Monday, August 07, 2017

Listening to the Lawnmower

I have an old lawnmower. I don't know how old, we bought it second hand. I've had to do a few Macgyver-ish repairs to it over the years. The push assist doesn't work anymore. It's covered in duct tape and zip ties. But it mows the lawn.

One interesting thing about it is the sound it makes when the grass bag is full. There's a window in the bag so I should be able to see the grass clippings, but it is so old and dirty I have tried to clean it and it lasts about four minutes. So I have another way to tell when the bag is full: the sound. When grass starts feeding back into the mower there is a distinct clunking sound, different from the other clunking sounds of being an old mower. I know when I hear that sound it's time to stop and empty the grass clippings.

As I was mowing the other day I started to think how this in many ways is like hearing God. If I could choose some other way to tell when the bag was full, I'd do it. In a heartbeat. But I can't. I had to learn to let go of how I wanted things to work and learn to listen to the actual signs in the midst of all the other noise.

Sound like God a little?

Too often we have ideas of how we want God to speak or communicate to us. The problem is, it's not up to us. He does it His way. And until we recognize that we will never hear Him. We will miss His voice in the midst of all the other noise.

So what does God sound like? And will you start listening for Him?

My sheep recognize my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. ~ John 10:27 (TLB)

T

Monday, July 31, 2017

Support Those Who Support Us

So after having a little time off from the mission trip, here's the one thing that really stuck out to me...

This happens every year, and every year I am surprised. But this year I had a precursor to this experience on our trip. I was a part of a conversation with a couple of youth pastors, one of whom did Youthworks this summer and was very upset with their staff. After hearing their complaints I asked a something more. These students could do anything for the summer but they decide to work at a grueling job for nominal pay so our students can encounter Christ. Did you say "thank-you" or offer them any support?

And as always, the answer is no.

A week before our trip I was talking to Alize, our site director. She was giving me the information on the trip and like always she asked at the end if there was something they could be praying for in regards to our group. And I asked if there were any requests for us to be praying for them.

I was the first person to ask that all summer. We are the second to last group of the year.

During the week we occasionally stop for a treat after a hard day of working, ice cream or Starbucks, something like that. And I purposely bought a few extra for our staff so they could have something too.

I was the first person to do that all summer.

The sad part is so many of us see roles in our society as expected. Don't bother cleaning up the mess you made, that's why we have janitors, it's their job. Why say thank you and help out the Youthworks staff, we paid for this trip and they are working for us.

Really these people are supporting us, whether paid or not. When was the last time you went out of your way to thank someone or support someone who you see as it's their job to support you?

T

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Atlanta - Day 6

We are on our way back home. Although I now think Nashville traffic is worse than Atlanta, we managed to have a little fun downtown.

But more importantly we were able to have a little bit of discussion about our trip. During the week we meet together in church groups, but being a group of 35 it's impossible to do that every night and have everyone be a part so we split up into smaller cells. Tonight is the first night we are all together again and can share stories. Our students talked for almost 2.5 hours about the trip, where they saw Jesus, and what they want to remember from this mission experience.

Thanks to Youthworks and all the great staff for a wonderful week, and here are a few stories from our students.

T


This week has been nothing short of amazing. Serving the community in so many different ways is always an amazing time. Personally, I enjoyed going to AG Rhodes, a rehab center, and talking to the residences there. There were 3 ladies I talked to for the majority of my time there, and their amount of wisdom is astounding. They told about how life is such a complex and fragile chain of events. One woman took off at a young age to go to school and make groundbreaking leaps for all women. She came out of college and got a job at a massive company, being 1 of 15 female employees there. One lady described her faith to us and even prayed over us as we left that day. And lastly, the third discussed all her hardship she had in her life, including anxiety and depression. Seeing her that day however, she could not have been a sweeter and kinder lady, and as we talked she made clear how much our presence there means to her. To hear what you are doing means that much to them is quite humbling. Walking into AG Rhodes day one, I did not know how comfortable I was talking to these people I never met. However, at the end of the week, I could not be happier to have spent time with the residences there. I enjoyed that sight so much and I would not hesitate to do something like that again. I will miss mission trips like these a lot. - Adam


