Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Leech Lake - Wrap

It's been a few days and we have been home, slept in actual beds, taken nice showers, eaten home-made meals, life is somewhat back to normal. But there's a big takeaway from the trip that I saw and hope others did too.

It's all about understanding people's story. Everyone this past week was put in a place where it was easy to assume what was going on or be upset that people didn't act like we do (or thought they should). Children should have been better behaved. There should have been less yelling. The homeowners should have been a little more appreciative of all the work we did on their house. And since they didn't act like we thought they should have we judge and speculate.

But for some of our students, understanding the whole story helped deal with these feelings. When you see the tiny house that eight people live in it's easy to see why children yell, they've learned it's the only way they can be heard. When you find out that the five foster kids are mad at the world because their father is in jail and CPS just took them away from their mother to live with grandma who really can't take care of them, we understand a little better why they are so upset and take it out on anyone, even those helping them.

Every day we encounter people that we don't understand or who rub us the wrong way. We can't control how other people act, but we can control how we react. By taking time to realize we don't understand everything that is going on in someone's life, that we don't know their story, it becomes a little easier to be compassionate and patient, even loving.

It was a hard week, but hard doesn't mean bad. It was a great week with hard lessons. I hope as FIRE & WATER Student Ministry we learn them and work our best to reflect Jesus to everyone we meet.

But we Christians have no veil over our faces; we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him.  ~ II Corinthians 3:18 (TLB)


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Leech Lake - Friday

We're on our way home! We have stopped for the evening at Lake Street United Methodist Church in Eau Claire, WI (it's the same church we stayed at four years ago on our way home from Minneapolis). A huge thank-you to them for opening their church to us. We're all tired, we've talked about our trip and our stories today help us look back at what we've done. We've had lots of stories of kids, tonight we have a couple of hard working guys. Thanks for all your prayers and support, we hope to be home tomorrow!

This mission trip has been a very great experience. I was placed on the work project group and it was some of the most satisfying work that I have done on a mission trip. We were tasked with the reparation and refurbishment of an old house which involved tearing down old boards and repainting the shutters, window frames, and other wooden paneling and walls on the exterior of the house. On the first day of working, one of the five children that lived in the house with their grandma came out to spend some time with us after some coaxing. She was probably around four or five, and very soft spoken. In fact she never even told us her name. Towards the end of the day she and I played a small little game of hide and seek, which involved me going to the opposite side of the porch and standing in the corner to have her immediately turn around and yell “Found you!” Well, after a couple of rounds she noticed the small purple bead that I had tied to my shoe laces. Earlier in the week we had put these beads on our shoes in order to represent how God always loves us. She asked me what it was for and I told her it was to remind me that God will always love me, and I asked her if she knew that God always loved her. She answered me yes, and even though it was a very small answer and very short exchange, it really had a large impact on me. This short conversation and her recognition that God always loved her really showed me that what we are doing in this community was actually having an impact and a lasting effect. This little girl who wouldn’t even tell us her name was able to recognize that God would always love her, and that was really cool to me. This week has been full of fun, but I am glad to be coming home tomorrow and looking forward to sleeping in a real bed. -Jacob

This week was quite impressive, going in I didn’t really understand what an Indian reservation was like. When I got there I was shocked, the Indian reservation was not anything different than any other small rural community. In fact if I wasn’t told we were going to a reservation I probably wouldn’t ever know. I could tell the community was hurting. Many homes on the outside were falling apart and were in desperate need of work. I knew that we would need to work and work hard. I was assigned to a crew going out to do manual labor. While out there we saw a school that was just sad looking, we saw houses rotting, and kids with no respect for anyone. But one thing I learned was it can be very hard to do the right thing. At one site we didn’t have the right tools for the job and we had to make things work rather than simply give up. I also had to deal with working on someone’s house for two days and then on our way out the occupants came outside as if to thank us or say goodbye but instead presented vulgar gestures at us and went back inside. That upset me but I knew I did the right thing by taking care of those young men’s house and can only pray they will learn to be better people. -Ben

Going into my first sr. high mission trip I was honestly expecting it to be like the junior high mission trips that I did before. It wasn’t. The first thing that was different is that this trip took place in a small reservation instead of a big city. The community on a small reservation of 770 people also had a different culture witch made it even harder to adapt.

