had a great lesson and some games led by Jillianne, then went to watch the baseball game at the hotel lobby, where I am typing this now. I am pretty tired, and I am ready for bed. We’re getting up early to explore the area, so I need my sleep.

Spruce Pine, NC Mission Trip - Day 1 by Savannah Wingard

Here is an update on our time together Sunday ... written by Savannah Wingard:

We started our lovely Sunday sitting in the front of the church, at 11 o’clock service, all of us in youth. T-shirts on an excited to go on our trip to Spruce Pine, NC. After the service we packed up the bus and headed out to North Carolina, but first we stopped at Zaxby’s to grab some lunch. From here we were in for a 3 and a half hour ride. The bus ride was full of singing, talking, and dancing, everyone was ready to get there. Then we stopped at a gas station and got a snack. When we finally got there, after traveling up a very windy mountain road, we came to a cute little town. We finally arrived at the bunk house that we were going to be staying in. Everyone gathered their stuff and headed into the bunkhouse. Boys in one room, girls in the other, there was a kitchen and boys and girls both had their own bathrooms. In each room there were bunk beds, the best thing about these rooms was that there were more bunks than people, so that everyone could put their stuff in the bunk above or below you. Then once everyone got settled, we ate dinner tacos, that our wonderful cooks, Althea and Brenda, made for us. After we did a bunch of team building games and Jillianne did a lesson on the reason poverty exists!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

God, My Friend!?

I’ve always thought of my relatioship with God as defined as friend-like. In fact, there’s not a thing I wouldn’t tell God … including my being mad at God about something all the way to how much I love God. For me, my relationship with God is somewhat like that of a friend … God is always there for me (just as a true friend would be), God and I communicate regularly through prayer and the movement of the Holy Spirit (just as true friends do). But when need be, God puts me in my place (just as a true friend would).

So when the sermon I heard this week started out that our understanding of God isn’t simply “friend,” I felt challenged and my interest was peaked! The sermon was actually on God’s transcendence and immanence. Big words, I know! But simply put, I see the transcendent God as the God who is superior and authoritative and might be seen as “barking” orders from on high. Similarly, I see the immanent God as the God who is with us here and now and is seen as simply being our friend and no more. It's only because of Jesus (the bridge) that we are able to have this type of relationship. We haven't experienced anything that God hasn't also ... friendship, happiness, suffering, physical pain, etc.

The clergy giving the sermon stated that we can think of this as a spectrum with transcendence on one far end and immanence on the opposite end. He said that we Christians should have a view of God that is somewhere in the middle. I like and agree with this view of God but had never heard it put quite in these terms!
I walked away from the challenge being convicted that God does give instruction and have expectation for our lives but is also with us on our journey! This is true for all ages! Another way of understanding this view of God (explained the preacher): Can we tell God anything? Yes, but we have to remember to whom we are speaking …

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bumps in the Road!

I love this time of year! It's a very busy time but it is always a great memory making time full of reminiscing and fun! A typical May in youth ministry (at least in my experience) brings Youth Sunday, Graduate Sunday, end of the year youth group celebrations, lock-ins, and more!

This past Sunday at Zion was no exception! It was Graduate Sunday! Our high school and college graduates were honored in worship! Also, the graduates gathered for breakfast. As is tradition at Zion, each of the high school grads was presented with a quilt by their parents. All year long, the parents have been meeting with some wonderfully gifted church members who are great seamstresses! They've been making these handsome creations that the students will take with them as they begin the next chapter of their lives! It was quite nice to see the beautiful quilts that have been made! And as I stood back watching the presentations of the quilts, I couldn't help but notice how much each quilt "looked like" the youth to whom it was being presented! What do you think??

