Monday, July 28, 2014

Ignoring Signs

Just up the road from me (conveniently between our house and church) there is a bridge out. They will be working on it for the next few months. Really inconvenient to lots of people, but funny at the same time.

I love watching the people ignore the signs. There are two eight foot signs blocking the road that say "construction" and "local traffic only". And yet, people drive around the signs and continue on, only to turn around about 100 yards later. There is no way these drivers did not see the construction signs, it's impossible (they weaved through them to go on), so there's really only one logical explanation. They believe the sign does not apply to them.

There's construction ahead, but I don't believe that. They say the bridge is out, but really, I can make it. Maybe most traffic can't get through, but I can. Whatever the reasoning is, these drivers do not believe the signs apply to them and continue on only to discover, yes, the signs apply to them.

I wonder how many times we see signs from God, but feel they don't apply to me. Maybe it's ways to improve your soul or things to avoid, but they don't apply to me, I'll be fine. That's for everyone else. Maybe God is trying to tell you something, but that's a message for someone else, not for me. I wonder how many glaring eight foot orange and white signs God has placed in my way that I literally had to drive around to avoid and still thought "that doesn't apply to me".

What if on the drive of life (isn't life a highway), we started paying attention to the signs? Maybe even doing what they said? I bet there would be a lot less detours, u-turns and accidents...


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Toronto - Recap

We're home, it's been a few days, I've had a shower, a bed and a meal that was not described in the menu by a number. It's good to be home.

But this was a great trip. There's an easy way to tell. By how much I'm hated Monday.

Monday is the first day of mission sites. And for many people, this was an incredibly uncomfortable day. It was hard than expected. Many were not doing what they thought they wanted to. The people we hoped to form relationships did not open up right away, or opened up too much. Monday is the day I hear, "I don't like this. I don't want to be here."

You can't judge a trip by Monday. Thursday paints a clearer picture. The students that hated Monday, many sing a different tune. They are going to miss who they are working with. They don't want to go home. They want to keep serving. Some even admit it's still really hard, but they want to stay anyway. Students who thought they were enduring something grueling have come to realize they are actually doing something they were created to do, they simply needed to be pushed out of their comfort zone and have this experience thrust upon them.

Many students who were uncomfortable with the elderly, the handicapped, the poor, the destitute, by Thursday they call them friends and they want to continue serving them and having them in their lives. To fully understand this, I encourage you to be at FIRE & WATER Sunday August 10th at Fishers United Methodist Church (8:30, 9:45 & 11:00). You can hear the stories first-hand from students and adults who had their perceptions of people changed in only 4 days, 24 hours of serving.

I love seeing the 180 degree change in people from Monday to Thursday. It's amazing what God can work in someone's heart in less than a week...


Friday, July 18, 2014

Toronto - Day 5 (Thursday)

Today is the finale of our trip (mission work wise). It was the last day of our sites, our last evening activity, our last look at the Toronto skyline, our last time of worship together. Tomorrow is cleaning and packing. But for today, here are some stories from our students. Enjoy!

Today, being the last day was the most emotional day. We had to say goodbye to the people we had made great relationships with, and got our feet washed while being prayed over by a leader of our church. Before any of the tears were shed during the foot washing though, my crew, the Maple Leafs, paired up with a disabled adult and took a field trip to Legoland. My partner was Lamore, and he didn’t seem all that disabled other than being just a little bit spacey. We went on Merlin’s Apprentice, a flying Dumbo type ride similar to Disney World. After lunch in the mall, he had been to afraid to do some of the other attractions like a laser maze and a shooting from a cart game, but we finally did the laser maze. He was still so afraid that the Legoland worker actually had to step into the laser chamber with him and me in order for Lamore to go through it. We never actually got around to doing the shooting game, as the line was too long, and we didn’t have the time, but I know that he enjoyed himself just as much as I did. When we got back to St. Jude’s, it was time to say goodbye to everyone there. I said goodbye to a woman named Sonya, who had actually obtained her disability after losing her husband, and so she didn’t seem all that abnormal. In fact, she was really motherly to the other adults.