The first culture lesson I received was that wearing my Cleveland Indians Chief Wahoo hat was probably not a good idea. Luckily I realized this before I hopped off the van and was able to hide my cap in my bag. The second thing I learned is that we were on the hook for harder work projects. During the week we were moving, painting, and tearing apart bleachers at the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig school. Fortunately for us the office-staff were nice and gave us doughnuts and candy, the blue tootsie rolls were the best. We worked hard Monday and Tuesday and honestly the people there were surprised that we got so much done. Later in the week we moved on to Mrs. Connie’s house to do some painting and repairs. We were highly underequipped, but we did what we could. The fact that we were able to make do with what little we had, and that we were optimistic about it was refreshing. Our group the “Mystery Moose” had great fun. At Mrs. Connie’s house we played with a hen, Matt gave her granddaughter endless piggyback rides, and while painting Mr. Henke and I talked about old classic movies.

While this trip was different it was great, I guess on my year off I forgot how fun these things are. I also felt like I grew deeper in my faith and I learned a lot that I’m ready to take home with me. I’m definitly glad I went, and I’m kind of sad to leave. Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible, Troy, the adults that went with us, and yes and even my mom and dad who woke up at 4:00 on Sunday to take me to the church. -Jacob (not the same one as above)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Leech Lake - Thursday

Hey everyone, today was out last day of serving. We went into the wee hours of the night with our footwashing and praying for each other so cleaning up tomorrow morning should be exciting. Thanks for all your prayers and support and we'll see you soon. Until then, a few more stories from the day.

After learning I would be in Kids Club this week Sunday night, my first reaction was frustration.  Even though I had done a week of it before in Newport, I only wanted to go to service projects, but continued to put a smile on my face to try and seem happy about.  Looking back, I realize why God put me there, despite my prayers beforehand to put me anywhere else.  At the beginning of the week, I met a girl named Mia who captured my attention by trying to take my glasses on the first day (don’t worry I got them back).  Over time, I learned along with Sabrina that she wanted to be a singing, ballet dancing, cheerleading gymnast.  God knows I’m not any of things but my attempts to sing and dance always put a smile on her face and demonstrated I was where I was supposed to be.  Later that week, I had the pleasure of meeting Gavin who was about the opposite.  We played Super Mario around the park all day and I was excited to find out he didn’t want to participate in water day, saving me from being drenched like the rest of my crew.  The thing that stuck out to me most was his genuine curiosity in how the world works and his constant questions, which I was happy to try and answer.  Overall, both of them were extremely difficult to say goodbye to today, and I was silently hoping that the next group will give them the same love and attention.  Both reminded me how God, even when we feel uncomfortable, bends us so that we can still make an impact in another’s life.  In theme with the lesson this week about God’s love for us and our response, I would have to leave saying thanks to Troy (and God) for putting me in this group where I know I made a difference in two kids’ lives and making two new friends. -Evan

Looking at the job list on Sunday night, the only thing I could think was that I am NOT a physical labor kind of girl. But just as I always try to do, I aimed to go into the first day with a smile. God treated me well this week to say the least. The heat index was supposed to be between 95 and 103 degrees, but we ended up with breezy clear skies with plenty of shade. As I spent the time scraping paint off of old wooden posts and painting the ceilings of smelly boys locker rooms, I started to realize that the company I was surrounded by and the positive attitudes of everyone I encountered was going to make my week fantastic. I started to realize day by day that this trip and this job was exactly where God wanted me to be. It pushed my comfort levels and patience but I made the most out of it. One of the houses I had been painting, edging, sanding, and scraping for a few days was finished today and sitting back and seeing how far that house had come was so rewarding. As hesitant as I was when Troy placed me in this group with this work, I am so thankful that God placed me here. -Lauren

