Monday, July 27, 2015

Philadelphia - God's Timing

So all week you've read stories about the mission trip from students. Today, mine is a different point of view. Some of you have heard this story, but it bears repeating.

Too often we see God's instruction as straightforward and somehow we're missing it (god wants you to go to Africa, but you're not listening). What I've learned is sometimes God has to send you left to go right, kind of like setting up a chessboard. You have to get everything in place before you can start your moves. Like when I moved here, when I was unemployed and asking God what to do the former youth pastor was still at Fishers UMC. God sending me here would not have made sense.

On this mission trip, I thought I knew what God wanted. We were supposed to go to Atlanta. It was a plan, it made sense, it felt right. So I booked us to go to Atlanta. And everything was perfect, until January. In the beginning of the month I received a call from Youthworks (the company that plans our mission trips) saying they needed to talk to me. Because of the craziness of the holidays it took me a week to get back to them. When I finally did, the conversation was my worry; Atlanta was closed.

They couldn't get enough people to go to that site so they closed it. So now, months after most trips are completely booked, I need to find a trip half open (they max at 65-75, we take 30) on the week that we have planned. And it needed to fit my criteria of being an urban site (we try to give students a balance of serving opportunities over the 5 trips they can go on in sr, high). The list was slim, many of the sites were too far away or we had done recently.

Then he made a funny noise. "Huh...". It turns out that Philadelphia had been completely booked for our week by a single church (all 70 spots), but they had cancelled two days ago. Meaning it was wide open and we could go. Philly is one of their most popular sites. If I had tried to book at the beginning I may not have gotten it. If I had been in the office to answer the original call the other church would have still held that entire week. God worked it out for me to schedule the wrong place and be too on-the-go to answer the phone just so everything could work out.

And it did. God wanted us there not just for us but for the other churches. Neither of them had ever done a mission trip, ever. One student had been on a trip with another church, that's it. The adults had never done it before. Even the Youthworks staff, out of the 4 of them 1 had been a leader on 1 previous trip. Between the 4 adults that went from our church, we have done about 30 trips. For some reason we had all veterans on this trip. We were able to do more than just help our students, we were helping the other churches too.

God works things out, usually in ways we don't expect. I can't imagine going somewhere else after this trip and if you talk to students, neither can they. It was where God wanted us to be. So be encouraged, you may not know what God is doing simply because He's setting up the board to do something amazing. And if you want to hear more stories, make sure to be at FIRE & WATER Sunday on Aug. 16.

Thanks for your prayers and support on the trip and all times before and after.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Philadelphia - Day 6

This will be the last blog from students. We have arrived at our overnight stop, we talked about the trip for a few hours (it's always great to hear their stories and where they saw God this week), we ate dinner and now we're about to go to sleep. I will do a recap on Monday, but until then if you would like to hear more stories make sure to be at Fishers United Methodist Church on Sunday morning for stories shared during the "Christ in the world around us" time (I know there will be a few in the gym at 11:00). Thanks for all your support and prayers and we will see you tomorrow.

For part of my week I got the opportunity to volunteer for Children’s Mission, an organization that helps tutor kids who are falling behind academically. At first I was extremely doubtful of my abilities to be able to relate to the kids and teach them in a way that they would both understand and be entertained by. But as the week moved on the experience turned out to be more fun than stressful. The kids were extremely energetic and fun and excited to learn. Even though after three whole hours of tutoring the kids not surprisingly were struggling to pay attention, they still kept a positive attitude throughout the whole thing. This helped me realize that as I go home that instead of complaining about the amount of schoolwork I have I should just be appreciated that I have the opportunity to learn. -Hannah

This mission trip is a blast, we left early this morning after cleaning up the school we stayed in. We drove for five hours to the church we are currently staying at, we unpacked and went to lunch. For lunch we got real food instead of the organic food they had been feeding us.  I am not a picky eater by any standards and I did not like the food they were feeding us.  The reason I didn’t like the food was they tried to make it so healthy it was just terrible. So it was pretty great to have a normal lunch. -Alex

It’s been an amazing week. I spent 3 of the days helping out in various gardens around the city. I figured it was going to be hot and boring. However, it turned out to be a lot of fun. The others in my crew were extremely positive so that really seemed to help me. I went on this trip expecting to spend a lot of time with people in the community. I learned that that isn’t the only way to be the hands and feet of Jesus. By helping out in the gardens, people will get fresh food that is not readily available to them right now. As Troy said, Jesus wants people to get to eat. We have spent tonight talking about our week and playing cards, mafia, and sardines. It’s pretty awesome to hear all the stories, and I know we will all be excited to share them when we get home. -Logan

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Philadelphia - Day 5

Today was our last day of working here in Philadelphia. Lots of good-bye's, our last showers until we get home, a community cookout, a party, and a time of reflection and serving through footwashing, it makes for a very emotional roller coaster of a day. To see more of how the day went, check out our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages to get updates and pictures. Thanks for all your support and prayers. And here are three snippets of what happened in the lives of students today.