No need to worry, all of your family and friends did a wonderful job serving this year, and I’m going to miss all of them as I go off to college. They made this trip a lot of fun even in tasks that otherwise would not have been. This year I had the opportunity to work at places that involved meal packing, so it was pretty much manual labor the entire week. While it may be harder to see Jesus in that than with relational work, the sheer quantity of meals we were able to pack obviously had a huge impact on the individuals who received them. We were thanked by all of them we had the opportunity to meet personally, which was very nice to be able to see. I am very content with my past six years of being able to help at Youthworks, and I have been encouraged to continue serving throughout the rest of my life. - Tyler


I’ll start by saying that the amount of influences and role models in the graduation senior class is pretty much astounding. These people have been accepting and friendly since day one. Having a solid base of friends, especially in jr. high and high school where things change so easily. I will tell you that this change will probably be the hardest. Their friendship makes church and worship exponentially easier. On that note I would like to share my thoughts on this mission trip:

My overall favorite part is getting the opportunity to serve kids at the Nicolas House Camp which is a day camp for kids at the Nicolas House homeless shelter and even kids who don’t live at the shelter. They were rowdy like all little kids but also completely respectful to the authorities. On the first day I was with them in the afternoon when the gym was closed and everyone was packed in a classroom playing bored games there was this one lone kid in the corner, his name was Trenton. I asked him what he would like to play and he said Lego Batman. We did not have any action figures and most of the games were used without many pieces left in them. We ended up using clear packing tape and generic game pawns to reenact the complete story of Lego Batman. His giddy face and bright attitude struck me as the perfect symbolism far the overall theme of the week which was THE GOOD LIFE. I felt like that little kids bright face was how god wanted me to feel with him and his message sent to us through Jesus. I realized God wanted us to be happy with each other no matter the circumstance, He wants us to trust Him, He wants us to serve. Back to what I was saying in the beginning of this story when I reflected upon the influence of our great senior class, the good life is much easier to obtain with a solid support base. Thank you Lord for this truly great blessing. - Jacob





Friday, July 21, 2017

Atlanta - Day 5

It's Thursday! That means two things for our mission trip. It means a lot of good-byes as we have our last day of serving. Good-bye to those we are helping, the kids we are working with, the sites we have worked on. It also means that we will have a time of prayer together as we reflect on our service this week. In this we wash the students' feet and pray for them, then allow them to pray for each other. It's incredibly moving and they love to pray with each other (it took us about 2 1/2 hours).

Thanks to all of you who have been praying for us, tomorrow we are up early, we clean and pack, then we head to our pit-stop for the night were we relax a little and all share stories and decompress from the weekend. So, hopefully we will have a blog tomorrow but we'll see what happens. Either way, here are some stories from today, enjoy!

T


Today I spent the morning working at an Atlanta Food Bank, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was nice to see all the things people had donated, and to see so many people working together to pack the food or other items to get them distributed. Packing boxes was actually calming, even though it was fast paced and in the midst of organized chaos. It was also satisfying to see all the boxes we had packed. At one point the table behind us was so full we couldn’t put anymore boxes on it and had to put them on the floor. At the end we were told we packed about 10,900 lbs. The sense of accomplishment and feeling like we made a difference was nice, and pretty much sums up how I feel about this whole trip. -Sabrina


Today we did a lot of things, we went to Atlanta Food Bank in the morning and I packaged food; then in the afternoon we went to Books for Africa for the second time and we sorted books so they can be shipped off to Africa. Afterwards we returned back to home base and did meal prep for dinner. Youthworks tradition dictates that you do a cook out for the community at some point during the week and for us that was today. Meal prep involved moving boxes and serving the community in a more literal sense. I was able to meet a lot of people while giving them a burger or hotdog.