This whole St Jude’s experience was something brand new to me. I have never worked with adults on a mission trip, so I was really afraid of what it would bring, but every day got easier and easier and I felt more comfortable each day we went, so I really know that God had put me in the right place, and even though I was a little frustrated initially about Troy’s choice to put me with mentally disabled adults, I am now very thankful for it because it helped me grow a ton in my faith and how I can serve other people without even talking to them much.
 -Matt Nieland

For the first time this week I received the chance, or orders, depending on how you look at it, anyway I received the chance to work at a really nice homeless shelter where I made beds, all day. The food was REALLY GOOD though, so it was all good. Anyway, when we got back from our worksites we went to play at a park. Once back at the Salvation Army we are staying at we began the foot washing lesson. Tears were shed… but they were the happy kind. It was such a good experience to enjoy. I am so glad that I have had this opportunity, honestly this has been one of the most fun weeks I have ever had in my life. I’m sad to have to come home soon, but I know that there is still adventure coming!
-Rachel Simmonds

It’s weird to think that this is my last blog post. I’ve spent so much time going on trips and telling you about it in this blog, and now I’m saying goodbye. So please forgive me if I ramble a bit. Here we go!

I had an extremely interesting worksite this week. So interesting, in fact, that I can’t tell you what it was called (I signed a nondisclosure contract). However I can tell you that it was a factory that worked with mentally and physically disabled people, teaching them work skills necessary to work in other locations, and also offering jobs to many who choose to stay there. Now what we were doing was a little on the more monotonous side, but important nonetheless. Day 1: We put stickers on bags. For four hours. Day 2: We put candle holders in boxes. For 4 hours. Day 3: I put labels on water bottles and put candle holders in boxes on and off for four hours (such variety). And day 4: Counted out 10 aluminum tray lids, then counted out five aluminum tray lids after one of us made a mistake, then boxed candle holders. For about three more hours. Now this may sound a little like child labor, but the important part of what we did was interacting with the workers there. Throughout the week I met a number of interesting people including a man who fled from communist Poland in 1985 and moved to Greece for one year and then to Canada and has since lived in Toronto with his wife and two kids, a woman who’s niece plays the piano beautifully and has only been learning for two years, and another man who has an absolutely amazing knowledge of world history.

These are the people that we write off. These are the people that we often ignore, maybe say hi to, but never bother to listen to, because we don’t think they have much to say. Or at least that’s what I thought. I learned this week that everyone has a story. Everyone just wants to be able to share their experiences and what they’ve learned on their journey through life, and I should welcome that, no matter what the source. While at the site, it was difficult to see the importance of what I was doing, stacking candle holders and sticking them in a box, but looking back, I’m glad that I was assigned to the sight. I needed it. And God always gives us what we need, even if we don’t want it.

So I guess this is goodbye. It’s kind of weird to be sentimental over such a small thing, but I’ve told some pretty crazy stories in this blog, and it’s sad to see it all come to an end. Nevertheless, I’m sure God has amazing things in store tomorrow and for many mission trips to come. So I’ve got to pass it off. Pass of the telling of incredible mission trip stories to a new group, and I hope that they have just as many crazy stories to tell as I did.

So for the last time, Goodbye, and thank you for all of your support.
-Alec Balasko

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Toronto - Day 4 (Wednesday)

I would like to start by thanking those of you who have been praying and supporting us, we really appreciate it. Especially on days like today. Wednesdays are usually hard. In some ways they are amazing because we're getting in a rhythm, we know the people we're serving a little better (and the people we're serving with), but it's also day 4 of less sleep and more work and the realization that tomorrow is our last chance to do whatever it is we hoped to accomplish here. Tomorrow is the end of a relationship we worked so hard to build in a way. So, a little extra prayer Thursday would be appreciated.

That being said, God is doing amazing things in the lives of our students here. And I don't want to be the one to explain that. Here are some stories from students themselves about their day and what they are doing for God. Enjoy.

Today was our third day of going to the sites around Toronto. My group, after a much needed stop at Tim Horton’s, went to a factory-type industry place that teaches people with mental handicaps important job skills that will help them in a real workplace environment. Due to many signed forms detailing how much I will not talk about this place and the people that work there, I can’t go into too much detail. Regardless, I met some very interesting people, learned a lot about them, and I think I now have a better understanding of some of the issues that people with mental handicaps deal with on a daily basis.

After dinner, we had our evening activity in Chinatown. My wishes were almost fulfilled when we went to a souvenir shop that sells Rob Ford T-shirts. Much to my dismay, however, the shop didn’t have it in my size. Oh well, that’s what the internet is for, I guess.

