Sunday, July 26, 2009

He'll still be here when we leave.

First let me say, I know I know.... I was doing SO well at updating this thing every week, and then I skipped a week. I am sorry. In this circumstance I am going to revert back to my middle school/ high school years and remember the days when my parents said "Just blame us." :D My family is in fact the reason I did not update the blog, because they were here. I say that's a valid excuse.

Last Friday Christi, Dad & Mom all made the trip down here to WV. It was super fun to see and hang out with them. We met up in the front part of Walmart where people are all exiting and trying to grab carts. Oh you KNOW we stood right there in the center and had a little meet and greet time. They met Mark, and Kelly and then after about 20 min. they accompanied us on our shopping endeavor. It was pretty funny for them to get a taste of what we do every week. After we loaded up the vehicles with food, Dad followed me "home" to Lincoln County. He did a great job driving the curves and hills. Here, the roads say speed limit of 55 mph but really, its just from curve to curve the WHOLE way. We came inside to unload, and Dad needed a nap. :)

We spent the weekend relaxing and driving around to see all the "sites." In Charleston we stopped to see the Capital Building and there was this protest gathering going on. Mom was scared to death.... didn't want to get out of the car. I thought it was hilarious. But we got out took our tourist pictures and overheard some of the most cliche' speeches ever. :D While we were in Charleston we walked around down town and saw some beautiful streets. Then we saw the coolest thing! I looked up at the street sign to see that we were at the corner of "Hale" and "Lee." It was legit.
On Sunday before it was time for the family to leave, we shopped at Walmart where I accomplished another summer goal and bought a West Virginia T-shirt. Only $5.00!

Now for the students the past 2 weeks. We'll call them "Week 4" and "Week 5." Week 4 came and I was excited all week because I knew my parents and Christi were coming. The group was amazing. The students were not the oldest bunch, but many were right on in their relationship with Christ. It was SO encouraging to see that they "get it" and some of them are just going to be sophomores. WOW! Week 1 was also great because an adult leader brought her 2 kids. Sarah Grace, and Adaleigh. This was a huge highlight. I LOVE just hanging out with little kids and this summer I have been so refreshed every time I am around a family. Their mom Kamber was an adult leader, and the entire week, she was an incredible encouragement to me. We just clicked right away, and I was just SO thankful that she was willing to let God work through her all week long.

So after an amazing week, my parents came and it was like icing on the cake. Then it was time for "Week 5" For this week there were only 3 church groups. One was from Minnesota and brought 7 students, 2 who were older than me, and 1 who was my age. So it was a little different than our typical group. The other two groups were larger but I connected with many of the girls right away. On a fun standpoint, this group was great. We could laugh and talk about tons of stuff. But CLUB was torture. They didn't really know any of the songs, and trying to get them to let God in was a challenge. Teens were focused on each other's opinions more than God's and it was tough to experience. On top of this frustration, I started getting sick in the middle of the week. I still have it and basically, I'd say my throat feels like the size of a pea, my ears just feel funny, and there's just a lot of gunk in my throat. John thinks this building is killing me. :)

Anyways... back to the week. I kept trying to change things up, but it just didn't seem to fit the group. I had so much fun with them, but it seemed like we weren't moving from the fun to the spiritual side of things. By the end of the week, we had our foot washing service, and I was still discouraged. Usually, things come full circle by Thursday. But this week it didn't when it came to foot washing. This week took longer for me to process. It's neat because the one thing that helped me was a conversation my site had earlier in the summer. John talked about how sometimes I wouldn't see all of the work that happened in these kids hearts. But my job was to still ask questions when I thought questions needed to be asked. It was about following through with what God asked of me, and not allowing the visible "results" to get me down. What seemed ironic to me was that on our evaluations, several teens put that they did not like CLUB, however this group blessed me with the best notes of encouragement at the end of the week. I had notes from several teens thanking me for showing them that you can serve Christ AND have fun.