After the cookout we returned back for Large Group Gathering (Nightly Church) where one of the Youthworks staff shared a very personal and touching story before we moved into Church Group Time which has its tradition on Thursday. On Thursday we learn about the foot washing at Passover and then kinda replicate it where the Youthworks staff wash our adult leaders’ feet and then they wash ours and pray for us. After that we are able to pray with other students and chillax. Praying with others is a very moving experience and every students cries at least a little during the process and it brings us all closer together. Thursday is my favorite day of Youthworks trips for that reason. – Carson



My mission trip until today was incredibly bland and uneventful. The worksites were easy and incredibly low interaction wise. Then today, my group was able to move on to work at Books for Africa because we finished the tasks which were required of us by the Salvation Army. Books for Africa was  where I was able to work in an actually challenging environment where the work made me feel as if I am making a difference as I could see the fruits of my labor. The joy this brought me was great and made all the doubt that I was making a difference flood away. Feeling this sense of accomplishment allowed for me to look back on my week and realize all my other accomplishments this week. -Rachel

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Atlanta - Day 4

It's the middle of the week and by complete fluke all the people writing the blog posts today were all at the same nursing home. But as you'll see, each had different experiences and saw Jesus in different ways. Enjoy!

T


Today I spent my day at the A.G. Rhodes old folks home. This was our second day there and within the first 15 minutes of arriving I got to meet Donna. She’s like one of those little kids you see that wave to everyone in sight. She’s just a social butterfly. So she was walking and said, “Hi, I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Donna. Wanna do a puzzle?” So we went down and did a puzzle and chatted and she’s just the sweetest lady!

I was sitting with Morgan in the hallway with the Alzheimer’s patients and a lady named Jackie got up out of her chair and started to go for a stroll and the nurses were asking her to sit down… well she looked them in eyes and then waved and continued to shuffle away. It made my morning :) – Lindsay


I spent our wonderful Wednesday at A.G. Rhodes assisted living home! This week has been one of my first experiences working one on one with the residents at a nursing home, and wow was I surprised. My idea of working in a nursing home is being bingo and having to talk really loud and constantly repeating yourself. While I definitely partook in all of those, it was so much more than that.

Today I spent my time talking to three incredible women. First, I talked to a woman named Bertha from the Alzheimer’s wing. This experience was like none other. Her condition was like something I had never dealt with before and took so much patience to hold a conversation with her. But in between the about 15 times I had to introduce myself, I really got to know her and understand what her life was like, from her years growing up to her time in A.G. Rhodes. After talking to her I went upstairs to talk to a woman named Maeomi. Maeomi has got to be the most amazing woman I have ever talked to. One of our staff members, Nick, and then Adam and I were able to sit down with this woman for a total of about two hours and we went from  crying from laughing so hard to being near tears from hearing about her incredible life and all of the advice she had for us. Never in my life had I met someone so devoted to God and she was truly inspiring to meet someone like her. At one point she prayed for us and it was so meaningful to me and I know that her faith will continue to have a large impact on my life. Finally, I talked to a woman named Cynthia who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and is at risk for developing Alzheimer’s. Despite the struggles she has faced during life, she was still able to tell the story of how she found God and knows that after her time in A.G. Rhodes, she will be at home with him. She told us about the risks she took during her life, such as the time when her husband of 23 years divorced her and so she started a whole new life and eventually remarried and bought her own house. Her life was full of risk that I could see had paid off and I truly learned so much from her. Before leaving she gave me two pieces of advice that I hope to never forget: keep it simple and stretch, stretch your mind and your body.

I learned so much about myself and others in this experience, more than I could have ever expected. I am so grateful for this opportunity, but now I get to have a whole new adventure tomorrow at a food bank and book donation charity!  1 day of work left! – Katie


Hello Indiana,

Along with the other two bloggers, I spent my day at the A.G. Rhodes retirement home along with the rest of my crew.  However, I had the unique privilege to be on beauty shop duty.  While it may sound a tad strange for a beauty shop to be located in a retirement home, it was simply a place where a permanent hairdresser would take the time to trim and shape each residents hair.  Luckily, they did not task me with actually trimming, and instead I transported residents from the differing floors down in their wheelchairs and would sit and wait for their appointment times.