Also, during the breakfast, the students had the pleasure of hearing from church member, Britt Collins. She encouraged and I thought she gave some great advice to the graduates as they begin this new chapter in their lives. I was awestruck to hear Britt share some very personal stories about her young adult life. Britt has persevered some tremendously unfortunate circumstances including the death of her first husband and then her younger sister. So she was quite qualified to offer advice to our students when it comes to the importance of persevering in "life." She used a great example of a time in her childhood when she hit a bump/rock in the road and fell off her bike. She had been down this particular hill many times and knew how to navigate the bumps and turns on the way down. But on this day, she made one tiny mistake because of a rock in the road and ended up crashing into a neighbor's mailbox. She vowed never to ride her bike again. Britt compared this experience to the "bumps" and "bruises" that life sometimes has to offer. She encouraged the graduates to be aware of the bumps/rocks on life’s journey that will throw each of us off the bike from time to time.

Britt also shared that this past Thanksgiving, she was remembering her sister's favorite holiday as she and her family spent this time together at Fripp Island. Britt decided to explore the island one afternoon but the only mode of transportation available was via bike. Many, many years after the tumble off the bike in her neighborhood, Britt hopped on the bike and began exploring. Britt shared that the foundations our parents and our church have set for us are much like getting on a bike ... one never forgets how to ride the bike! It is a great lesson and metaphor for us all and, especially, for our graduates! Thank you, Britt, for your inspiring words!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sometimes Our Blessings Are Out on the Water

Youth Sunday 2011 was this past week-end at Zion. Our student leadership team has been working on the ideas and our theme all year. Our worship chairs on the student leadership team gave the final approval on the order of worship! And then the 6th-12th grade students were asked at youth group, via email and facebook, and at our lock-in Friday night to lead the various aspects of worship. It all came together quite nicely!

The topic on which we focused for the service was “Initiative” and we used the piece of Scripture where Peter steps out of the boat and is walking on the water to Jesus. Our students filmed a video where the Scripture was read and they then gave their thoughts on just what “Initiative” means and they shared examples of how they have taken initiative in their lives. You can view that video here:

Youth Sunday Scripture Video

The youth also decided to offer an interactive prayer time after the sermon. In this interactive and symbolic prayer, worshipers were given a piece of tile and a marker. They were asked to write one area of their life, family, or our church where they needed to take initiative. They then moved to an area where they were given a hammer and they smashed the tile into pieces. This symbolized their willingness to “step out of the boat” (i.e. their comfort zone) and that they are committed to taking initiative in that area. During the remaining time in the service, the broken pieces of tile were being glued to a cross. This is symbolic because the cross changes us! It gives us strength to step out of the boat and take initiative in the first place. This is just what justification by grace through faith is all about! So, our smashed up tiles were turned into something beautiful upon our commitment!

Perhaps the most compelling part of the service for me happened during Kara’s sermon. Kara was preaching about how the boat is like our comfort zone and often times we are like the 11 other disciples who didn’t step out onto the water as Peter did. During her sermon, Kara said something quite powerful which speaks to me and perhaps has some relevance on our current situation in the wake of the financial and spiritual decisions being made at Zion. Kara said that in order for us sometimes to receive the blessings that God has for us, we must sometimes step out of our boats because our blessings may be out in the water and not in the boat.

I agree! As scary as it is to face the storms that may rise up while we are on the water (not to mention the “water” itself), if we don’t step out in faith think of all of the things we might miss. Thankfully Jesus is right there on the water with us, reaching out His hand to help guide us through our doubts and fears. Either way, in the boat or out of it, we have to trust the God will take care of us and that God will provide for us!

This got me to thinking ... in the past two weeks, two different people have tried to explain something to me that has thrown me a little off kilter. These persons explained that they were convinced that God purposefully steps away from a church or out of our personal lives for periods of time. One of these persons gave the example of God stepping away in the Old Testament. The other one gave the example of thier own life and feeling that God has abandoned them.

I am not convinced that this is the case! I think that we are the ones who turn away from Jesus or take our eyes off of Him. Just look at this example of Peter! Think about what Kara was saying! It was Peter who looked away and began to sink. It wasn't Jesus who disappeared or anything ... he was there they whole time! In the Old Testament, it was the Israelites who turned away from God and focused on other things. Yes, God was silent but I believe, in a weird way, that was because God was trying to get their attention!! So many times in our lives, we want to place blame on other people. However, sometimes we have to look inward and take responsibility for oursevles. It's called free will! So, today, I remember that there is nothing that can seperate us from God's love ... not even a stormy sea.