This post is my recap of our 2011 Youth Mission Trip. I know it’s a bit long, but please hang in there and read the whole thing…it will be worth it, I promise!
It’s hard to believe, but another MBC Youth summer mission project has come and gone. It’s always amazing to me how much preparation and anticipation goes into something like this, and yet how quickly it seems to be over.
For the past two years, we stayed in Gettysburg for what we called a “Home Mission Project.” We felt like we should do something to help fulfill the “Jerusalem” part of The Great Commission before moving on to “Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.” It was a great time of ministry and growing closer as a group, and we definitely gained a greater understanding of the need that exists in our own backyard.
This year, we felt it was time to “branch out” a little bit more. After much research and prayer, we decided to partner with StudentLIFE and attend one of their mission camps. They had options all over the country throughout the entire summer, but after considering factors like location, dates and speakers, we finally decided to go to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I was very excited about “going away” for a mission trip after two years of ministering at home, and I expected our students to be excited as well.
Our trip was set for June 12-17, and we put together a team of seven (four students and three adults). Now, I have to admit something here – I had a very bad attitude at times going into this trip. I was incredibly disappointed with the size of our group. We had 15-20 people sign-up for each of the past three mission trips/projects that we had been part of, and now we only had four? I didn’t understand it, and honestly, I was more than a little ticked-off at some of the reasons that people were giving me for not going. After my initial anger wore off a little, I kept telling myself and others that God obviously had a purpose for this, and that this was exactly who He wanted to be part of the team. I knew it was true, but I don’t know if I ever really completely believed it.
So, our day of departure finally arrived. Thankfully, the students were more pumped about this whole thing than I was, and after a few minor setbacks, we hit the road on Sunday afternoon. The van ride was pretty uneventful until we came upon a CRAZY thunderstorm, complete with hail and lightning. It was raining so hard that we could barely see the car in front of us. I’m not sure how he did it, but Pastor Baker kept driving, and we arrived at the hotel safely. God was definitely watching over us!
After we checked-in, we unloaded our luggage and discovered that the back window of the van had leaked during the storm. Nothing really got wet, though, except for a little bit of the interior of the van…and my pillow. I laughed it off, but inside, I was like, “God, seriously? What else?” I know it was minor, but that coupled with my already bad attitude made things seem ten times worse.
After a great breakfast at the hotel the next morning, we began the drive to Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, where we would be staying. I was behind the wheel this time, which as some of you know, can be hilariously disastrous at times. Between the GPS and other directions that we had been given, we made it – only to discover that road construction prevented us from getting on campus from the road that we were on. Driving tends to frustrate me anyway, so driving a van full of people in an unfamiliar town without any clear directions was not pleasant. After turning around multiple times, we got to where we needed to be.
When we checked-in, the students and other leaders were taken to the auditorium, and I was lead to another room to do some youth leader check-in stuff. This is when God really started to get my attention and soften my attitude. The StudentLIFE staff and volunteers were so helpful and encouraging, and it really started to put my mind and heart at ease about the rest of the week.
That evening, we had our first corporate worship service, where we got our first glimpse of the drama team (AT2AP), worship band (The Museum) and camp pastor (Clayton King). It was a great evening of worship, laughter and learning, and after that service, I knew it was going to be a great week. We left the chapel refreshed and ready to start at our mission site the next morning.
The next morning began our first “full” day, so I’m going to give you a run-down of our daily schedule here. We would wake up each morning and arrive at the cafeteria around 7:00AM for breakfast. After eating, Pastor Baker would go off to a meeting, and the rest of us would have a group Quiet Time together. I think we may have been assigned to a classroom for this, but the weather was so beautiful that we always ended up outside.