Typically, I would not feel comfortable talking with strangers or striking up conversations.  However, today I felt called to step out of my comfort zone, which is something this mission trip has fortunately pushed me to.  I have been able to talk and converse with some of the most interesting people.  In fact, Ms. Carr and I had a great time talking about everything from iguanas to college, and I even got a few compliments on my “wonderful hair and teeth”.  While we had only just met, I feel like I had an impact on Ms. Carr’s day (however small it was) and she certainly had an impact on me, showing me that even uncomfortable situations can lead to a lot of fun and happiness.

Another resident, named Marge Davis was very eager to talk with me.  Unlike Ms. Carr, Ms. Davis and I interacted over both days that my crew visited A.G. Rhodes.  Talking with Ms. Davis was less of a conversation and more of a lecture, however that made it all the more enjoyable.  The excitement in her voice was tangible and I could really tell that she was genuinely enjoying our time together.  Her stories and memories were surprisingly detailed despite the fact that she was 86 years old, and my few comments would spark a flurry of memories and stories that she could recount.  Marge not only shared her life story with me but also, before we left, gifted me an exercise book, with images and instructions on how to stay healthy along with a dietary log.  The book will not only have a physical impact but it also amazed me at how generous and kind people can be, despite the fact that they are strangers.   We had only talked for two hours, yet she was so kind as to give me a gift.


Overall, this mission trip has been an incredible experience.  I am continually amazed at how sweet and gentle the residents of Atlanta are, and am extremely thankful for this opportunity.  See you all soon. - Jacob 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Atlanta - Day 3

A new day of work, many people going to new places and meeting new people. But since our students wrote so much about it, I'll defer to them.

T



(Brace yourselves)  Today, my crew went to Urban Recipe, which is a food co-op. Essentially, it is like a food pantry except it is very member driven. The people in the community are members of the co-op and are responsible for pitching in and helping out in any way they can. While we were there, it pretty much ran like our food pantry does. We unloaded the food, sorted some boxes, and then we milled around not knowing what to do. Then things got exciting. All of a sudden, the sorting process began. The best way I can describe this is in the concept of organized chaos. There was a system in place to be the most efficient. The only problem was that we did not know what that system was!!! The very first thing the coordinator said to the rest of the community members was to be patient with us and to be gentle with us because, and I quote, “They do not know what they are doing.” In the end we got all of the food boxed up and was ready to be delivered.

Then, the co-op meeting began. For the first part we were sorting cardboard, but then we caught the last part of the meeting. This is where I saw God work the most. There was a discussion about getting rid of the scripture reading at all of the meetings that was brought up by another member. The very last person to speak was a teenage girl who was probably around 13. When she stood up, everyone in the room listened and she just shared about how important the church was to her and how it truly allowed her to feel happy and how to live the good life. Hearing her speak so passionately really spoke to me because she had so much conviction about her faith and truly trusted in the word of God and how it would get her through everything.

Perhaps the most touching part for me was while I was helping these two women load their car. We were just talking about life and laughing and sharing stories and I had finished loading. They tried to give me a tip for helping them but I only receive payments in hugs so I ended with 2 hugs.(Which is much better). But just talking with them and seeing how grateful they were for our help and how they were so inviting and patient was so great to see.

Urban Recipe really showed what life should be about. Being in community. Helping each other. Laughing with one another. And sharing a real love for God. - Zane


 “Church is really my passion, it’s my favorite thing to do and I just LOVE it!” Today, I was working at a kid’s camp for a group called Nicholas House. They provide housing and rehabilitation for homeless families, and they are one of the only homeless shelters in Atlanta that keeps the entire family together rather than splitting the fathers in one home and the women and children in another. As I was in this kid’s club, I met a young boy named Brandon, whom the wonderful quote came directly from. This boy was bubbly as all get out and was bouncing around from person to person laughing and getting to know every single one of us. When I was finally able to get a word in, I asked him what he liked to do and what he wanted to be when he was older. He shared that he wanted to be a professional singer and that was his absolute FAVORITE thing to do “in the whole wide world.” I asked him to sing us a song and I was not prepared for what came next… the voice that came out of this 11 year old boy was the most amazing thing I have ever heard. His voice brought me to tears and I have never seen someone with so much passion for anything. The gospel songs that he sang were so powerful and he believed every single word he said. God spoke through that boy so powerfully today and the spirit that he had within him was so moving. I later found out that he has lived without his father his whole life and him and his mother live in a homeless shelter, but all the while he had the most positive attitude I’ve seen in such a small human. Humbling to say the least. I have been so blessed in this life with my family and the privileges that I have been given.