Tomorrow is our last full day here at Toronto, and I look forward to spending my last day with some more of the people at the industries; they’ve opened up to us quite a bit, I hope they do so again tomorrow.
-Mattheus Mitchel

This morning started out with stopping for the awesomeness that is Tim Bits, which are basically donut holes. Then we went to our work site, which is a long-term care facility for senior citizens. There we took some of the residents outside to get some air and we blew some bubbles, and we played cards with residents. Our evening activity was to go to China Town, where we could buy things like Canada t-shirts and Bubble Tea, which has tapioca pudding bubbles in it. This was followed by club time, which was really fun because we did some singing, and church group time, where we talked about our day. I am very sad that tomorrow is our last day here. I have met and gotten to know some great people while here, and it has been a great experience.
-Megan Otte

Since the middle of freshmen year, this youth group has always been a place for me to escape the stresses of integrating into a high school with no pre-established friendships. There are many people that I could thank for helping me improve my esteem and confidence, but a simple blog post would not give them the recognition they deserve.

In terms of my experiences on this mission trip thus far, it is safe for me to say that we have spent all three days (and tomorrow) at a factory that provides low demanding jobs to the mentally handicapped. Most of these jobs include assembly line style tasks that are simple and give workers the basic skills and experience they need to succeed in the real world. We were required to fill out a confidentiality agreement that prevents me from mentioning any names, the name of the company, or the specific work that we have done. As each day progresses, I start to realize that the menial tasks we help these people do are not as important as the feeling of value and purpose that it gives to its mentally handicapped workers.

There are countless stories and feelings I would love to add to this post, but time limits me from putting them down. I am so thankful for these opportunities and can’t wait to go into our last day at the Toronto mission site.
-Jacob Stebbe

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Toronto - Day 3 (Tuesday)

Today is usually one of the most interesting days of the trip. In regards to worksites, it's no longer a new experience, it's not training and guessing names. Today we are able to jump in because we know what to expect and who we are working with. On the flip side, by the end of the day the mission trip is half done. The enthusiasm to jump in is quickly replaced with "my time is dwindling quickly." There are always lots of mixed emotions.

On top of that, tonight we did a walk through downtown Toronto with a tour guide from the Salvation Army who lived there as a homeless person. It's an interesting perspective and there is a lot of talk about gentrification (the idea of a community pouring a lot of money into an area to improve it while at the same time not solving the poverty, simply moving or hiding it). Lots of opinions, lots of discussion. But for now, I'll leave you with some stories from our students.

Thank you for your prayers and support, we covet them all!


Today was my second day working at Booth Industries. There, we get the opportunity to work with some really special people who suffer from mental illnesses. I got to work with a man from India named Kiswar. He told me everything about him. I could tell he liked to talk. After we were done at our work sites, we went on a street walk with a man named Anthony. I learned a lot of lessons from Anthony’s life experiences. He really exposed me to a new perspective on life.
-Scott Kokjohn

I had a really life-affirming day. I have to say, I left on the mission trip kind of expecting it to be like the others I’ve been on, you know, all one of them, and I’m glad to say I was very wrong. I went to Booth Industries today for the second time, which was similar to my first day. I got to work with two guys named Leonardo and Cedric. They chatted with Jacob Stebbe for a long time about sports, not my strong suit, but I jumped in when I could and I’m glad I could be part of a better connection with them today. The really great part of my day came when we went on a street walk with a former drug addict named Anthony. He had a really radical message for us, a product of how hard his life has been, but I really liked what he had to say. He told us about how the struggles he went through get ignored by society a lot of the time, which of course I totally agree with and I would love to do what I can to help expose the problem of homelessness and drug addiction to people, but the most important thing he helped show me is that when I do see something, I can’t just be angry or upset that it’s bad, I have to take action or spread the word to those who can do more. He was really inspiring and I really feel like a different, better person after listening to what he said. Also, he quoted Nelson Mandela, which automatically makes me super happy. I can’t wait to take what I’ve learned today and use it on the rest of the trip and the rest of my life.
-Jacob Bennington

Today was an awesome day. When I arrived I did not know what to expect. Troy told us to hug one of the youth works people so I hugged a helper named Rachel. She was very nice and hugged me right back. I am helping at a nursing home all this week. The elders really love to sing. We sang take me out to the ball game and firework by Katie Perry and many more songs. The elders love to be fashionable so I painted many of the ladies nails hot pink. I met many people here in Toronto. Some of the people we work with are from Boston and from right here in Toronto. One of the girls I’ve met was adapted from China like me and we even share the love of music. With there help we fed the elders and played Bingo with some of the residents. For the afternoon activity we went to the beach, the water was very cold so we had a contest of who could stay in the water the longest. I won of course. Today we went on a tour of the city with a former homeless drug addict. He told us his life story and we got to sort of walk through this life. The experience was life changing and made me think about how I could help in the world. I hope the rest of our time turns out to be a fun and life changing week.
-Emily Lavey

Monday, July 14, 2014

Toronto - Day 2 (Monday)

Our first real day, we all went to our sties and were introduced to our tasks for the week. But, let's hear from the people actually doing it.