After Quiet Time, we all headed into the chapel for Celebration. This was a combination of a worship service and some crazy/fun stuff to get everyone pumped-up for the rest of the day. AT2AP had a segment called “Beak’s News” where they gave reminders and info for the day in a funny, TV news setting. Each day, this included a Youth Minister of the Day, who was determined by submissions by students, which was pretty cool. The chosen Youth Minister had the “privilege” of wearing a “medal” for the rest of the day, which was actually a bright pink flip-flop attached to a lanyard. It also included a segment called “Real America With Natasha,” where one of the actresses played a Russian exchange student who was still trying to get used to being in the US – very funny stuff. The most hilarious part of Celebration, in my opinion, was a daily video segment called “Edwin’s Corner.” It was supposed to be like a home-made, how-to show for arts and crafts hosted by Edwin, who was a Napoleon Dynamite-esque character. One morning it had me laughing so hard I was crying. Seriously. We had some awesome moments of worship and teaching with The Museum and Clayton during this time as well.
When we signed-up for camp, we had the option of doing Mission Camp (which we chose) or Recreation. Everyone was divided into teams based on what they had chosen, and our team was Purple Craze. Each team had a staff member as their team leader, and each team also had a team cheer. This was also part of Celebration each morning, as well as Rally Point.
Rally Point occurred right after Celebration each morning. This was a very brief time when each team would meet with their team leader for a quick devo and word of encouragement before venturing out to our ministry sites. From there, we would collect our lunches, load up the van, and drive to our Ministry Site!
A large portion of each day was spent at the Ministry Site. Our Ministry Site for the week was the Winston-Salem Rescue Mission. The Mission was only a few minutes away from campus, and seemed to be right “on the edge” of the city of Winston-Salem. As we worked with the staff and residents there, we learned that they do many of the same things that the Adams Rescue Mission does here in Gettysburg, only on a larger scale. They minister mainly to men in the area who have made bad choices or who have fallen into hard times and want to get their lives back on-track. There is a program that they go through that includes working at the mission, as well as different kinds of classes, including Bible studies. If they successfully complete the first part of the program, they can move into the New Life Center, which is a much newer, nicer building that the mission owns across the street. They then begin a new phase of the program as they actively seek outside employment. This program allows the residents a bit more freedom, as well as computer classes and other avenues to help them be competitive in today’s job market. Unfortunately, not everyone in the program is successful, and many have been asked to leave throughout the years, but many lives have been changed as a result of the ministry taking place there.
When we originally received our assignment with the Mission, we were going to be doing a landscaping project. When we arrived, however, we were told that we would actually be sorting food donations, at least for the first day. We were escorted to a room that housed tables, empty bins, and barrel upon barrel of canned food that needed to be separated. It took a little while for us to get a system going, but once we got it, we were a food separating machine! That first day, we were able to get all but two of the barrels finished. We worked with a resident named Tim that day, who was a pretty awesome guy. He had a great time trying to remember all of our names, and we also found out that he is a pretty amazing singer!
When we arrived at the Mission on the second day, Charles (our contact person at the Mission) told us that we would be cleaning out a basement storage area. The fire marshal had done an inspection, and it had to be cleared by the end of the week. Marc (another Mission staff member) showed us what we needed to do, and we knew that we definitely weren’t going to walk away from this without getting a bit dirty. We got to work right away, clearing all of the trash out and putting it on the sidewalk next to the building. The plan was to load it all into a dump-truck later in the day so it could be taken to the dump.
As we were bringing the last few pieces out, a van pulled up, and the man who was driving asked what we were going to do with all of the stuff. We told him what the plan was, and he asked if he could have the junk instead. Charles talked to him, and after a few minutes, we began to fill the van with the stuff we had just taken out of the storage area. I’m still not sure how, but we were able to cram almost everything into his van! The man’s name was Henry, and it turned out that he was unemployed and wanted to fix-up some of the appliances to sell for a little extra cash. Apparently, one man’s trash really IS another man’s treasure! We talked with Henry for a little while, and found out that He was a believer, but his wife was not. He asked us to pray for her, and we did so right there on the sidewalk.
Charles brought the dump-truck around, and we loaded the few remaining pieces of trash. It turns out that Henry taking the majority of the trash off of our hands was actually a blessing to the Mission, because they apparently have to pay to take stuff to the dump. Then he took us on a tour of the building which housed their thrift store and donation center. They accept donations of your typical thrift-store wares, such as clothing, furniture and other odds-and-ends, but the thing that really surprised me was that they take mattresses. At first, I was a little grossed-out by this, but they have this huge machine that uses extreme heat to sanitize them, and they have a license from the state to be able to re-sell them. Very interesting, indeed.
