Saturday, July 20, 2019

Niagara Falls - Day 5/6

My sincerest apologies that we didn't get a blog up last night. Thursday is always a crazy day with the community cookout, the end of our partnerships, and the footwashing ceremony where our students have their feet washed and pray with each other for a few hours. Things just went too late last night (and started way too early this morning). But we have a few stories from the week for tonight, enjoy!

Overall thought of the trip is that it was amazing. My favorite part was working at Trailblazing Seniors, a drop in center for retirees, and meeting Elder V (the woman who runs it). It was great because she told us what God has planned for our future. We’re in Canada and going home tomorrow. –Noah

Today we sat in the van for a few hours and crossed to Canada. We are currently staying at a church in Troy’s hometown. Our group toured a lighthouse and then went tourist shopping where I got a sweatshirt. Then we went to the beach. I almost drowned when I swam to the other pier then Luke had to help me. This trip was fun since I was given the opportunity to socialize with a lot of different people even though it was hard sometimes. I also loved touring the local church in Niagara Falls called Holy Trinity it was definitely a site to remember. –Kaycee

This trip was life-changing for me. Not because it was my first, but because of the people I met. Of course I met people while we were at the service cites, but the day we went to the falls really made me think. We had just gotten off the Maid of the Mist, and just decided to walk around. While we were walking around we ran into one of the Youthworks staff, Joseph. He was talking to one of his friends he’s made while working this summer, and apparently his friend wanted to tell his story. His friend’s name was Micah. Before he told us his story, he asked everyone what was their most difficult time in life. Some people did answer, but I had an inkling in my stomach to answer. Micah told us about when he was born with a rare condition that gave him cancer. At six months old he was doing chemo. Medical conditions continued throughout his life, doctors didn’t think he was going to live. But guess what he did! He said God had been there his whole life and told him to never give up. He went through a lot of deep struggles and decisions, and wondered if life was worth living. But God never gave up on him, and he never gave up on God.

After he told us his story, we began walking to where we would watch the firework show. Ginny was walking with Micah, while I was walking with the others. As we were walking I was wondering why he shared his story, because it’s not easy to. All last year I was working with kids just like Micah. They usually wouldn’t open up right on the bat. But the fact that Micah just told his story with no worries or hesitation, really just spoke to me. When I asked him why he told me his story he just wanted people to know that God changed his life for a reason, and God made our lives like this. He asked me to tell him why I asked this specific question. I told him that what he said and who he is just meant something to me. He was wondering if I was impacted by his story and what I learned. He impacted me to learn people’s stories and never give up even if you’re in a deep dark hole. He asked me if I ever wanted to end my life. I told him no because I haven’t had enough time on this earth to even think about it, even if I was just mad about life. He told me it was okay if I ever wanted to end my life, because he’s been there before. He understands what it’s like to not feel important or feel like nothing is ever going to be okay. When I told him that it was my first mission trip and that he was basically one of the first people I’ve talked to. Micah was surprised and really proud of me because of that. I don’t know if that was because it’s hard for people to even understand him, or that me talking to him was surprising. Then he asked Ginny how I inspire her. Now that’s a question I never ever thought I would hear about myself. Ginny said how I’ve been stepping out in faith to help and talk to others. As well as the sincerity in which how I carve out time for Jesus are inspiring. After that we made it to the site where we could see Niagara Falls and we took a few cool selfies.

After we parted ways there was just an inkling beat inside of me to dance, since I’m a dancer. Usually I never get that feeling, but just by the way he inspired me. There were a couple other times where Micah appeared, and him just being there made me happy. One of the last times I actually was with him I told him that. He wondered why I was happy just because he was there. I told him that he made me feel like I was important. I told him that after I met him all I wanted to dance. He told me to just dance, but for me it doesn’t work like that. He told me to dance even if people are or aren’t watching, because who cares. He told me that if some of my friends don’t like who I am then they’re not my friends. The last time I saw him he told me I wasn’t alone, because God’s always with me. I told him that I would dance for him because he impacted and inspired me. He said that I was the second person that was directly impacted by him. He even pulled over Joseph to tell him that, because they’ve become such good friends.

