College Ministry, Young Adult Ministry

A Mission Trip Without the Miles

The week before finals.

While this time frame is perhaps the most dreaded for many of my college-age friends, it has become one of my very favorite. First Trinity’s outreach ministry at the University of Buffalo (called UB Common Ground) kicks into high gear during the last week of each semester to serve and care for students. This means I get the joy to be on campus every day this week to offer a bottle of water, a smile or hug, a prayer, a “you-can-do-it” to whoever wanders in! It feels almost like a mission trip, except it’s just a few miles down the road. We prep, get our team together, gather supplies. I’m out of the office more than I’m in it. I soon forget what day it is and get so lost in what is going on that I might as well be on a different continent.

But no planes are needed here. Nope, just a few hours each afternoon, some coffee, and a couple dozen homemade cookies are all that it takes. While college life truly is another culture all its own, the cross-cultural experience doesn’t stop there. Within minutes I can leave my little cubical of Tonawanda NY and be transported to India or Indiana, Nepal or New York City, China, Iraq, and the list goes on. Sometimes God calls us to jump on a plane to another place in the world; other times He brings the world to us. In any case, His call remains the same:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew‬ ‭28:19-20‬‬

As I sat next to a friend Barry today, this verse came into a new light. In a few weeks this friend of ours will wrap up his time in Buffalo and return to Singapore. He will be greatly missed on Wednesday afternoons, but something really cool comes out of this too.

Through campus ministries, ours and others, Barry has grown in his faith, been discipled, taught God’s commands, and reminded of God’s presence with him always. He has been challenged in his faith and we’ve witnessed him sharing that and encouraging others. I’m pray those are things that continue as he leaves us soon.

Barry is not the only one either. On any given Wednesday afternoon we may interact with students from any part of the country or even the world. When we can show the love and grace to these students we meet on campus each week, they can in turn return to their cities, states, nations, knowing Jesus more and more equipped to share the Good News of Christ in those places. As First Trinity’s Mission states, we truly can “transform our WORLD one life at a time.”

Sometimes I think we complicate God’s commission too much. I am all about domestic and international missions and truly enjoy any opportunity I have to follow God’s command to “go” when it takes me far from here. I also have to remember that the physical place I may be called to could be as close as the friend across the coffee table, the neighbor down the street, or a group of college kids struggling to make it through the final days of the semester.

Go.

Near or far.

Go.

To all the nations.

Go.

Get on a plane or walk down the street.

Go.

The world needs hope and light and love to break through the darkness and despair. We have that to offer.

So, go.

And remember: God is with you, always!

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Bekah's Heart, Crossroads, First Trinity, Young Adult Ministry, Youth Ministry

Why I Do What I Do – In Two Pictures

Flipping through a publication quick today to see if there was anything of value to read, this page caught my eye:

  
 How true and how sad it is that this really is what “the world” communicates.

The very next page, though, was this:  

 
And in two pictures, I was reminded why I do what I do.  

Because in a loud world telling us we’re not enough and no one wants us and no one cares and that maybe even God has abandoned us, I have experienced and know Truth:

You are loved.

You are precious.

You are treasured.

You have purpose and meaning.

GOD LOVES YOU!
Speak against the world’s lies… Share some truth today.

Bekah's Heart, College Ministry, Young Adult Ministry, Youth Ministry

One More Step

Vacation was awesome.

Coming back from vacations are often difficult.  Thankfully, this one wasn’t as bad as I potentially expected it could be heading into a busy week.  Tuesday was a super busy day but I think that helped keep me focused on the tasks at hand.

Wednesday though we hit the “theres-so-much-to-do-but-can’t-figure-out-what-to-do-so-I-just-won’t-do-anything” phase full force.  I knew going into today I needed a game plan or it would be easy to let yet another day pass by with only minimal work actually being accomplished.

For some reason this morning I was reminded of a book title I heard recently: “One More Step” by Rachel Wojo. While I haven’t actually read it (though it did get put on my mile-long to-read list), the concept itself was intriguing to me.  Really, that’s what our lives really are made of, right?!? … one step… and then another… and then another.  By simply asking “What’s the one next thing I can/should/need to do?” it takes a huge task (or pile of them) and makes it manageable.

So that’s what I did. Instead of feeling the weight of my entire job of trying to help youth and young adults in this church and community know Jesus and live out their faith, how about I start by finishing the devotion for youth group tonight?  Oh yes, I need the days with big picture planning and dreaming, but the days right after being away aren’t the time for that.  Instead, it’s just one step at a time. I listed all the main areas of my job (and home life) and then just put what one step was that I could do for that area today.

And it worked.  I took one more step for our Thursday night ministry.  One more step for our Sunday morning High School Ministry preparing for the next series (actually two steps here!).  I took one more step to continue to grow the often-overwhelming Lifetree Cafe Ministry at UB.  I took one more step to keep nurturing our oh-so-new church-based college ministry.

I took one more step in a lot of different areas and whether those steps were big or small in the scheme of the bigger pictures, we are closer to our goals today than we were yesterday, and that’s good enough for now.

“Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”  (Matthew 6:34)

One step at a time.

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Crossroads, First Trinity, Mission Work, Young Adult Ministry

Jamaica Mission Day 6 Recap

Our final full day in Jamaica was a fun one, another change to laugh… a lot!  We ate breakfast around the normal time and then headed out to Negril on the west cost of Jamaica.  Our first stop was at a gift shop for souvenir type gifts for people back home.  The craft marker was up next and while fun, a little crazy with everyone wanting you to come in to their shops.  Some our team struggled a bit as well with the concept of bartering, but we all came away with a fun experience and some things to take back home.

Our lunch options included Burger King or Juci Patties before heading to Rick’s Cafe.  The big attraction at Rick’s a chance to experience cliff jumping/diving.  With options from 10 ft all the way up to 30 (higher ones weren’t open the day we were there) as well as places to sit/stand and watch, everyone had a great time.  Unfortunately it started raining on our way to Rick’s which, within about 45 minutes turned into a full blown thunderstorm cutting our time short in the water.  Thankfully though, we packed those 45 minutes with lots of jumping and floating in the ocean.  Paul won the record with 5 jumps off the 30 foot cliff; one was enough for me!

The PPM staff ran for the vans in the midst of the rain and we headed down the coast a few miles to Sea Winds Resort for the afternoon.  God answered our prayers and let the sun come out a bit for our time at the beach filled with swimming, sea creature finding, soccer, frisbee, and more.  They also rented out a few rooms for us to shower in before our delicious jerk chicken dinner on the beach.  (REAL showers with WARM water! REAL flushing toilets!)  Our final debrief was supposed to happen at Sea Winds as well, but with everything wet from the afternoon showers, we decided to head back to Town Head instead.  We had come to love our time and space for this each night, I don’t think we would have had it any other way!

The bus ride back was anything but boring as some sleep-deprived young adult (and their leaders) sang and laughed and other things that fall under the “what happens in Jamaica, stays in Jamaica” category.  As Mr. Stone told me to put in the quote book that night: “Some things just shouldn’t be put in the quote book!” or as someone else said, “#donthashtagthat!”  A God-sighting for me came as I jokingly “apologized” to our driver and teammate, Andy, for our craziness on the way out of the bus.  He simply smiled, said he loved it and that it made him feel great that we all obviously felt safe and comfortable.  And that we did… his driving was a huge blessing to us this week as he prayed each time before he got behind the wheel and truly depended on God to keep us safe!

Debriefing tonight was super fun as we each shared ONE word that described the week for us followed by another chance for us to affirm each other.  My favorite part of the night though was a chance for our team to pray over our 3 Jamaican teammates, Andy, Al and Dillon as they wrapped up a summer of ministry.  They had been such a blessing to us all week, and we hope this was a small way to bless them back. Oh, and we had to celebrate our senior, Sarah!

Part of the way through our debriefing, the Pastor of all 4 churches the teams worked/lived at that week stopped by to see us.  We were surprised and honored as he presented each of us with a personalized plaque.  What a fun reminder of our time there!  Of course, the rest of the night was filled with laughter and other shenanigans before finally heading to bed.

 

 

Crossroads, First Trinity, Mission Work, Young Adult Ministry

Jamaica Mission Day 5 Recap

The girls all got up early Wednesday to help decorate for Jake’s Birthday.  Since we couldn’t do something where he was sleeping, we decorated part of the common area including a special chair for him.  Our decorations included the typical streamers, balloons, etc. as well as some coconuts for Jamaican flair.

At breakfast we sang to him again and then, with the help of some of our Jamaican friends, proceeded to dump flour all over him as is the tradition in Jamaica.  He was surprised for sure… and a good sport about it all.  He took it well and we all had a good laugh to start the day.

After breakfast we headed out for our final day of VBS at Fullersfield Baptist Church.  It was a great but chaotic day.  A highlight for me was seeing some of the older kids actually somewhat engaged in the story times and other activities.  I also loved seeing our team members step up and step out of their comfort zones time and time again, doing whatever they can to communicate Jesus’ love to the VBS kids.  The end of VBS was challenging for us, especially as one of the women from the church forced the kids to leave right away afterward which made our goodbyes with them sudden and short.

After lunch, the health clinic team set up while the rest got changed to head back to the construction site.  We had a few VBS moms and a few others at the health clinic but due to it being Jamaica’s Independence Day numbers were down.  I personally used the time time clen up from VBS and get the supplies we brought organized to leave at the church.  We tried the mobile clinic again by taking a long route to the construction site, but again, Andy guessed most people headed to the beach for the holiday.

When we arrived at the construction site, our team was hard at work with the Jamaican workers.  I loved seeing the buckets passed … American… Jamaican… American… Jamaican… truly working together… and laughing the whole time.