After the tour and lunch, we went to another storage room. Here, we got rid of a few things, but mainly we did some re-organizing so that more items would fit in the room (you would not believe how many banana boxes we moved that day…). We finished doing this fairly fast and asked if there was anything else that we could do. Honestly, I think our speed and work ethic surprised the staff, because they seemed truly shocked that we had finished so quickly. So, they thanked us and sent us home early.
On our last day at the mission, we were back to sorting food donations, this time in a different room than on the first day (we were hoping that we would get to go back to the first room and finish the last two barrels, but that never happened, unfortunately). This time, there were barrels, boxes, and huge bins (like the big watermelon bins that grocery stores have during the summer) that needed to be separated. We were working with a guy named Jeff that day, and he really seemed to appreciate the help. Like the first day, we were a little slow until we got a system going, but things were great after we figured it out (we even had Amanda down in one of the bins, handing cans up-and-over to speed things along). Tim, who we hadn’t seen since the first day, was back, and he remembered all of our names, which was pretty great.
At lunch, Sam, our Purple Team leader, came by to see how we were doing. We also were able to tour the New Life Center (which was quite impressive – the Lord is really blessing their ministry) and meet the director of the Mission, as well as a few other staff members. Then, it was back to the food room.
We worked for awhile longer, until we only had one bin left to sort. About that time, Charles came down to observe our progress. When he saw that we only had one bin left, he said that we could stop, because he had another group coming in a few weeks, and he needed something for them to do. So, we prayed with Charles, Marc and Jeff, said our goodbye’s, and left the mission for the last time.
I am so thankful for our time at the Winston Salem Rescue Mission. It was truly a blessing to see what they are able to accomplish for God’s glory in the lives of the men who come to them for help. It was also a great reminder for us that no matter how small a task may seem, it is vitally important to God’s kingdom if it is done for the glory of the Lord. Even though we were “just” sorting food and cleaning up messy rooms, we were being used as a piece of the larger puzzle of the amazing work that God is doing in and through this ministry.
Each day when we returned to campus, we were scheduled to have an hour of “free time.” By the time we showered and rested for a few minutes, it was time to move on to the next thing, but that was totally fine with us.
After we “freshened up” it was time to go eat supper. We normally took our time after we were done, and sat around the table and talked. From there, I headed off to a daily Youth Pastor’s Meeting, and the rest of the group had Family Group Time.
The purpose of the Youth Pastor’s Meeting was really two-fold. First, it was very informative. We were given announcements and information each evening about various aspects of camp, from schedule changes, to reminders about certain things…you get the idea. Also, Clayton King and the guys from The Museum were often there to give us a heads-up about what they were planning on doing during the evening worship service that night.
I just want to take a moment here and say that the more I was around Clayton and the band, the more impressed with them I became, and the more respect I had for them. It was clearly evident both on and off the stage that their purpose in being there was not for their own selfish gain, but for God’s glory. You could see their heart and passion for proclaiming the Gospel and reaching students in everything that they did. Many times, bands and speakers will retreat to some undisclosed location after their duties onstage are fulfilled for the day, but not these guys. They ate in the cafeteria with us, they participated in recreation and free-time activities with the students, and they made themselves available to anyone who wanted to talk with them. All of this was done, willingly, joyfully, and with an attitude of service and humility. I want to be like them “when I grow up.”
The second purpose of these meetings was to have a time where all of the youth pastors and leaders could connect. Many burdens and prayer requests were shared during this time, related both to student ministry and personal needs. It was a great time of sharing and lifting each other up in prayer. I think I can safely say that it was a great reminder for many of us that we are not alone in the things that we face in life and in this ministry that we have been called to.
While I was in that meeting, the rest of our people had Family Group. This was a group devotional and Bible study time led by Pastor Baker which covered a variety of topics related to the week’s theme, “Devoted,” based on Deuteronomy 6:5. I can’t give too much detail about this since I wasn’t actually involved, but it sounds like it was a great time of studying God’s Word and sharing together. Apparently Anakin Skywalker ended up being the topic of conversation at one point, so I’m not really sure about that, but it really seemed to be a great experience for everyone! I have to say a huge “thank-you” here to Pastor Baker for being willing to lead this study each day!