I’ll always remember Joseph. He impacted and inspired me in so many ways I don’t think I even know how many. The first day that we were there he sat at my table. Different people were talking about they can’t do different things because they’re not talented enough. He said that God gave us the gifts and talents we have for a reason. To be able to see and make a difference with your gifts. The first night he also told us how he didn’t fall into the right crowd in part of his life. He told us how one day he knew he needed to make a change. Joseph talked about how God helped him and never left his side no matter what. How God forgave him, and how things you’ve done shape who you are for a reason. To me it just seemed like God’s spirit was just shooting out of him all the time. Also how much he care about then people who serve and the people being served. The way he inspired me to learn about God, just by how he loves God. Also the fact that he wanted to know each and every one of us, and if he didn’t he wished he did. Joseph is a person who inspire others each and every day, and I’m glad I got to know him a little bit.

I’m thankful that God placed all these people and missions in my life, because without them I wouldn’t be who I am. Especially all of the youth group people and volunteers. I’ll forever be thankful for this mission trip and the opportunity to be able to share with others. This scripture really spoke out to me this week, because to me it’s all of life. “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people can’t see the whole scope of God’s work, from beginning to end,” Eccleslates 3:11. –Callie

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Niagara Falls - Day 4

Today was a different sort of day for everyone. We got to sleep in for an hour (something new Youthworks is trying, which was very well received) and we also had a ton of rain which caused a number of our planned service projects to be changed. And as always our students are doing fantastic, but don't take my word for it. Here's some stories.

I have been working at kids club all this week. It was very inspirational, and a lot of great moments. The kids were really engaged and I felt like they really connected with God. Circle time is really fun, the music BUMPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! –Mayanna

Today I worked at Lockpoint senior center. They had a big event planned where all of the seniors competed in mini sports games. My group was in charge of running the stations. After the “Olympics” they had, we ate lunch with them and presented their medals to them. My group also had dinner prep tonight, and our rap was the best song I’ve ever heard!! Tonight’s evening activity was the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center. I learned a lot more about the Underground Railroad than they have ever taught me in school. Today was a pretty good day. –Morgan

Today I worked at NGRM which was a men’s shelter. These past two days I did landscaping at two different places, so this was a nice change for me. At the shelter I started out by sorting bread with one of the seniors from our church. We got done fairly quickly then went back into the main room to hear about the volunteer coordinator’s storyline. She had a very inspirational story and told us how God had worked and is continuing to work in her life.

After we were done talking she gave us our final job which was sorting through about 2,200 different letters to find 6-7 that they didn’t need. We ended our morning by eating lunch with them and saying “goodbye”. Before we had to go back to the church we were staying at we had about an hour. To fill that hour we decided to go to a local ice cream shop that was recommend and got some really good ice cream. We then went back to the church to sort sandals for the locals in the community who were in need.

Lastly for our evening activity we went to a museum that was about the Underground Railroad. I personally learned so much and met one of the workers who had an ancestor that was involved in it when it happened. We’ve got one full day left tomorrow so I can look forward to lots of weeding. But overall all this weeding and landscaping was well worth it because I got to meet the beautiful community of Niagara Falls! –Matthew

Niagara Falls - Day 3

New places to serve, new experiences like Niagara Falls, it's been a great day. Here are some stories from our students, enjoy!

Today my group went to two different locations. This morning we went to the Lockport Home for senior citizens. It is a complex of buildings. The first one was built in the 1800’s and was home to Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury who was on the $1000 bill. The other buildings are connected and were built at various times. At the Lockport Home we talked to seniors and played a word game with them where we had to unscramble the letters in a phrase to spell a new word. My team won with the word “polycarbonates”. After that we talked with the residents and drank smoothies. One senior named Bob fought in World War 2 in the Battle of the Bulge. He told us about the worst 12 hours of his life and how he earned his Silver Star. This was really cool because this week’s theme is about storylines and Bob told us a lot about himself. We also did some chair exercises which was very interesting. Tomorrow we are at the Lockport Home all day and there we will be having the Annual Lockport Olympics which should be very entertaining.