My day started out at the Outrageous Sports Camp where we played basketball with the older kids and tag and other outdoor games with the younger children. While I was disappointed to hear I would have to interact with other human beings at the beginning of the week, it turned out okay in the end. I ended up becoming good friends with a girl, Alaina, and that was a good thing to know leaving the site today.  When coming into the site I had feared that I would not be able to have the patience required to handle children, especially those who were around my own age. But my friendship with Alaina changed that. I am no longer fearful of working with kids. This is one more reason why I am grateful for what this trip has provided me with. Once we left the site we went to our work project where we pulled weeds so that the carrots could grow for the Bemidji Food Shelf Farm. The work we did there was very visible, so it filled us with a sense of accomplishment when we finished up. Once we came back to the high school we had free time and an afternoon activity and then we went into the foot washing portion of the evening. The foot washing ceremony is one of my favorite moments of the year because I can talk to my friends while I feel at the peak of my closeness with God of the week. It is a great feeling to interact with your friends at this time because it is the end of the long week of hard work and you experience a closeness which our time together and with God has brought about. I am so very grateful to have come on this trip, however I am very happy to be coming home soon. -Rachel

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Leech Lake - Wednesday

Another great day of serving. Enjoy the stories and we hope to see you soon!

When I heard Monday that I was going to be at Outrageous Sports Camp all week I was pretty excited. To say the least I’m pretty exhausted with one day left. But most of all Monday I didn’t expect to leave the camp today with makeup on my face. There’s a first for everything in life, and this is one of them. The kids there are so fun and energetic, and it’s overall just a great time. While I wasn’t the happiest to have makeup put on me (they held us down) they just seemed to be having the best time. I guess I managed. –Adam

So it’s my job to work with kids. I thought it would fun playing games and sports with them. Well I was completely wrong. The kids are 5-16ish years old and that is a big age gap. Adding on to the age gap problem the kids we were working with were complete nightmares. They would scream, hit, bite, etc. to us. They didn’t seem to know the word NO. Then Troy took us on a detour on the way back to our living space. We saw where the kids were living and only a portion of what they had to go through at home. There would be over 6 or 7 kids living in one tiny home and they were all either cousins or siblings. Maybe there would be a parent to take care of them but the majority of the kids are taken care of by their older siblings or a grandparent. We now could understand why the kids were acting that way. They just wanted attention. A thing that they craved and much needed. So we gave it to them and they calmed down and listened. We had a rough start but now the games are going much smoother. Oh, did I mention the game of the kid’s choice was basketball? (Matthew you would love to be in my group.) They had some pretty sick moves and broke at least everyone’s ankles twice.

Ok, back to the parent situation that the kids were going through. We spoke to a person that was part of the native tribe there. She explained to us that the parents drink and do drugs because the things the white people did to their ancestors. It makes so much sense to me now. She told us this was the seventh generation and the children should be better and spread their culture. I hope the children do.

Today we had a cookout and some of the community came out to eat with us. I decided I wanted to sit by 2 elders of the tribe. They had a lot to share. They shared their view points on the world and the TV shows they watch. Did you know they know who Gene Autry was? If you don’t know pour ice water on your head to wake you to the world and look up on Google the greatest cowboy who ever lived!!!!! At the cookout the “people” (that’s what the Natives want to be called) got into a drum circle and sang songs in their language. Earlier in the week we learned a Native dance and we danced to the music. I was dancing the shawl dance but without a shawl so I just looked like I was flinging my arms around. It was so much fun (we got in trouble because apparently we disrespected the dancing circle. I found out it was because one of the girls picked up a child and was dancing with her in her arms and that was a big NO NO). On our way back we stopped at Dairy Queen and the ice cream cones where payed for by the church. So I made sure that I got a large cone. When we finally got back we did our usual Jesus time but at the end of it all the worship leader told us that he would sing more Christian songs for us and it was awesome.

Sorry, it late and I’m just not that coordinated but I’m going to tell one more story about our trip. So I swam in the Mississippi river in my clothes. It wasn’t planned but I was like when will I ever get another opportunity to swim in the Mississippi. I of course was the first one in then everyone followed me. I regretted my choice as soon as I had to ride to our sleeping area in wet cloths. Not only was I wet we were battling a major storm. I couldn’t see the road and lighting was all around us. I thought I was going to die! I finally couldn’t take it anymore and I passed out. Which is what I am about to do now so Goodbye and wish us good luck for our trip back home. (sorry for my spelling and grammar right now it’s 11:30 at night and lights out was at 11:15) -Emily

Hi. Day 3 of service is over. Today, as a part of the Mystery Moose crew, we went to a woman’s house and did various remodeling that all was to come together to paint the areas we had scraped, washed, and replaced. It was supposed to be much hotter than it turned out to be, so with a breeze, it was perfect (Yay God!). We started out scraping away loose paint on the shudders, deck, and basically everywhere paint was chipping. Some of the boards just beneath the roof were decayed and rotten so Russ (the adult from another church) and I nailed in new boards.