Canada, eh?
Lol Canada. We’re in Canada. So that’s cool, eh? Anyway, today my crew went to a great place called St. Judes Academy of the Arts. Pretty cool, eh? It’s pretty cool, because one of the career choices I have for myself is to become a special education teacher. I really enjoyed interacting with the clients there, eh? They all have such loving and caring personalities. You could walk in and immediately be greeted with a hug. I’ve been asking God lately to help me to start to see what I want to do with the rest of my life (I know crazy, eh? I’m a sophomore…). I think God has put me in this position to get a little taste of what this career could look like. Hopefully the rest of the week will go well, eh? Crossing my fingers, eh?
Bye Friend,
-Grace Balasko, eh?
(According to Troy, the expert on Canada, “eh” means you’ve finished what you’re going to say)

Okay… so today my group went to a nursing home. I played scrabble with an elderly man and he kept falling asleep but would wake up when it was his turn. The first word he had said to me was BANANAS he had noticed that that was a word he could put on the scrabble board. Than after the game he went to bed because he was quite tired. So than 2 other people and I interview some of the residents to hear their life stories and to also see if they would answer in “yes” or “no”. One of the questions was “what do you not like?” and the lady I was interviewing said that she didn’t like nasty people. After we interviewed we went to lunch we ate for about an hour. Then we played bingo with an old machine. After that we went up to the 2nd floor and had a dance party with most of the elderly people that weren’t asleep or were able to be out of their rooms. So far I really enjoy Canada, I hope the rest of the week will be just as fun if not better.
-Braedy Laymon

Today, I had the privilege of going to Ina Grafton Gage Home where I found out that most people living in the home had dementia.  Even though this proved to be a challenge in communication, most seniors still attempted to have a conversation with us and opened up.  One person that intrigued me the most was an old lady named Helen.  At one point, she even told me about her husband coming home every day and cooking for their family after cooking as a chef for his job.  These little conversations are just so amazing because everyone can see God working in the middle and letting us be able to listen to everybody’s story.  Over the course of the day I met with several other people who have come from Barbados, Jamaica, and even England.  Their stories also included them finding their way from all over the world to the city of Toronto where I was able to hear from them today.
-Evan Hodes

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Toronto - Day 1 (Sunday)

We finally made it, we are here in the great white north. For those who are not familiar with the mission trip blogs, I will be doing very little of the writing. Each night three students will be sharing on what they have seen and experienced throughout the day and trip. But, since we've spent more time on the highway than here, the stories are a little varied today.

And for everyone's sake of mind, yes we blew a tire this morning. It was a back tire, of which each side of the bus has two back tires. If it wasn't for the noise people wouldn't have known we blew a tire at all. The technician noticed our valve stem was broken (meaning it was likely we were slowly leaking air until the tire couldn't sustain pressure), it's all fixed and we're here safe and sound.

Now for some other perspectives...

Today was quite the interesting day. First, two hours were wasted fixing the buss tire, fun times. Later on, when the border came, we were not interrogated and everything went pretty smooth. Space is crammed at the church we are at but we will make the best of things and I feel that we all will have a great time in Toronto and change the lives of many people including ourselves. Happy birthday Scott!
-Adam Woodward

Greetings from the frozen frontier of the North American continent, also known as Canada. I write this at the conclusion of a long day that began at roughly four in the morning and included, among other things, terrible renditions of the Frozen soundtrack, a border crossing, and the exploration of an alternative route on the Canadian highway system. It was also my first time leaving the country. The lack of American flags is somewhat startling, but interactions with actual Canadians have been limited so far so culture shock is not really a factor at this point. Tomorrow we will be placed into groups and assigned service locations, which will see the beginning of the main service portion of the mission trip. Concluding sentence.
-Griffin Hobson

Preparing to leave the church this morning, with coffee in hand, I was pumped for this trip, to say the least. The drive didn’t necessarily go as planned… forgotten pillow, blown tire, wrong turns, and sweaty, hot buses. Despite all the bumps in the road, we made it to Toronto safely. As this being my first time leaving the country, everything as similar as it might have been, suddenly seemed so foreign. We pulled into the church and the excitement took over. I write this, ready for the week ahead and ready to change the lives of people I meet. (Happy Birthday, Scott!)
-Lauren Detrich