Today was the last day of service in Philadelphia. Most people were tired and ready to go back, do the daily worship, and then fall asleep. However after the showers, the Youthworks staff directed us to a local park for a cook-out that they had prepared with help from a local church. While the food was simple, there was an abundance of activities going on. Everywhere there was a mix of students and Philadelphia citizens enjoying dinner. While some students were playing cards or eating in their own little groups, some talked to the locals and had conversations. I had to give some small directions to some locals, but it wasn’t until one dad approached me that I actually started interacting with the people. He asked some other students and me to join his son in a game of wiffleball. After we picked the teams, the youngest came to bat first. The children were at most under the age of 10. We had quite literally a ball. The weird mix of serious teenagers and carefree children made an interesting game. At one point Zane fell down and wiggled to get away from the 8-year old with the ball. Little kids were given the rush of excitement while the students smiled as they saw locals enjoy a game that was hard to organize in this kind of city. The whole park was roughly the size of a city block, yet it was filled with dancing, music, Frisbee, wiffleball, food, and interactions. The term of naming Philadelphia the city of brotherly love had never been so right. I’m glad we could end off the Youthworks week with a good impact on the local community. I hope we can have a larger effect on our future mission trips and show how much we can help this world. –Connor

This trip seemed to be the week of gardening; every day had something to do with food or plants. It hasn’t been as relational as past trips, but I have enjoyed the manual labor involved and the fact that I wasn’t the only one sweating while working. This trip has been very different in other ways. We usually have a snack waiting for us when we return from showers. That wasn’t there this year. We usually have another snack before bed. Again, not this year. Being only provided with organic and unusual foods, I was hungry a lot of the time. Most of it I ate, but there were some that were just too different. Tonight being the footwashing ceremony, I was expecting the other churches who had never experienced it before to not really get why it’s such an emotional and tearful time. I was wrong and they cried just like a lot of us. Overall this trip has been fun and worthwhile, with little mishaps and surprises that were very bad. –Matt

Today I got to experience a children’s mission. It is a place where children who are behind in school get caught up to grade level. I was in charge of the first graders, and as rambunctious as they were, they were adorable. We learned how to count and add and spell things like “cat.” Although it did not go as well as the previous day, the children still seemed to be learning the material. They were even sometimes excited to learn, and considering it’s their summer, it impressed me. After teaching the kids we had lunch. The motto at the site was work hard, then play hard; and we certainly played hard after lunch. This involved running through an open fire hydrant spewing water everywhere, and it was followed by a lot of jump roping and piggy back rides. We then packed up to leave the site, and before we left we got hugs from all of the children. Many of the children looked like they were ready to cry because they were going to miss us, but they were strong and waved the bus away. It was a wonderful experience, and I’m very glad I got to know them – Tyler

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Philadelphia - Day 4

Our trip is half over! And to be honest, it shoes, we have done a lot of work, so much that many of us have been reassigned to new projects for today. Thank you again for all your prayers and support, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see all sorts of fun pictures and quick little stories throughout the day. But for now, here are three stories from our students serving here in Philly.

Hey. We made it to Philly. Yay. The first 2 days we worked in a garden. I didn’t pace myself well the first day so I felt like throwing up but hey, pain is gain. Today we worked with children. Our job was to tutor the children because they are way behind in school. Oh Boy I had to work with the kindergarteners. WE had to help them count and write letters. I thought it would be fairly easy. NO I was very wrong! One girl started to count 1..2..3..7..20..100. It was very frustrating. When I tried to help them they said they could do it all by themselves and then started to count wrong again. I had to crack the whip on some of the children a couple of times. We tutored them for 3 hours and then it was song and reading time. I passed out on the chair while Mattheus read a very boring book about gorillas. You should have seen me. I had my mouth wide open. Then it was play time. I tried to Double Dutch which didn’t turn out to be amazing. One little girl asked me if I was African which was a first.  When we were done working for the day we went to see the Liberty Bell and The Independent Hall.  I also got a Philly Cheesesteak. I ended up giving half of my Philly Cheesesteak to a Hobo because I knew I couldn’t eat it all.  In return he taught me how to correctly hitch-hike. 
We had a very interesting dinner. We had to sit in assigned seats. I ended up sitting with Lauren, Isaac, Evan, Brady, and Troy. I ended up asking lots of questions about God , Jesus and His angels which led around to the book series The Immortal Instruments which is all about Angels and their children. I’m sorry if anything is spelled wrong or the grammar is wrong. Its almost 11 at night and I’m really tired. –Emily

