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Well, as we all know, every great hero needs a sidekick. Even our very own “Hank the Heroic Sheep” falls into this category. Throughout the week in Baton Rouge students demonstrated worthy characteristics of the ultimate partner in saving the day. Day one on the trip Gary had quickly decided who would receive Hank for the day. This particular decision was not based on work ethic, but rather on consolation. Adam Young has fallen prey to missing his younger sister, Leah, quite a few times. There is just no denying a tight family bond.
Monday began the heavy duty stuff. Non-stop work from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. left us with a tired group. But, in that time there were countless priceless moments. There was one that stood out though. This person displayed perseverance throughout the day.
Chris Powers first showed us his commitment to getting the job done when he fell out of the chair he was standing on. Alas, it did not stop him. Just as quick as he went down, he got back up and continued working. There was also a conquering of his fear of lizards.
The next to receive Hank were a trio of young ladies. Their desire to obtain Hank was not easily missed. Before the trip began they made sure to let others know that Hank would be in their hands soon enough. Anna Moss, Brooke Bradford, and Carrie Westmoreland wouldn’t give up before their dreams became a reality.
We couldn’t deny the importance our cooking team played in this weeks’ accomplishments. Martha Cornelius and Peggy Moore filled our tummies so that the show could go on. A well deserving duo.
The final night came and Hank was to meet his final companion. To great surprise, the interns Juliana Gorman, Brittney Mansel, and Cassandra Cobb ending the week with Hank. But, before celebration could take place, Hank was snatched from their grips and taken hostage by the eleventh grade girls. After much negotiating and possibly threatening he was handed over. As you can see, it was quite a week.
Exhausted, overjoyed, and humbled. Just a few emotions the group is currently experiencing as the work day ends. The entire group, chaperones and students, have all put in a great deal of work today to complete our project. We are exhausted, but overjoyed by the progress we saw on the work project as well as the progress of unity experienced in the youth group. The students began this morning by being broken into teams and given assignments. Ready to complete the task, they put forth all effort to make sure the job was done and done right. Many of the male chaperones, boys, and a couple of girls put out a lot of energy to make sure that all of the dividing walls would be up by the end of the day. Even through the chaos of last-minute touch-ups and cleaning, it was a blessing to hear many students encouraging other students and even the adults. The students were extremely eager to ask the adults what could they do next.
The staff of Church of Life Fellowship, along with a few church members, were happy to help us with last minute details. Multiple times today, a church member would walk by a room and express their gratitude for all of the students’ hard work and how great everything looked. Brother Harry, volunteer maintenance supervisor, said on many occasions that the accomplishments of this week have put them ten years ahead. Because of the new rooms and available space, Vacation Bible School teachers will have more time to focus on preparations for the children studies.
When asked about what the students learned and how they could live that out practically once we return home, Shiloh Wilson said that she learned how to have a servant’s heart and realized that it’s not about her own comfort and wants but about doing God’s work, whatever is available to do for His glory.
Today’s work day packed quite a punch. Especially, in correlation to the boys who removed tiles from the floor of the church’s storage building. They even threw in a little special touch of Fabulouso floor cleaner to freshen up the smell. Final details were finished in multiple rooms this evening, but the hallway will be the morning challenge. The students did not allow Bro. Breck’s visitation time to be wasted. They immediately put him on construction crew, building walls to divide larger rooms. Do not worry. The ladies showed some work ethic as well. The fine-line trimming shows their tedious effort.
After a filling lunch, Carrie Westmoreland gave the group a lesson on the EvangeCube and how to effectively share it. Students and adults went door to door to promote Church of Life Fellowship’s upcoming Vacation Bible School.
