Last week, I skipped out on life, school, and work to go on a mission trip to Appalachia, KY (Cumberland, KY) with my home church‘s youth group on their spring break. No cell service. No internet. Just 16 teenagers, two 15 passenger vans, paint, drywall, weed pulling, air mattresses, t-shirts, and God.
I was in charge of the painting and drywalling crews…we stayed at a place called Club 180 ministries and worked to help them finish their upstairs. We mudded a few holes, sanded, mudded again, sanded again, and then sanded some more…to say the least. Then we got to paint. I love painting. I’m not artistic and I could never paint anything anyone would want to hang on their walls, but I can paint walls. We didn’t just paint and drywall though, we helped create a home, a safe place, a hang out, a living room, and invitation to something more. Club 180 has an afterschool hangout time for kids in this small Appalachian community of 1500 where they can get homework help, hang out, and have someone ask about their day. They have a family. We got to be a part of making that experience more inviting, more restful, more like going over to a best friend’s living room.
This was also a preview of my summer. One afternoon this week, I was going from room to room, project to project, making sure everyone was on task, hydrated, and enjoying themselves at least a little bit. One room had TobyMac blasting while girls danced with drywall sanders in a cloud of dust. Another had a few kids mudding while others cleaned or organized power tools to the tunes of Kutless. Downstairs people were cleaning or learning to play guitar to the tunes of Third Day. As I walked back upstairs, I paused for a second and simply smiled. The whole time I was roaming, I kept thinking to myself “I wish this was my day to day life….I wish I could just do this all day every day, even for a summer…” Then it hit me, that is my summer. 🙂 All I could do was stop and smile and thank God for providing me the opportunity this summer.
I feel at home on mission trips. I feel at home getting to give people more of a ‘home-y” feel to their homes/offices/etc. We didn’t just paint a room, we helped create an experience. An place where we have no idea what experiences will happen, but we helped make it just a little bit more inviting. We touched the lives of all of the kids who walked through the old furniture store doors. But it’s more than that. They touched our lives. Lives were changed this week. Friendships restored. Community strengthened.
None of this is was possible without God, though. Mission trips give you a new sense of God’s presence in your lives. You are often out of your comfort zone, away from friends/family/home, in a new place with new people you don’t know, yet by the end of the week, you feel like you’ve gained a new home with new friends and new family. None of that is possible without God’s presence. Each day, waking up, eating Apple Jacks and PopTarts, watching 16 teenagers spread out across the small park in the valley of the mountains for ‘quiet time’ before returning to serve until they have nothing left, I felt God working through them and in me.
I’m so proud of all of the youth who went with us this week for the work they did, but even moreso because they realized that it was not them doing the work. Thursday night, at the urging of one of the students, we had a ‘share time’ where we just sat back, ate popcorn, and reflected on the week. It was their idea. It was beautiful.
It’s so hard for me to transition back into school/work mode after trips like last week, but there’s also a fresh air about it all. I only have 5 more days of class left in my college career….26 days until I graduate……and 41 days until my 2 1/2 month adventure at a to be determined location…. Life is radically different from where I envisioned it being a year ago but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. God is good if we simply give up control, rest in Him, and allow Him to work in us in HIS timing, not ours. Life is an adventure to be lived and shared with those around you. Things may not always end up working out the way you or your family thought they would, but a life in God’s hands is so much sweeter than either of those combined. Trust in Him, pray constantly, and take time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
On a side note, I only have 41 days until I am gone for 2.5 months and then I don’t know how long I’ll be here in the fall….so let’s hang out people.