So far all I have really done is kill plants. Severe weeding day one and day two and on day three we cleaned out plants that were too far into season to be beneficial. I wish I could do a little more work in the actual community but honestly the gardening has been very relaxing, minus the heat. Tonight we went to probably the most amazing church service I’ve ever been to! The passion and the energy the people had was amazing to see. I don’t think I could ever forget that if I even tried. The feeling of God all around us was almost surreal. The pastor had such a good message! The time scramble is pretty tight and lights out is in exactly 5 mins. Philly is great city and I’ve had such a great time!
See y’all. –Adam

Today I handled 10,000 pounds of food! WOW! Divided it was about 7,100 pounds of donated foods, 1,600 pounds of moldy grapes, which we composted, and the rest was cabbage. When handling the various donated foods we were checking expiration dates, that was kind of hard being that they were so tiny. The grapes had to be dumped out of their packing and then dumped into the smelly compost pile, it was very ripe. I had to shovel one load into the compost pile, and it was very scary… Especially since I almost fell into the pile, one of my feet slipped and it was very scary… the cabbage had to be peeled in the forty degree freezer… I was thankful that I brought pants and a sweatshirt. One of the best parts of my day was showering, I kind of smelled like cabbage and moldy grapes. We ended the day with a church service at the nearby Baptist church. They did things very different than us there; they were very vocal throughout the service. It was nice to see a different type of service than our own. It is late, goodnight! See you all Saturday! -Rachel

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Philadelphia - Day 3

It's hard to believe our time of serving in Philly is half done! Thank you all for your prayers and support, here are three more stories from some of our students today. And if you would like to see pictures or other little snippets follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

I'm assuming that you all have seen the movie Rocky, I am also assuming you’re familiar with the famous steps. Well today we all got to go visit and run up those very same steps (and take some pretty awesome pictures with the Rocky statue). There were races and lots and lots of sweat as we conquered the steps and it was pretty exciting being able to experience the same ones. However, the steps weren’t the only thing I participated in today. On this very hot day in Philadelphia, I worked at Germantown Garden, a small garden run by a very kind woman named Amanda. She not only handed her fruits and vegetables out to neighbors, family friends, and local organizations, but she ran a small produce stand at least twice a week to make some extra money. Unfortunately, the loved garden and vegetable stand were not able to support Amanda as needed, so it was necessary that she get a full time job, resulting in a substantial amount of work NOT getting done in her prized garden. We were privileged to be able to help her with the immense task of tackling the jungle of weeds. It was truly amazing getting to see the fruit of our labor as the garden finally started to look like a clean, fruitful piece of land. Although the heat never stopped and the exhaustion set in, feeling God work through us on this day was truly an amazing feeling that I am glad to have gotten the opportunity to do. -Lauren

Today I worked at a garden called Blessed Roots where we spent the day pulling roots out of plant beds then planting some new plants. When we first got there we couldn’t see the plant beds at all and assumed that the plants were planted in the ground. By the end of the day every root was gone. The garden had been completely cleared and ready for new plants. It was amazing to see how much we could get accomplished in just a short amount of time. The best part was that we were still able to enjoy ourselves by doing things like singing and taking occasional breaks to play with the cute little snakes. Despite the fact that we were doing exhausting work in the sun everyone still had a positive attitude without complaining, making the day much more enjoyable and allowing us to get more done. -Katie

Over the past two days I have been able to learn so much about why agriculture is so important and beneficial to the people in Philadelphia. I have enjoyed getting to see the gardens and weeding them, knowing that my little action of pulling out a few weeds will have an impact on the community, and help the farmers and groups ahead of us to be ready to plant more. Today I worked at a garden, where my job was weeding small flower plants. At first I was very confused why they had flowers if they were planning on growing food, but then I learned all the flowers grown there were sent out to various farms around the city. The flowers were then used at the farms to attract certain insects that would get rid of the pests that would keep the food from growing. Getting to eat all locally grown or organic food has been a very different experience but I have enjoyed it a lot so far. Its been fun to try food that I would normally eat at home like pizza, sandwiches, and waffles, but it’s a whole new taste that I have found to be really good so far. The trip has only been two days but it’s been a lot of fun and a whole new experience that I’m extremely thankful I’ve gotten to be a part of. -Kaili