Many people were very receptive and appreciative to have people investing in their community. They are very excited to have the opportunity that the health fair will offer. As we have spent time with Bro. Harry, our hearts have grown fonder for the mission of Church of Life Fellowship. A few students have spent much of their working time cleaning out a storage building. These students were urged on by finding out that the use of the building will be to make a store of clothing and shoes for the homeless; the heat, sweat, stench, filth, and fatigue were overpowered by the desire to equip the local body of believers to show the love of Christ. A lot of work has gone into dividing classrooms into much smaller spaces. Many were wondering why we are doing that when they would only be able to fit a small number of people. Bro. Harry explained that those rooms would be used to teach reading and writing, a situation where participants do not desire a Fairview sized Sunday school room. Tenth grader Taylor White commented on how eye-opening it has been to see how much work goes into a church plant. It has been pure joy for the students to pour into the work that the Lord is doing through the local body of believers to fulfill the great commission and make disciples.
*Alicia says, “Hi, Mom!”
Sometimes the best way to reflect on a day is to think of the words which best describe what went on during the day. Sometimes you just hear the same words repeated often (and any conversation with intern Cassandra is sure to include several uses of the word “whatnot,” if “whatnot” even is a word). During the church group devotion time tonight, several words kept coming up over and over. One of those words was selflessness. Josh McKay used Colossians 3:12-14 as the theme passage to teach ideas about humble devotion to each other. Afterward when other students and adults began sharing observations about the day, several of them talked about the unselfish way that members of the group tackled difficult and tedious jobs with no griping or complaining (so, parents, it’s possible for your teenagers to mop, clean bathrooms, etc. without groaning. Use that information at your own discretion).
Another word which was a theme for the day was initiative. Students went the extra mile throughout the day by searching for jobs to do once they finished the task that they were assigned. The adult chaperones specifically mentioned several times that they saw students going to look for work instead of waiting to be asked to do something.
One of the ideas that has come up repeatedly since Sunday and particularly so today is unity. The spirit of togetherness has been strong ever since the group left for Baton Rouge. The teenagers have worked together with nothing but cooperation and cohesiveness. Several of the older students who have been in the student ministry for years have said that they have felt connected to each other more closely this week than they have at any other point during their youth group experience.
After a very long day of work yesterday, the group slept well last night! The breakfast crowd gathered later and slower this morning, but we headed off to the Church of Life Fellowship property shortly after 8:00. Steve Beckham, who is the pastor of Church of Life, said that he hardly slept at all last night because of how excited he was over the progress on the buildings. Harry Burton who is the volunteer church maintenance supervisor said, “I slept like a baby, because you young people wore me out!”
The morning projects have gone well enough that a group is supposed to head out this afternoon to do evangelistic work in the neighborhood. Heavy rain is falling now, so we are delayed a little on walking through the community to pass out fliers and Bibles and to talk with others about Christ.
Some of our adults and students got a head start on meeting some of the church neighbors by visiting with a couple of families this morning. We hope to have opportunities the rest of the week to shine the light of Jesus in the blocks surrounding the church property.
Students and adults already have had a positive experience in Baton Rouge. Jordan Shelton said that one of the best parts of the week has been the chance to stretch her relationship circle by spending time with members of the youth group that she ordinarily doesn’t see much. Intern Julianna Gorman capitalized on time with a group of girls as they applied mud to interior walls by leading them in a discussion of the people that they hope to become.
Each night the group gathers at 9:30 for a devotion led by a student and a chance to talk about what they think needs to be shared with the group. On Sunday night, Abby Jenkins used several passages from Scripture to talk about Christ’s call for His followers to love each other. Later Gary asked the students what they hoped would happen during the week and what their expectations of the trip were. The goal most-mentioned by the students was that God would use the experience of working together to foster stronger group unity and deeper love in individual relationships.
We jumped right into the week working at the church from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. It was a very long day, but a lot of progress was made–cleaning, mudding, and painting galore! The students exemplified their commitment to the attitude challenge by working together to accomplish huge tasks today. First coats were applied to three Sunday school rooms and a large gym, while many of the students painstakingly removed wallpaper bits at a time from the girls’ restroom. All the while, students branched outside of normal friend groups and got to know each other.