We then ate lunch and left for our housing site which was where our second project was. On the way we got some shakes at a local restaurant and bakery. We arrived at St. Raphael’s and got to work sorting and cleaning sandals that had been thrown away after people used them at the Cave Winds Attraction at Niagara Falls State Park. These went to places locally and abroad.
Next was showers and after those we saw Micah who we met earlier in the week and gave us his story. Micah is a native to Niagara Falls and has Asperger’s and also had brain cancer. He introduced us to his barber who also gave us his story. We went to the Falls this evening and saw Micah there too. Today was a really good day and I thought it was really cool to learn other people’s stories since that is our theme this week. –Luke

Today the group I was in worked at two churches at the first one we worked with older people and played bingo and ate lunch with them at Trailblazing Seniors. The people there were very nice and very hard working and I got to talk to a lot of cool people. At the second church which was also the home of the person who instructed us we helped set up the stations for a kids club. We did things like setting up a slip and slide and a speaker system. We filled up water balloons and set out sidewalk chalk. Then we set up a coloring contest and made lunches for the kids. We got it done pretty quick and even met some kids that came bye while we were setting up so we had a little bit of fun while we were there Noah went on the slip and slide in his shorts so he was wet for most of the ride back to the church.

After dinner which was taco Tuesday. After word we went to Niagara Falls there were so many people and it was very beautiful there was a park and the Falls were very beautiful with mist that flew high into the sky. We then went on the Maid of the Mists where we had to wear ponchos because of how much mist came of the falls when you went bye them it was so beautiful and interesting and I really enjoyed it. After the ride we walked around looked at the gift shop and walked to Goat Island where the falls started we got to look of the falls and in the dark light were shined on them with red, white. And blue for the Canadian and American Flag. And at 10:00 they showed fireworks over the falls, they didn’t last very long but after they ended we stayed a little long and headed back though we ended up going the wrong way back but we just took a path through the town to get back and I had so much fun today and I am glad that I got to help people and met new people. –Elizabeth

When I first arrived in Niagara Falls I made an assumption that everyone would be well off and have lots of money. The first evening activity that we did was a poverty simulation which put into perspective of what poverty was really like there. Around 60% of people were on some form of government assistance. This was shocking to me because I have never been here and just assumed that everyone would have jobs and be rich because of the falls. I was mistaken when I went to see the falls, they were beautiful, but what I also noticed is that in Canada there is so much going on, but in America there is only one casino. This made me think about how could this be possible for a place to have such a beautiful landmark to still be in poverty, not to mention that more of the falls are on the American side, but on the other side you have so much to do. The poverty simulation person said that there once was a time where everyone was working and had a job working in factories around there, but that those factories closed and people lost their jobs because of it. Just driving around there a plethora of factories that are abandoned. It was sad to see this and I also got a more personal account of what life was like around the Niagara when I spoke to some of the kids in my kids club. Today I talked one on one with about 3 or 4 kids and just asked what it was like living next to the falls, and what they thought about it. They all told me that I needed to go to Canadian side because the New York side was boring. I personally enjoyed the New York side, but I can’t blame them for saying what they thought. The whole time in the background I saw a big Ferris wheel and hotels, zip lines, and it all just made me want to come and see what was going on.

Today we lead a discovery station and the kids got to share some of what they had discussed about the reading, some of the kids told personal stories of what they answered. The question was “What is a moment when you thought something bad was going to happen but something good had come out of it.” One person said that their sibling (who was sitting right next to her) had survived cancer and has been perfectly fine for 3 years this girl was around 8 or 9 so she has been struggling for a while. The next person shared that one time she made a mistake and thought her dad was going to be mean to her and her little sister, but she was surprised and happy when he was not mad at them, she said whenever she made a mistake he would always be mean to her. The final person spoke about forgiveness and being accepting, she said when she went to school she was bullied, and that people used to beat her up. She said that they are now best friends and that they worked everything out. The thing that I learned from this is that I should not have had a prejudice against the kids. I thought they hadn’t been through anything, and it made me think these kids are only 8 and have been through more hardships than I have. They did not let it get them down, and I think that is something I will want to take away from this mission trip, that I shouldn’t assume so much until I talk and get to know someone. –Ryan

Monday, July 15, 2019

Niagara Falls - Day 2

It's Monday, that means it's our first real day of work and getting to know people in our community. Thank you all for your prayers and support, here are some stories from today.