After our separate meetings, we reconvened in the chapel for the evening worship service. Most of our group agrees that this was the highlight of the day. AT2AP, The Museum and Clayton King once again led these services, but they were much more serious in tone and deeper in message than the morning Celebration services.
Following the camp theme, Clayton’s sermons all dealt with how to be devoted to Christ. On the first night, he preached from John 11, and the topic was passion. We often confuse passion with excitement or being “fired up”, but the two are NOT the same. He explained that our English word “passion” comes from a Greek word that means “a willingness to suffer or endure pain.” He shared so many great, thought provoking points, all to remind us that “real passion is following Jesus no matter where He takes you, no matter the cost.”
He followed that up the next night with a sermon from Mark 8 called “Take Up Your Cross.” Talk about a powerful, convicting message! Clayton took us through the historical implications and origin of the phrase “take up your cross” to show us what that should mean in our daily Christian walk. That night, one of our students (along with a few hundred others!) surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. For me, that was the ultimate highlight of the week! All of the disappointment that I had about having a small group, and all of the wrong attitudes that I had about the trip were all swallowed up in that moment. I had been saying all along that God had a reason for the people who were on our team, but like I stated earlier, I was having a hard time believing this. That night, it was like God was saying, “See? I have this all under control – trust Me!”
Over the next few days, Clayton also preached about where our treasure is (Matthew 6), as well as faith and risk (II Kings 7). Every message was full both encouraging and convicting truth.
One of the nights, there was a special emphasis on Compassion International. A girl named Selena spoke to us during that time. She is from Kenya, and was sponsored by Compassion when she was a child. Now she is in college and is touring with StudentLIFE for the summer. I’ve heard all about Compassion and similar ministries throughout the years, but it really has a different kind of impact when it is coming from someone whose life was literally saved by the ministry.
We ended each evening with Church Group. This was a “debriefing” time where we talked about the day and prayed together. It was neat to see the day from each person’s perspective – we all learned and experienced so much throughout the week, but it wasn’t always the same for each person. It’s cool to see how God works in our lives individually and as a group.
All too quickly, our week came to an end. On Friday morning, we had one last worship service before heading home. We cheered for our teams one last time, tore the roof off the chapel while worshiping through song, and heard one final message from Clayton King. Then we turned-in our keys, grabbed some Starbucks, and hit the road.
I am so thankful for the things that we were able to do, hear and experience on this trip! StudentLIFE Mission Camp gave us the unique opportunity to both serve and be poured into all at the same time, and it was truly a wonderful experience. The Lord used this week away from our normal routine to speak to each of us in a special way, and I am so thankful for how He had every detail perfectly orchestrated.
On the way home, I asked everyone to share their favorite part of the week as well as something that the Lord taught them. Personally, my “favorite” part of the week, besides seeing one of our own come to Christ, was the evening worship services. Sometimes when you’re “in ministry” as your “job” you get so caught up in doing things and pouring into others that you neglect to make sure that you are being spiritually fed yourself. That is definitely where I find myself often, whether from business, laziness or neglect, and it was incredibly refreshing to just sit back and take in the teaching and worship.
As far as what the Lord taught me during that week…GOD IS IN CONTROL, AND I AM NOT! I mean, I knew that, but I needed to be reminded of it in a big way. I admit that I like to have control over my situations, and going into this trip I was frustrated and discouraged. Praise the Lord he showed me the error of my ways and used this experience to encourage and refuel me!
I just want to close by thanking everyone that made this trip possible, from the people who helped financially, to those who prayed for us, as well as the parents and grandparents who entrusted their students to us for the week. A HUGE thank you to the students who had the desire to make serving the Lord a priority this summer when many others did not, and to the chaperones who were willing to come along live in a dorm with teens for a week. Thank you to all of the staff and volunteers at StudentLIFE who put blood, sweat, tears, prayer, and many, MANY miles of traveling into making Mission Camp the best that it can be. And finally, all thanks and praise belongs to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ – all of this is by Him and for Him!
Click HERE to view photos from the trip!