Moral of the story is: God has taught me a lot in the past two weeks. He blessed me with a wonderful group that was encouraging and on fire for Christ. But He also brought teens who were excited about life and still needed to find the other piece... What it means to let God rule in their lives. The work is not done yet, but I'm continuing on, trusting that God will make it happen in HIS time.

I am now preparing to start the last week of programming in Lincoln County. I cannot believe it. The summer is winding down quickly and I'm desperately trying to say my goodbyes. A few weeks ago we found out that YouthWorks! is closing the site here in Lin. Co. and moving to start another site in WV. This has been tough for me to process. I mean it makes sense to leave for a while. The work projects are just too far away. We are traveling 45 min. to get to a site to do a little painting and small repair. And housing has been difficult to find/maintain here. Even with these reasons, it is hard that we are being asked to gently close the door in Lincoln County when I hate to see the change.

This year there are about 50 kids on the kids club list with about 35 showing up everyday. Through disciplining, chasing them off the playground to sit back down, and playing INCREDIBLY competitive games of kickball, the little punks have stolen my heart. I'm sure I've carried 1/2 those kids around on my back, done obstacle courses and crafts up to wazoo and yet now that its almost over, I'm getting sentimental. So be praying.

This week will be tough. We are saying goodbye to Kids Club in Lincoln County, but I'm praying that this can be a time where we celebrate the summer and realize that God really has blessed Lincoln County. I am holding on tight to this: "God was here in Lincoln County before YouthWorks! came, and He will still be here when we leave."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Boys Boys Boys

I have been trying to think of how I can top the last blog I wrote with the adventure of getting stuck. I'm pretty sure I will not be able to make something more exciting, but I will try.

This past week was QUITE A WEEK. We had 48 high school guys, and 22 high school girls... We were a PACKED house. I burnt the tops of my fingers pretty bad steaming broccoli on Tuesday so I had blisters the rest of the week, and Well we started off Sunday and we completely ran out of Jumbalia. UH OH! I was worried that we would NEVER make it through the week food wise but then... we made a sad/glorious discovery... We forgot to make 1/2 of the boxes. So although it was sad that we were short on food, we knew that we would recover. :)

Sunday through Wednesday were a lot rougher than I expected. I was excited to have so many guys, and I was pumped because I knew we would be able to feed off of their energy much better than before. BUT.... along with their energy came chatter mouths. CLUB was difficult to get them quiet, and they weren't used to taking part in worship or anything. One big group was a private Catholic high school and the boys were getting credit. That presented an up hill battle, but at the same time I was motivated to have the boys REALLY walk away with something.

At one point during the week, I heard the boys talking and saying... I just wish this could be our schedule: Wake up, Breakfast, Ministry, Showers, Dinner, and Bed. I listened to that and thought, "WOW! He just took out every part of my job." So I knew that some of them didn't like all of the spiritual stuff, but I kept going. Most importantly, I kept praying. This was super neat because although it was the biggest struggle to quiet them down, once I "got 'em" I had 'em. They were great listeners, and despite some of the discouragement, I felt like my talks were some of my best! For me though... I thought my talks were going well but I didn't know or receive any feedback from the teens. This was different because the other weeks I would get notes and stuff as encouragement. It was harder for me to gauge and see what God was doing. However, Thursday night it became worth it.

On Thursdays we hold CLUB at Trinity United Methodist down the street because BINGO is going on in the Fire Hall. I almost like this because it is a different environment AND we try to have a more reflective mood. The message is about serving and how Christ washes His disciples feet. I explain how revolutionary this is when He does it, and all that it REALLY means. I read the Scripture, and explain it, and then always scrap the notes to talk to the group individually for the week. This is really my favorite time because God shows up. I just speak from my heart and in being BOLD in Him, I witness people change and begin to comprehend all they can do when they pursue bringing glory to God. WOW!