So today. I started with breakfast and morning devotionals. Honestly, no expectations. God spoke through my devotionals to me about being selfless. But the word selfless still has the word self. And I’m still honestly so confused about the whole self-less thing which should be explanatory. But that’s another thing I admit needs fixing in my life.

Orientation for the worksite begins and I realized what I was in for. I looked the previous night for which group I was in and Horseshoe was the answer. I then searched for where I would be working – with KIDS. Okay. Mixed feelings. I had previous presuppositions and mixed feelings about children but I was still excited for the week. Alright, back to the present.

After orientation, we rode in our groups to the worksite. Horseshoe group rode in a bus with Mist group. Both groups had a combination of FUMC kids and Becks kids (from North Carolina). So, I know I should be selfless at this point but the whole “self” conflict was still obscuring my time. I felt disconnected from the other church, even though my whole “mission” in my mind was to serve the children and only the children. Despite that, I continued and it was okay. We got to the worksite and had the stations and folders handed out to us. I was leading the Discovery Station with Ryan and Carson. We had to read to the kids and ask them comprehension questions which seemed like a lot for a group of little kids. We didn’t have that much time to plan because kids began to flood in the gym. The first wave of kids was extremely young. I was still obsessed with trying to be selfless that I can’t get over the “self” part and trying to fulfill the “experience” that you’re supposed to “feel” which I know isn’t correct. Anyways, I stood awkwardly in the corner until a brave girl who was running around the gym came up to me with a huge smile. With a staggered breath, she gasped, telling me her name and a bunch of useless things about her. Or so I thought…

As I got to know her (mainly her just telling me her entire story and me nodding and listening), she was actually diagnosed with Celliac’s disease when she was younger. But she assured me she was fine now because of her entirely new health regime she explained in detail to me. Anyways, I was still very eager to be her buddy of the week but she has a ‘TUDE and drains your energy like no other. I have this all in my mind but I kind of feel rushed at the moment because it’s close to bedtime but I promise you it all was amazing. Fast-forward to the Beck church… we became friends and had quite a few laughs about telling each other we thought the other had accents and the differences between Indiana and North Carolina.

Another thing that I want to mention is the Poverty Simulation we participated in tonight. That was majorly eye-opening. It was stressful being an 85-year-old arthritic homeless widower man. I had to pay so many utility bills, pre-paid burial services, food, and rent for my new dwelling that I bought. It really put into perspective what this “tourist” town of Niagara Falls and so many other small towns nationwide and worldwide there are. I participated in a Poverty Simulation in Atlanta two years ago but this experience was much different with personal interactions prior in the day and seeing the effect that I impacted the children. The simulation and statistics (with my math and numbers oriented brain) really push me to motivate me to be an even greater “buddy” to Freya throughout the week. When hearing and “experiencing” just one single hour of “poverty,” I legitimately feel so grateful for everything I have. The poverty that affects students and parents and everything is just so impactful and perspectival. So many more moments that are like none other I have ever experienced but anyway. I vlogged (videoed) a little bit of today and will continue throughout the week.