Speaking of blessings, WHAT A TIME I have had over these past 6 years with Youthworks and Fishers UMC Fire and Water.  I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if these trips were not a part of my life. Junior high and high school have brought struggles unlike any other but being a part of something like this is something so special that makes it all a little bit easier. I have been forever changed by the people I have met and the experiences I have been challenged with. I could never replace the experiences that I have been given, and for that I am forever thankful. As I’m writing my last blog of my last mission trip in high school, I am sitting with such a beloved group of a few seniors and my heart is overflowing and crying at the same time because it’s all drawing to an end. As we sit and reminisce about our favorite memories, I can only hope that these trips touch everyone and change them for the better, just like it has for me. (But don’t worry, I’ll be back as a Youthworks staff) J - Lauren D.



For the sake of confidentiality I will not be putting real names, they will be close but not exact. So today my crew and I went to this place called Urban Recipe, Urban Recipe is basically a food pantry. What makes that place special is the dignity it provides, instead of just giving people free food, it makes them pay a small fee so they feel like they are not receiving handouts.  When the instructor told us this, I felt happy; they made the people feel better about themselves and gave them food. First, we packed food, we put food in boxes for the people to take, then one of the Youthworks counselors, Bridget, and I packed lettuce in bags for dispensing as we did that we talked to Vivian the lady in the kitchen and to each other. After that I met a super nice woman named Grace. She packed cans into bags and dispensed them we had a really nice conversation about her life, mine, and our faith. I had a lot of fun talking to Grace and Vivian, but all around us was organized chaos. People were going all different directions, with different tasks and it was very hectic. The boxes were tightly packed together so we had to maneuver around them, which was not the best positioning but it was humbling to see everybody working so hard to help others.

When all the boxes were packed (they were three boxes that were all overflowing) we took out all of the used boxes into a truck. My crew and I made a conveyor belt and loaded a truck full of boxes for recycling and I was at the end of the line. I talked to a man, whom I didn’t know his name, and he told me that he was from Atlanta and went to college in Kentucky. I mentioned our seniors and he was talking about Purdue, he was also super kind and helpful. We went back inside and all of the people were having a committee meeting and one of the issues was reading scripture at their meetings. You can tell that ALL of the people in that room were super devout and I was inspired to become more like them. You could ask each and every person and they would praise God until they day they died and I really felt inspired to become more like them. Even a teenage girl stood up and proposed her idea for their issue and I was thinking that I wish I could do that, I wish I could become more like her and for the rest of the day that was my goal.

After the issue was resolved we helped people pack up their food and put into their cars. I met a wonderful woman named Nancy, we talked for a good fifteen minutes about everything. She told me never to get into the wrong crowd and how to always love your parents(which I already do, very much). She also told me the best thing I could’ve heard that day, “You can never fix all the problems in the world, but you can try and solve ‘em”. I could hardly understand her a lot of the time, but I picked up enough to have a decent conversation. Then she had to leave and I helped pull her fold up cart and I’m already a bad driver but when you put cracks and bumps in a narrow road it gets worse… I made it through though and I was so sad when I left, she tried to pay me but I denied and ended up with a hug(which was WAY better) instead. We said goodbye, but I’ll never forget her, I had a fun day today that was filled with laughter, kindness, and most of all faithfulness. – Lauren B.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Atlanta - Day 2

Today was the first day of really working hard. There have been a ton of pictures on social media, feel free to check out Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for pictures and stories throughout our time here.