The best part of the day of service was probably this little girl. She was one of the five grandchildren Connie (the lady whose home we were working on) takes care of permanently. I never learned her name but she was probably about five. Anyways, I gave her a piggy back ride. It lasted for about 45 minutes and consisted of me sprinting around the house and yard and hearing her squeal with excitement all while everyone else was busy doing the work we were more sent to do. It really made me feel good to make her so happy because, living in a one “parent” home with five other children, I am sure she doesn’t receive significant attention. I am very excited for tomorrow because I am hoping she remembers me because even though I was very exhausted after running so much, I was very happy.
Finally, tonight we had a little bit of extra worship time. Russ had brought his guitar and has been the worship leader all this week. We sang about 6 more songs and it was a very uplifting experience. Everyone sang like they didn’t care who heard and in between songs we had times of praise and silent confession, and overall it was just a very freeing moment.

Just one more day of service tomorrow! Praying that it goes well and that we are able to keep doing God’s work. See you all in a few days! -Matt

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Leech Lake - Tuesday

Sorry for the delay, we had quite a night last night. Upon leaving the headwaters of the Mississippi River we encountered a small storm with torrential rain and 60 mph winds that wreaked a little havoc on our big bus and trailer. So we drove a little slower and got home a little later meaning the students didn't get a chance to tell their stories until the next morning. But here they are, enjoy and we hope to see you soon.


First I’ll tell you the story as to why this blog is happening this morning. Youthworks is doing something a little different this year with one of the evening activities. One night a week, the churches are free to do whatever evening activity they would like to do, with only their group. We decided we would go to the very beginning of the Mississippi River! It started out so innocently, picking up pebbles from the bottom, climbing over rocks and taking pictures. Needless to say, we all ended up drenched, and had a 45 minute drive back to the high school, in the midst of an immense thunder storm. When we got back, the youthworks staff members were kind enough to let us use the showers again, but it was also 11:00, which is lights out time. No time for blog! Wasn’t that a fun adventure?

Okay now for the real stuff. This week started out as a challenge for me and a few others. I found out what I was going to be doing for the week, and was excited to see that I would be working at the kid’s club! I’ve always loved hanging out with and loving on the kiddos in the places that I serve, but this time it was a bit different. The first day, a lot of them weren’t open to building new relationships with these people that they knew were going to leave them at the end of the week. I felt like I just couldn’t do it. I prayed and prayed that God would help me figure out a way to give these kids the attention and love that they need, without making them upset or uncomfortable. Luckily, the second day, the kids were much more accepting to our presence! I got to play with more kids and when we lead the story time, they were extremely attentive, and could even answer 2 questions after! It just goes to show how much God has been working in Cass Lake these past 13 years. The children know that God will protect them and that He is the one we rely on in times of worry and stress.

Yesterday, I also had the opportunity to work in a garden that serves fresh foods to the community. This is really great because at a lot of food pantries they get canned and processed foods, but here they can receive locally grown greens and veggies! We had the job of laying down hay to keep in the moisture and smother the weeds for the plants. It was really satisfying to physically see the progress that we made. I’m excited to see what the rest of the week has in store! (Today is water day at kid’s club! yeet) Thanks for reading the blogs and keeping up with our adventures in Cass Lake!

Halfway done! -Grace

P.S. Mom we get back around 5 or 6 on Saturday.

Hey friends!

This week I have had the opportunity to work at the kid’s club. Having worked with kids on a mission trip before, I expected it to be just like last time and for it to be a breeze, but I was so wrong. On the first day, it was difficult to get any of the kids to open up to us and hang out with us; they mostly just wanted to hang out on their own and had no interest in anything we had to say. Going back on our second day, I was slightly discouraged, expecting none of the kids to listen to me. It was the exact opposite though; the kids were so much more willing to listen to us and play with use! Yesterday, they were willing to hear the Bible story and answer two questions about it afterwards!