But I just want to end on a striking note that I heard in the Gathering session from a video at our YouthWorks site, explaining God’s Reckless Love and Unfailing Love that pursues us despite our sins: “Mistakes are bruises, not tattoos.” (Thanks for listening to my TedTalk and perfectionistic brain of mixed/mangled/jumbled/incomplete thoughts that I wish I had more time to write about but I feel rushed because I’m honestly having a genuine amazing time.) –Emma

Today was the first day on our mission trip to Niagara Falls. So far this has been a good trip and I have enjoyed the company of our youth group and the others with us. Today my group went to a Parish and we helped out with a man named Don. Don was a nice gentlemen who was volunteering helping us maintain the grounds of the Perish and the cemetery that the Perish had. At one point he showed us the food pantry that they had run which was smaller in size but similar to our churches pantry. You could see him talking about the pantry and see him visible getting emotional talking about helping people in need and giving them some dignity. That was one part that stuck out to me especially.

Other than that we were working in the landscaping around the property and talking with our group. And later on in the day we had a poverty simulation. The thing that struck me about the simulation is when the administrator mentioned that close to 95% of the school was living in poverty. The simulation was tough and it just went to show that we are very lucky to have what we have.
Overall I am glad to have had these experiences it has been mind-opening. –Jacob

Today was the first day on the Niagara Falls mission trip. Overall it was a good day, but there were some experiences that really stuck out to me. First was in the morning after breakfast, and if you don’t know, the building clean-up crew is an assigned crew to clean bathrooms and all around the building. Since there not a lot of people assigned today, Delaney, Noah, and I volunteered to help clean. Noah was sent away to help another group clean, and Delaney and I were tasked with cleaning the boy’s downstairs restroom. Now that in and of itself sounds terrible simply because all men are inherently gross, and it was not fun in all fairness.

After that trying time we went off to our worksite, and mine was Kids Club. Now I am not a terrible person around kids, but I’m also not the best and I’m glad I was faced with the challenge of getting out of my comfort zone to experience new things. Jonah, Mayanna, and I were in charge of teaching a lesson about our topic, of which was change and becoming a new person. We taught our lesson by drawing a series of several different transformations and having the kids sort them out. They completed their task in no time, and we got to teach them and ask them questions about how God changes them for the better and how they will continue to become new in Christ. This was very eye opening to me because I don’t remember being so educated and involved when I was younger and I loved this opportunity to help give them hope in a sense. This especially stuck out to me because some of those kid’s backstories were hard to listen to. One girl in particular mentioned a stepdad that got in trouble for hurting her mom, and she hasn’t seen him again. I sat with this girl at lunch and listened to how happy she was despite being in that situation and it made me realize that even so young God is teaching them resilience and how to change their own outlooks and circumstances. I genuinely connected with the message of changing in Christ and becoming new for believing in his word because of those children who kept on playing and laughing, despite many of them living in not-so-fortunate conditions.

I also had a lot of fun just hanging out and playing with the kids at Kids Club. There was one boy whose favorite word was a curse, and he kept on repeating it throughout the day, sadly making all of us laugh. And another young boy and girl who were so in love they picked each other every time they were up for Duck-Duck-Goose. I also had a fun time hanging out with my crewmates and getting to know the people from my church, and the other church from North Carolina better. Mayanna and I also learned how to play pool from Carson and now we are self-proclaimed pool masters.

At the end of the day I had a great day that far exceed any expectations I had based off of preconceived notions. I had loads of fun with the kids both from the club and from my group. I am very excited to go back tomorrow and spread what I know about life (not much), and God to those fun, bright children. –Lauren

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Niagara Falls - Day 1

Hey everyone, we made it here safely. Thanks for all the prayers and support. Today was mostly travelling with a little bit of information about our community (we covered everything from getting stuffed friends to the fact the city of Niagara Falls has over 60% of people on some sort of government assistance).

But as always, I'd rather let the students tell you their stories and where they saw Jesus today. Enjoy!