Our students have been broken up into four crews and unlike years previous we will be doing many, many different acts of service. Every morning and afternoon are completely different projects in different areas and many we will not repeat (some groups will end up doing 6-7 acts of service this week). We were in urban gardens, food distribution centers, senior centers, sorting books for Africa, the list goes on for our day.

In the evening our students also participated in a poverty simulation, each student was given an identity and had to find a way to get food through social services, food banks, etc. Only two managed to get a complete day's food. It reiterated to our students just how much their service is appreciated and how much the Come To Me Food Pantry does for our community.

Here are some stories from today, please be praying for our students as they continue to serve this week. Thanks for your support!

T



So today I got to do the one thing I haven’t for all 6 past mission trips: visiting a nursing home. While I was a little afraid and uncomfortable at first, I got my feet wet when I met a woman named Dorothy who was very happy to be able to talk to someone.

The second lady I met was deaf so I had to shout for her to hear me. Our conversation was short, and when I asked what she used to do for a living, she replied that she didn’t want to talk about it and rolled herself slowly back into her room and that was the end of that.

The third woman I met I spent a majority of the day with. I wheeled her up and down the same hallway to keep her from remembering that she was tired and wanted to lie down because she wasn’t actually allowed into her room. She gave me nonstop compliments about how nice I was,  how nice my teeth were, and what had happened to my arm. Eventually she fell asleep in her chair and then I think she kind of forgot about us.

Finally the last person I met had Parkinson’s but loved to talk and talk about how curious she was about her father who had fought in WWII. I told her about my grandpa who also fought and was battling his own debilitative disease. She had many pictures of her father and postcards he had sent from Europe and she said quite a few times how she wished someone in her family would be as curious as she was about her family history. I would’ve loved to have continued to talk to her but we had to leave.

While I entered the facility uncomfortable and happy that this would be the only day at A.G. Rhodes, I left wishing that we could go back, so thank you Troy for putting me well out of my comfort zone. - Matt


Rule #1: Okra is Deceptive.
While working at the UrbanAtlanta Metro Farm, our team learned a multitude of lessons from Mr. K, the overseer of the farm, ranging from wise proverbs to seemingly absurd tips to harvesting okra.  What stood out most though (aside from his knowledge on every vegetable known to man) was his genuine enthusiasm for his work.  During our orientation, we learned that the farm rents plots of soil to local members in the community and distributes their produce to farmers markets in Atlanta where food deserts are just as abundant.  Even though the work tedious and tiring, Mr. K was more than willing to help us find new projects and let us try a little bit of everything the farm had to offer (which was a lot). 

By the end of the day, our team had the chance to plant sweet potatoes, harvest okra, and even weed the inside of a greenhouse.  Mr. K still gave us each task with the same smile on his face and was more than willing to work alongside us.  While he may not be the exact replica of Jesus, he did teach me how to take pride in your work and to be passionate about a goal bigger than yourself.  Hopefully, our work and the work others do on the garden continues to help families in Atlanta and that the newcomers also learn the proper way to find and cut okra. - Evan


Rule #2: No really, okra is extremely deceptive.
Today my crew had the opportunity to work at the Urban Atlanta Farm. The most intriguing aspect of the farm is that it is almost 100% self-sustained. It was an amazing feeling, looking at the solar panels that provide the energy for the green houses, which in turn transfer energy from the sun to the plants to grow food for harvesting, and finally seeing the leftover plant used for compost to support new growth on the farm. Standing on the farm, I could see a completely sustainable circle of growth. This really stuck out to me as applying to our theme this week, “The Good Life”. In our lives, God gives us everything we need to live a completely sustainable life, and is constantly providing us with the energy that we need to do his work on the earth.

Looking back at my 6 years as a part of Fire and Water, I can clearly see that God was constantly renewing my life through this ministry. I will forever be grateful for the countless hours I spent at the church, or on a mission trip, hunting for pinky-sized okra. It is hard to believe that this adventure is coming to a close, but I am eternally grateful for the experiences and opportunities that this ministry has provided for me. - Grace

P.S. Hi Mom.