A few weeks back, I had the honor and privilege of joining multiple junior high and high school students from Grace Pointe Church on their missions trip to Philadelphia. I've served with the youth group for two years but hadn't gone on any trips with them until now.
The experience was rewarding.
This blog, and the next, will serve as a small overview of the trip. As with other blogs, I will be making key points about a variety of aspects concerning our week-long excursion to Philly. This blog will deal with service, and the next shall deal with worship and community. The trip was hosted by Eastern University and run by Student Life, an organization that shares the love of Christ to members of multiple communities and builds God-seeking relationships in students themselves. We served within a program called "Urban Serve," driving home the importance of being servants to others, like Jesus was a servant for us, by sharing His love through both our words and actions. This year's theme was "Come To The Table," inviting all those involved to either establish a relationship with God or continue in investing in such a relationship.
The experience, as I said, was rewarding. And not just for me.
Getting up between 5:45 and 6:30 in the morning after a day-and-a-half of driving and a long evening of playing Murder in the Dark (maybe more on that later...and breathe easy, no one actually died) at a small church in Pennsylvania does not sound like something any kid wants to do on their summer vacation. Add in the fact that they have to work to make someone else's life better sounds even less fun. But...on the flip side, we weren't really there for us, now were we? Personally, it was a struggle opening my eyes at such an early time, especially on that first full day of camp. Three days of service ahead of us...Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, from 9:30-3:30, under ideal timetable conditions. And as a leader, I made it my responsibility to wake up a bunch of tired, teenage boys and get them to breakfast (if they came with, that is). After breakfast and a few other logistical items, we went to serve. Junior high and high school was pretty much split into two groups, with the high school group (my group) working at the Pegasus Therapeutic Riding Academy. Though the organization assists individuals possessing all sorts of disabilities through horseback riding, we worked behind the scenes.
We were originally supposed to clean horse trails, but the heat and the threat of poison ivy allowed for us to clean and fix up parts of a farm house some employees were moving into. Students went to work on a variety of jobs--from cleaning, to scrubbing, to painting, to tearing out old carpet--in a house without air conditioning in 90 degree weather...and with some of us dressed in heavy clothing that we didn't mind getting dirty or soiled. Did I forget to mention that part above? There was sweat, there were stains, there was the guzzling of cool water...but listen. You hear that? Laughter, not crying. Conversation, not complaining. The creak of old wood was the only groan you'd hear there. Kids buckled down and got to work, spearheaded by go-getters who weren't afraid to get dirty and paint-stained. Badges of courage. I was shown how to do things I had rarely, or never, done before. How to paint, how to trim...how to step outside my little box of comfort and embrace service. Jesus may not have been there to wash our dirty feet at the end, but He washed our hearts and showed us the joy there could be even when we were doing tasks we may not have enjoyed at the moment.
The lady we worked under was very appreciative of our help and thanked us all the last day we worked. There was one other cool thing that happened: though the weather was hot that week, the days were clear and sunny...until the last day we served, and it only started to rain by time we finished up and were packing kids into the car. It was like God had kept back the rain so we wouldn't have to walk back and forth and get wet. That was a definite blessing. And it seemed like we were blessings in where we worked. But, as I said, there was more to the trip than service, as you will see in the next blog.