Well back to this specific week. Even though it was supposed to be more chill and quiet, this group still managed to bring out their loud side. The whole time up front, singing leading worship I was just praying that God would make this trip something these students would remember. A time when they REALLY encountered God. I got up in front and stressed to the students that they can make a difference and God can do AMAZING things through them if they let him. I pushed them saying that the kids they meet here, and the people they serve all have a special place in their heart. They make this HUGE impact and yet they have known them for 4 days. And I asked them.... What happens when we serve the people we live with and see everyday. I could tell God was at work because every eye was locked in listening to me. (But we all know it wasn't me.) Some started crying a little and then I explained that we want to empower them to serve at home. To show people the love of Christ and allow yourself to be loved by Him. In order to do this, we wanted to wash their leaders feet who would then wash the teens feet.

Prior to this summer I had never been a part of a foot washing service. I don't really like feet or anything, but I think my favorite part is getting a chance to pray with the adult after. It's hard to get to know the teens for a few days be a part of their spiritual walk and then never being able to follow it up. But the adult leaders DO have the opportunity to continue pushing the teens in the right direction. Taking the chance to pray for them is also helping out the teens, so I love it.

After the foot washing, the church groups have some additional debrief/talk time. So on Thursday, three of our groups were down and ready to go, while the High School group was still upstairs. Well, I walked the big group back to the Fire Hall while John waited for the boys. Later that night one of the adult leaders from the school group said, you had an entire group of 19 Senior boys crying tonight. God really did a lot.

I heard that and was in complete awe. All week long I had to trudge through CLUB. Trying and trying to speak the words of Christ, I just didn't know if it was even making an impact. But this week God showed me the reason for perseverance. I could have felt defeated by those boys but instead Christ continued to help me look at them in love. WOW!

So I now get ready to start the cycle over again. This week is hard because I wonder, what is going to be next God? I can feel that I am getting worn down with all of this and I am just praying once again, that He can be my energy and my strength. I made a goal to treat every week like it is the only one of the summer. That's not meaning I'm going to stay up late and never rest. I'm just trying to remember that although I am here day in and day out, for weeks and months, these teens are excited and this is going to be a great week for them to encounter God.

Thank you for your prayers and support. I needed them this past week and it was SO amazing to see how God provided. I received a package from Kels, a letter from Al, and a package from Mom. All prevented me from getting discouraged, and they helped remind me that I have an incredible support system pushing me to keep going here in WV. So thank you again for your prayers, and keep 'em coming. :D

It seems crazy that today is July 12th. Wow time is flying. The kids should be arriving in 1/2 hour, this week we have 41 boys, 32 girls, a 1-year old and a 5-year old. It's common that the girls outnumber the boys but that does not seem to be the case in Lincoln County. I'm sure it will be another adventure.... boys boys boys. :)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

"A Country *Gal* Will Survive!"

It's time for me to update this thing again and WOW... I am now noticing how hard it is to keep track of everything. SO much has happened within the last week. Let's start with the actual missions week.

This past week we had "Family Week." Instead of the normal 60 - 70 teens coming to the Fire Hall, we had 19 people ranging from 5 to 68 years old. On paper, you would think this would make for an easier week. However, this was not the case. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED the people. I was just exhausted this week. With such a small crew, the staff had to make up for quite a bit. At Kids Club, Lindsay is doing a GREAT job. She doubts it a lot but really, things are going well. Last year they had at max 14 kids come. This year we are right around 30. That's an AWESOME improvement. But.... this past week, we had only 11 helpers. WOW! With some of our participants being the same age as the kids, we had our hands full. Fortunately, God has given me an excitement and a willingness to tackle a challenge. There was no doubt that Lindsay needed all the help she could get. 

