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!


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.


(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!


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.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Atlanta - Day 1

We're here safe and sound in Atlanta. We've gotten to experience a bit of the city and it's traffic and we're happy to be at the Youthworks site.

Every night students will be writing stories of their day and letting you know a little bit about what has been going on in our lives, so enjoy!


Today when we left the church, I ended up being in a van with people that I hadn’t ever really talked to very much, there were only a few people I knew well. I started out the day not really talking to everyone and slowly we all began to tell stories and play games and I’m so excited that I was able to make new friends on the drive here alone because it helped the time fly by, but also got me excited for the new relationships that I will get to experience the rest of the week.

Once we arrived to the church, the first thing I heard when walking in the building was Jesse McCartney’s "Beautiful Soul", which in my opinion is a masterpiece. After hearing Youthworks' beautiful song choice I met some of the staff that is with us all week and right away they were extremely welcoming to me and generally happy to be here. The Youthworks staff really made me remember why I come on mission trips, and why I want to serve God and show others his love. Also at the end of the day the Youthworks staff brought me out a cake for my birthday and it was a great surprise. Thank you for all of your prayers for safe travels and please continue to pray for all of us as we got out and serve this week to show the city of Atlanta Gods love. - Kaili

Day one was a good one. We rode/slept in the car for six hours until we arrived at our lunch destination, Sonic Drive-in, one of the best establishments to ever be created. After that we shuffled spots in our vehicles. I was sitting with some, shall we say, interesting people. We played M.A.S.H. and Never Have I Ever, both are very fun games. The best part of the ride though, was when we stopped for gas. Troy was making everyone shuffle but we didn’t want to change seats so a large majority was pretending to be asleep. People would say “Troy is coming!” and we would all drop and pretend like Andy was coming and we were his toys.

We soon arrived at First Iconium Baptist Church. It looked like a very nice place, which it is, but we had to walk up three flights of stairs to reach were we were staying. Very fun, especially when you have to carry up all your stuff. Our room was crowded to say the least but I was able to move to one of the smaller rooms with less people. The staff immediately welcomed us with open arms. We had a great dinner and played a lot of card games after. We then had Large Group Gathering were we sang and shared things about our day. So far things have been amazing and I cant wait to serve Atlanta! - Luke

Today we had a very early start which was pretty rough. Therefore, we got on the road fast and were able to make it to the Atlanta Youthworks site around 5 o’clock. We did introductions with the very friendly staff (Nick, Bridget, Ashley, and Alize), while the adult leaders got a run-down of the upcoming events and what to expect throughout this week. We played a game where we took off our shoes while one person stood in the middle. The person in the middle said something about themselves (ex: “I have three dogs.”), and everyone in the circle that had three dogs would have to move to a different spot/ empty pair of shoes. This was a fun way to get to know some basic things about the community we will be with for the rest of the week. During said game, multiple people slipped while racing to an empty pair of shoes, so they wouldn’t be trapped in the middle. This was very amusing, yet once this happened multiple times we stopped. After this we learned the rules of the site (this basically consisted of wear long shorts, no tank tops, don’t get mugged by staying with groups of three, and get out of the building if there is a fire…duh). At evening gathering we sang many songs to the piano stylings of the very talented Youthworks site coordinator, Alize. Once worship was over we watched a couple videos and did devotionals. After evening gathering we proceeded to shove our mouths full of cake to celebrate Kaili’s birth day (side note: Mrs. Witzig, if you’re reading this, I think we celebrate you as well considering you did all the workJ). Finally we are heading off to bed so we can get a good start on the week’s work tomorrow morning!  - Delaney

Monday, July 10, 2017

Actively Waiting

I've heard and been a part of a few conversations this week about waiting. Pastor Kevin even mentioned it in his sermon Sunday. It's one of the hardest things to do. Mostly because we don't know how...

My first reaction to hearing that is, "Of course I can wait. You just sit, and wait." But is that really true? True, that is one way to wait, and that's probably the reason for many people's frustration. But there are other ways to wait too.

Every once in a while my mother comes to visit. One way I can wait is to sit. When's mom going to get here? But we usually wait a little differently. "Waiting" was cleaning, straightening, getting extra groceries, doing all the things to prepare for her arrival.

Maybe one of the reasons we get frustrated with God is because we don't know how to wait. What if instead of just sitting "waiting" on God we decided to actively wait, pray, read our Bibles, serve, love others, do all the things that help us understand God better and in turn allow us to recognize Him when He shows up?

Imagine how different our churches, our society would be if we knew how to really wait on God...?


Monday, June 26, 2017

Changing God To Make Me Happy

I read this other day:

Much of our difficulty as seeing Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify Him and to bring Him nearer to our own image. - A.W. Tozer's "The Pursuit of God"

This is honestly something that drives me crazy. If we really saw God as a real Person would we try to do this? Imagine marrying someone (which is an example often used of our relationship with God) and instead of learning who they are, instead constantly making them to be someone they are not in your head. How long would it be before the relationship breaks down? How quick would a therapist be able to pinpoint "you're not happy because you don't actually know your spouse, you only know who you want them to be and they aren't that"?

Yet when it comes to God I've heard many times who Jesus is "to me" or "my Jesus isn't like that". Well, He's not your Jesus. If He's a real person, He is who is no matter what you believe. So if you really want to be happy, learn who He is and work around that.

Changing who you think God is to fit your world will never work. Learn who Christ is and who you are to Him and move forward from there. That will bring true happiness.


Monday, June 19, 2017

"Do Unto Others..."

I heard a great story the other day. Someone I know was telling me about an experience they had when they were in a church youth group almost 40 years ago. The group had gone skating and this person ripped their pants. When the youth leader found out they took this person home to get a new pair of pants and got them back to the skating party, no one knew what happened and this person got to enjoy the party.

The real part of that story that hit me was their description after. This was something I remember from church. This is something that made me feel special. This is something I will never forget.

When Jesus walked the earth, this is how He did real ministry. Taking time to talk alone with a woman at a well. Playing with children when others see them as a bother. Sitting and simply having a meal with someone. Jesus took time to do these seemingly little things that made so much of a difference we remember them two thousand years later. And they are the things that still make a difference in our lives today when someone does them for us.

Maybe it's time to update the Golden Rule. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Maybe instead of it meaning "be nice" we need to take it up a notch. What would make you feel special? What would make you feel loved? What would make you actually see and feel Jesus in someone else?

Imagine what our world, our church, our families would look like if we lived out that Golden Rule...