Today was the first day of the mission trip. We got to leave at 7AM! That was great, and then we all slept on the bus despite the late hour. Eventually I was the only one awake so I read my bible. I read Ecclesiastes and that was whack. Then we ate lunch and I ate Vietnamese food and it was good. Then we arrived eventually and met some great people and we were filled with the Lord and it was good. I thank the Lord for the amazing people we met and the opportunity to serve others. –Carson

Day 1 and I am already seeing God all around us. Of course that is possible anywhere you are in the world, but this site is overflowing with God’s love. Seeing the exhausted YouthWorks staff just shows how hard they work every week to keep this site and community running. I hope in the future I will be given the opportunity to work for YouthWorks at a mission site in college. They look so happy to be working as the hands and feet of God. Please pray for us this week, so that we may be able to spread God’s love like staff does and how God wants us to. –Delaney

What is up world? It is officially the end of day one and a few interesting things have happened. The first interesting  thing was the fact that I was able to sleep on the bus the entire way up here, which is something I never thought I’d be able to do, so yay God for allowing me to get the proper rest to prepare for this week and go out and serve him best I can. The second thing that happened today that I feel a strong need to share is the fact that we went to lunch at a mall, and like many malls it contained a Build-A-Bear. After passing by the store for a second time a few of us knew we needed to ask Troy if we could go build one. After I asked him, he just looked at us and said “let’s go” and proceeded to take four teenagers girls to Build-A-Bear, where we made great economic decisions because our bears were all on sale. After securing the bears it was back to the bus, where I continued my previous nap and then in what felt like a weirdly short amount of time we had arrived. The YouthWorks staff greeted us with smiles on their faces and the few I’ve been able to talk to have been so nice and welcoming. I look forward to continue growing my relationships with the staff here at Niagara, as well as go out tomorrow and begin building relationships in the community. Please pray, or continuing praying for everyone on this trip, and for everyone that we will hopefully make a difference for this trip. -Kaili


Monday, August 20, 2018

Fully Restored

I'm in the middle of trying to wipe and restore a phone. It's so much fun...

But, it reminds me of how we misunderstand forgiveness. In talking with people over the years it seems many see forgiveness from God as simply wiping the slate clean. The problem is, it's so much more.

Imagine I gave you a brand new phone. But not just any phone. It was personally set up by me. I put hundreds of dollars of the best apps possible on it. I went and put your pictures and videos on the phone. I downloaded (legally) all your favorite songs and movies onto the phone.

Then it gets a virus.

Your phone needs to be wiped. So you wipe the phone. It's back to factory settings.

Yes, the virus is gone, but that's not true forgiveness. The phone needs to be restored.

After the virus I restore your phone back to all it's former glory. It has all the apps, videos, pictures, songs, everything back on it that it once had. That's proper restoration.

When we are forgiven by Christ we are not set back to zero. We are not factory restored. We are put back to where God views us, as His child, His spirit living within us, all the perks that come with being His favorite. We are restored back to where we were before sin entered.

If we understood that better, we'd probably live differently, even after we've been forgiven. This is why we need to know Jesus and love God so much more every day. It helps us realize just what we have been restored to, and how we can grow even more in our relationship with Christ.

Christ isn't just offering forgiveness, He wants to restore you.

Now to do the same to this phone...


Monday, August 06, 2018


You know what drives me crazy (and in turn drives my family crazy)? When I ask a question and there's no response. Why don't you answer?

My wife and I have had discussions about this and now I'm starting to do this with my daughter. And usually they think I'm being annoying because I think they aren't listening to me. Usually, that's not it. I don't know if they heard me. So if I ask something and there's no answer or a blank look (or sometimes they don't even look my way) my gut response is to think they didn't hear me and ask again louder (and sometimes more annoyingly).

Do we think that of God too? When we ask and don't hear an answer do we think He can't hear us? Except we know He can, so is He choosing not to hear us?

Except God chooses to be silent. And sometimes that can make us (me) even more aggravated. But that doesn't mean He's wrong. Sometimes He needs us to wait or even ask again.

Maybe God's silent for a reason. If only we knew what it was at the time...


Monday, July 30, 2018

Back To Reality

Last week we had all sorts of wonderful mission trip stories. And it was a great trip and Jesus did lots of amazing things.

But it's back to reality.

There are ways to serve Jesus every day, even at home with your family. There are ways to give to Jesus, love Him, share Him, all the things we did on the mission trip we can do at home.

So will we?

What will you do to have a mission trip at home...?