SO, I went to Kids Club everyday of the week. I made up games on the playground like an obstacle course, and just tried to run with the kids to wear them out. One thing is for sure... I didn't have any trouble getting a work out in. Of course, kids would race each other, but the ultimate thrill came in facing me. Well I'm a sucker for a competition so I think I did that race 12 times. :D My week was also filled with hour long games of kick ball and soccer. It was great. On the last day of Kids Club, I even made up a scavenger hunt game. I took the verse of the week and wrote it on 10 different cards and then hid them in super hard spots on the playground. I didn't know if the kids would be into it, but once I told them the rules.... they were off. I felt so accomplished that I took a group of kids who seemed to only yell derogatory comments, and got them working together searching through the Bible. I'd say that's a glimpse of success. :)

At night, our "CLUB's" were a little shorter, and the best part was that lights out came at 10:30. Praise the Lord. Even though this schedule was supposed to be easier, all of us were dragging. With family weeks, the groups take off a day earlier so we were able to have an extra day off. This was a true gift because I was so tired I couldn't even think straight. Let alone function as a leader. 

Friday morning came around and we woke up early to get to Charleston by 7:00. We had our shopping done, unloaded everything, took a nap and still made it to M&R by 1:00. That was good use of our time. Friday was also filled with many other accomplishments. Our site decided we wanted to make a music video. 3 hours later, it was finished. Edited and burned onto a DVD. That is super fast and of course, the video is superb. Only the best from Lincoln County. Plus, while Mark was finishing up the DVD, Lindsay, John and I all tie-dyed shirts! This is my first time EVER tie-dying so I thought it was "so totally wicked." 

My fourth of July was a little different than what I am used to. Usually I wake up and we head down 2 blocks to find our "spot" for the parade in good ole A-town. Then we caravan out to the lake and spend the day eating, soaking up the sun and laughing. We finish the day with my favorite.... fireworks. :) Well, some of that remained the same for me this year. I woke up hearing the sounds of parade floats outside. The Fire Hall is right in the center of town so this time I just had to wake up and walk outside. We sat in the back of the pick up and watched the entire parade. It was priceless.

 After that, the Fire Dept. had a potluck dinner and so we got to fill up on some good West Virginia cooking. BINGO always happens in the Fire Hall, and finally we all decided it was time to play. It was super fun to sit and just chat it up with everyone and of course laughing was present. Finally at 4:00 we headed to Charleston and met up with the rest of the 3 2 Crew. (That's what we call all the West Virginia sites together) We had an amazing dinner and even though it was raining, we got to see fireworks on the river. I loved it. So I wasn't home for the 4th of July... one of my favorite holidays. But, I was able to experience it in a totally new place. I loved spending Independence Day in WV. Seeing how no matter where you are, people are celebrating the same thing. Freedom. But most of all, it really helped me recognize that nothing can replace being at home. 

Now for the story of all stories.... Getting stuck. 

Last Saturday Mark and I decided to go on a picture taking adventure. We started down Trace Creek Road because I knew we could find some SWEET pictures. Right after the first turn, we saw "Jenga Barn" where it looked like if you took away one board, the WHOLE BARN would collapse. So we kept going and finally it became a dirt road. YES! This meant our trip had officially become legit. I was driving so that Mark could take pictures, and well the road started to get pretty intense. A lot of areas had been washed out and at one point my water bottle went from the cup holder on my right, to beside me on my left. That was also the time when Mark and I were positive... two wheels had just gone air-born. After that, Mark kindly suggested "How about I drive?" I was fine with this. Mark literally drove probably 30 feet and he decided to turn around. I watched this process and just as I got ready to say "Ahh" it was too late, our front right tire had already gone down toward the creek below. Mark put it in reverse but there was no hope... we were stuck. 

So of course, I look to my cell phone and "cheerfully" see.... we have no service. Great. We look in the back of the truck and we have NOTHING. Surprisingly, both Mark and I were pretty chill about all of it. But I was definitely thinking of the quote in the movie the Incredibles... "Now nobody panic... *We're Dead... WE'RE DEAD.*" :) The only thing Mark had was his little pocket knife John just got him. So he used that to dig a rock out of the road which we tried to place under our back left tire. If we could get traction under it, we would be home free. Our attempts failed. We salvaged some gravel from the back of the truck and tried to pack that along with twigs back there but nothing was working. 