Shiloh Wilson did a sensational job with the devotion on Monday night. Shiloh used Matthew 16:24-27 as the passage for her devotion and shared with her group how God has been teaching her lately about surrendering herself completely to Him. Once the devotion was over, Gary asked students and adults to share with the rest of the group something that they had observed during the work day that they thought the rest of the group needed to know. Members of the mission team talked a long time about the humble service and hard work that they saw during the day. Far too much was shared to mention here, but the encouragement was warm and uplifting.
One highlight of each of our days in Baton Rouge has been the time when we have passed out the cards, packages, and envelopes from back home. The Fairview church family has boosted our spirits with the dozens and dozens of pieces of mail that you have sent. Thank you! Keep praying for us.
As some of you may know, we have a rising star among us. His name is “Hank: the Heroic Sheep.” He features a flowing, crimson cape atop his snowy white fluff. But, Hank has a greater purpose than just being cute. He is seeking out sidekicks by the day. We have already had students step up to the challenge and excelled with flying colors. Those colors, by the way, are red and white. Results will posted soon, to a computer near you!
On the pre-project visit to Baton Rouge that Gary made in May, the pastor and a group of volunteers from Church of Life Fellowship said, “Tell those students that they don’t know it yet, but they are the answer to our prayers. We have asked God to send manpower to help us with the overwhelming needs with our building.”
In God’s providential ordering of circumstances, He made the one week available on the Fairview student ministry summer calendar the exact week that Church of Life needed help. Their two largest outreach events of the year are coming up in the next few days. First, they are sponsoring a health fair on Saturday and hope to have 500 people on their campus. In addition to cholesterol screening, blood pressure checks, AIDS testing, and other basic medical exams that will go on, Church of Life will cover the gym floor with volunteers who will share the gospel with each patient who attends the health fair. Their Vacation Bible School is next week, and as you know, VBS often is the single most effective evangelistic effort in any church.
The work that our group is doing is helping the church be ready for their efforts to lead people in their community for Christ. Please pray diligently for physical endurance, effective use of time, and group unity.
Well, it’s that time to start packing up the air mattresses and throw away those dirty clothes. This week in West Memphis, there were friendships made, comfort zones broadened, and most importantly, a desire sparked in our youth. After spending this week going door to door in between paint strokes, our students have been burdened for the community. Not only where we are right now but where we will be coming back to tomorrow morning. Tonight, they reported 55 salvations through the sharing of Christ. This is a result of obedience.
It has been a blessing, not a burden, to have been able to work on these homes. Countless homeowners poured out their love on the kids providing their time and sweat this week. The main discussion for our last night is the necessity of the Gospel for our own community. There is a necessity for prayer over the lost that are at our back doors. A necessity for harvesters to enter into the field that God has been preparing. This is our calling. Not just a calling for the students this week. It is our purpose. We are to advance the Gospel. It has been a honor to serve alongside these students.
Just to add a small side note, the girls had to suffer after our group discussions due to a playful prank that involved deflating our beds. You can never fully prepare for a youth trip.
Air mattresses blown up. Bags across the floor. Snacks at every bedside. We are at world changers! Crews went out today to get a start on their projects. They are doing everything from painting, tearing down sheds, and even repairing fire damaged wood. The kids are motivated and challenged to be selfless this week by putting others before themselves. This has not been a burden to them. Our ‘saw teeth’ crew was hard at work today; accomplishing much more than we expected to.
Isaac Saint wanted to share a little bit of how he feels about World Changers. “This week has been awesome and it is only the first day. If someone hasn’t experienced World Changers, then they should.”
Elizabeth Malone has been assigned to be a crew encourager for this week. But, she found herself being the one encouraged by the students on the work site. She said it was exciting getting to know kids from so many places in the U.S. but also from our own church.
We had beautiful weather today as well as groups being bold about the Gospel. Many crews intentionally went out into the community to evangelize. And this is only day one!