Getting all of the kids to open up was great, but the most exciting part of the day yesterday was when one kid willingly started a conversation with me about God. This little boy had talked to me for at least half an hour about a video game he plays. Of course I had no idea what he was talking about, having never played this game, so I was smiling and nodding. At one point though, he mentioned how he had built a castle in his game that he said no one was able to see, except God who could see anything. This sparked a conversation with him about God as he began to ask me questions, such as why does God get to see everything and talk about the amazing things he knows God does. It was amazing to hear such a young boy, no older than six, already have so much faith and knowledge about God! 

I am so excited to go back to the kid’s club, especially since today is water games day! Thanks for reading our blogs! -Katie

Yesterday I worked at both the outreach sports camp and a food pantry that grows their food on site. It was the second day that I worked at the outreach sports camp and on the first day the children and teens we worked with were trying to act out and not listen on purpose. But, on the second day we worked there we figured out they were acting out for attention so if we ignored them when they were doing things they shouldn’t they would stop and we could go and talk to them later. After figuring that out things went significantly better after we figured that out. -Alex

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Leech Lake - Monday

Today was our first actual day of serving the people of Leech Lake. Due to how things work around here our days look a little different from other trips, we work with Kids first thing in the morning and do our regular morning routine at 2:30 in the afternoon for one. We also were able to have a cultural experience with a woman who married into the Ojibwe tribe (and now has a master's degree on Native American culture), so the students had a very full day of learning and processing. But, I'll let them get into that. Here are some stories straight from them, enjoy!

After working with the kids at the sports camp, Troy took our group to see the homes of the kids we would be working with all week. Quite honestly I had no real idea what to expect, but as we pulled in to what was the neighborhood, I was very much humbled. Seeing all of these rather small houses and tall grass and just very not well kept areas I began to feel very emotional for the kids themselves. I just felt angry and frustrated that these kids, and there were a lot of them, had to live in conditions such as these and have to grow up in a place where they may not know when the next meal is coming or if they will see their parents that day. To me it just seems unfair that these kids have to go through these sorts of things because after all, they are just kids. Which is why during our camp today, just playing basketball, which I am terrible at, and seeing these kids smile and laugh when I missed a shot or when this girl, Mia, just lit up when I offered to take her on a marathon race as she was on my back just makes me feel God’s presence in them and in me. Even though it is only for a short time, we can allow these kids to forget about any struggles they are going through and just let them be kids. These simple laughs and smiles really are the epitome of God’s love for me. –Zane

Spending my first day on the mission trip as a freshman has been a whirlwind. I spent my day with kids climbing on my back non-stop. I spent my day with kids telling me about their home life and how their day has been going. It has just been crazy but the one thing that stuck out most to me was the fact that there is so much we don’t realize about the Native American culture. The history that we learned today is just something I could’ve never imagined. I think there’s so many concepts about their history that has just been hidden and unspoken that needs to be more recognized all throughout our culture. Their way of life is different. The rules, expectations, and limits are different. I really liked that one of their main focuses in their everyday life is respect. Respect the land. Respect your people. Respect property, animals, people’s feelings, and so many more things. I also think that it’s amazing that the people around here appreciate silence and take it as a sign of respect and it’s something they look for which is different than our culture at home. It’s sometimes classified as awkward or sometimes disrespectful if you can’t think of something to talk about and keep a conversation going. The way that the Native people live is something I wish we had in Indy. The culture is different and something I envy. Especially res. time! ;)  -Lindsay

["Res. Time" is a loving nickname for the pace of life on an Indian Reservation. The people here are more concerned about being with people/family and spending quality time with them, but this causes many things to move at their own pace. People may be late to an event but the culture sees that as okay because everyone knows it is because they were busy with something more important, community.]

Today was the first day of my first ever mission trip, so it’s safe to say I was pretty nervous. I wasn’t sure how God was going to use my skills in this trip, but those worries were quickly answered when it was decided I would be a part of the ‘storytelling team’ working with kids. One of said children quickly decided I would be her new best friend for the few days I’m here, and even made me a friendship bracelet during craft time. She was really sweet, though a short attention span. But hearing about some of the situations their families were in made me appreciate mine a lot more, and really sparked a desire to give these kids some happy summer memories, if nothing else. Learning about their culture has also been very interesting, and I look forward to learning more and getting to know the kids even better in the days to come.  -Sabrina