Mark decided that if we could get some weight in the back of the truck, I could drive and He could push and maybe that would get us out. SO.... we both started digging at the road to get rocks for the back. We probably looked pathetic. During our digging time, we suddenly heard 2 motors coming our way. Soon two dirt bikers came around the corner. They were great in trying to help us. Cussing up a storm and trying to figure out WHAT in the world we were going to do. They decided to ride on down the road to find help. About a 1/2 hour later they came back saying. "You should have just kept going... the end of the road is just a 1/4 mile that way." Great. :( They had asked a lady to be looking for a truck to send our way, and then they took off saying they would meet up with their buddies and make sure to stop by later. Mark and I had great hopes so we just chilled there with the truck. I took a nap, he took a walk, and still no signs of help. Mark goes "Well I wish we had some cards." Of course.... I check my purse and there they are... I have cards. So at this point we are stuck in the middle of no where and we end up playing war because that was the only 2 person game we could think of. After I beat Mark he says, "Let's go... we're taking a walk." It was time to find freedom. 

So we start down the road on our "1/4 mile" hike with me wearing flip flops and Mark wearing Toms shoes. We were completely unprepared for this. After 1 1/2 miles later, we reached the road. The quarter mile hike had really been through the creek, up and down, and jumping from rock to rock. We loved our lives. Finally we reached civilization or so we thought. Really they were just houses with no one around except cows grazing on the side of the mountain. We reached the road and walked a 1/2 mile while a car and a truck passed us by without stopping. Outside a house, we saw a lady working in her garden. After yelling over a crazy sheep dog's bark, the lady came to the fence. We asked to use her phone, but she refused. It was weird. 

Right at this time, a truck was driving by. I basically threw myself in front of it so that he would stop. Inside was the tiniest old man I have EVER seen. Earl Atkins was his name. We explained our situation and he just said, "Well hop on in." He drove us back the 1/2 mile we had just walked and then an additional 1/2 mile to his house. Inside we called John to find out that they had already left for Charleston to meet the 3 2 Crew. Mark decided to call GL, a community contact to get some help. Inside Earl's house, we waited for GL while talking a little. Fifteen minutes later, we saw GL's truck shoot on by the house. Mark and I jumped up, and headed out the door. We tried to chase down GL and ran back the 1/2 mile to our road but it was too late. GL was gone. :( 

At this point, Mark said, "Well, I think we should split up." I'm thinking "WHAT!?!?" but I just go... "Ok." So, Mark decides to wait by the road to see if GL comes back, and I head back the mile and 1/2 to the truck. Jumping the creek, from rock to rock in my flip flops, and using all the survival skills I had ever acquired from my Dad, I braved the hike alone. At this point it was getting dark especially in the woods. Then on my left I heard a big sound and got scared. There can be BEARS out here so... I took off running. I jumped back in the truck shut the door as quick as possible and tried to "act cool." 

After about 10 minutes of sitting there, I heard a motor coming my way. Soon 2 old men came around the corner in a four-wheeler/golf cart. I hopped on out of the car, explained the situation and then waited to see if they could help. Their main focus seemed to be the fact that they could not get around us, but I was thanking the Lord that our truck had blocked the whole way so that they had to help us. He decided to hook up a winch on the front right side and he started pulling. It wasn't doing anything but I jumped on in the truck, fired her up, threw it in reversed and punched the gas. It was like a miracle when all the sudden, I felt myself move that glorious first few inches. WE WERE FREE!!! 

I loved hearing Mark's perspective because he said that as he was walking back, he was praying and he said that he had for the first time given up hope. He thought we were going to be sleeping in the truck that night. And less than a minute later, he heard the truck engine and came around to see me actually moving. WOW!

Moral of the story. Mark and I left the Fire Hall at 2:15, and by 2:30 we were stuck. We returned to the Fire Hall at 8:30 and immediately left to go to Charleston. It was quite an adventure. We may have missed a dinner with our friends, but it was a true West Virginia experience. The best part was that as we drove by our two good samaritans, the oldest one hollered out to us: "A Country Boy Will Survive." :)