A huge God-sighting for me today came after all the work was over.  While we began to say our goodbyes and gather on the bus, I witnessed many on our team literally giving the Jamaican workers the clothes off their backs and shoes off their feet!  Even cooler was watching some of the Jamaican workers help our team wash the cement off their legs and feet.  John 13:14-15 flashed through my mind:

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

We came to serve… and found ourselves BEING served!

Back in Town Head, dinner was chicken, beef, rice, and potatoes.  As everyone came in and sat down, our group enacted a plan crafted earlier in the day.  It just wouldn’t be a First Trinity youth/young adult mission trip without at least one round of the “Get Down” dance from Workcamp.  A flash mob at dinner seemed the most appropriate way. 🙂  We all laughed the whole time, especially as Al joined us… WHILE STILL EATING HIS DINNER!   Unfortunantly, the only pictures of this event are caught in our minds, but we will never forget the fun we had and the looks on the faces of the missionaries from the other churches.  (I think they though we had COMPLETELY lost it.)

During our group devotion time, we sang one last time to Jake with his “cake” made out of Hostess cupcakes and twinkies c/o his mom, complete with candles that wouldn’t stay lit no matter what I tried due to the large quantity of fans we had going in the room to keep it cool.  It was so awesome to see him willingly and joyfully give up his birthday to serve others in Jesus’ name!

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Thankful for another amazing day in Jamaica.  As I looked back through my journal from Day 5 to jog my memory to write this post, I found this statement that describes something I was thankful for all week long:

“I love our PPM staff so much… Andy, Al, Dillon, and Ricardo.  They have been so much fun and so extremely helpful.  They keep us safe, our water jugs full, our minds focused, and our faces smiling.”

Crossroads, First Trinity, Mission Work, Young Adult Ministry

Jamaica Mission Day 4 Recap

Tuesday, the middle day of the trip.  Often characterized by exhaustion and grumpiness… a day where patience starts to wear thin and frustrations arise within the group… NOT SO TODAY!!!  Instead Day 4 was absolutely amazing from start to finish!

Popsie's first game of tag!
Popsie’s first game of tag!

VBS was great again and a little better after making some changes from the first day.  We had about 75 kids which also upped the chaos level.  A challenge for us was having so many teenagers and trying to adapt lessons/activities to them.

 

 

Some personal God-sightings for me at VBS:

  • a little boy Nick, during the song “All Around the World”, instead of high fives would run up and hug me.
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    My buddy Nick
  • watching Tim pick up Popsie (see yesterday’s post to learn more about Popsie) and carry him during all the games so he could participate; perhaps the first time Popsie EVER got to play a game of tag in his entire life.
  • Will sitting down with one of the older kids we had problems with throughout the day and having real conversation with them.
  • Paul’s willingness to come in… after running around in the sun ALL MORNING LONG and let us put about 8 black trashbags on him as part of the closing VBS skit
  • As Jordan put it: “there were times when the VBS was on the brink of completely falling apart into chaos… but God was the thread holding it all together.

After VBS we had tons of fun and hanging out with the kids while waiting for our lunch (rice and meat) to arrive.   Smiles, playing with our hair, tickle fights and more!

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Ricardo (PPM Team Leader) at the health screenings

Then we (Megan, Bekah, Becca, Gina, Stacy, and Sarah) got set up for the medical screenings while the rest of the team prepared to head to the construction site at Paul Island School.  Some of the moms were just patiently waiting for us to start so we were able to jump in right away.  We did about 10-15 blood pressure and blood sugar screenings at the church including many of the PPM staff, but then it began to slow down.

Al (a PPM staff member with our group) and I were talking and suggested taking a few of us out to do a community walk and invite people for the next day.  As a few of us when to head out, Andy (our driver and another PPM staff) stopped us and simply said, “Wait, what if we take it to THEM!”  Next thing we know we were loaded up and started what may have been PPMs first MOBILE medical clinic!

Mobile Health Clinic
Mobile Health Clinic

Andy drove us around the area, pulled over opened windows and invited people in.  Word would spread and more people showed up on the side of the roads!  At one point we stopped to talk to some ladies under a tree. Before we knew it we had screened over 15 people (maybe 20) at that spot in the road alone!  We got to do some screenings once we got to the construction site to making our total well over 50 for the day!

It was fun to pull up at the construction site and see everyone all hard at work… and smiling!  The stories that continued throughout the bus ride back to Town Head and all night long prove what an awesome day it was for that part of the team as well.   My favorite moment of the day was the bus ride back to Town Head as we literally laughed the WHOLE WAY HOME.

Team hard at work at the construction site!
Team hard at work at the construction site!

Dinner was BBQ chicken, pumpkin rice, and spaghetti.  After dinner we did some prep for the next day, showered (the boys were happy Ricardo let them shower even though boys shower time was normally only in the morning!)  and laughed some more!

Worship and devotion time proved to fit the “amazing” theme of the day as well… singing “How Great is Our God” together.  Encouragement from John (from Faith Fellowship Church) to keep making the most of every moment.  Wade (PPM staff) singing another song he wrote.  All wrapped up with cake and ice cream to celebrate Amy and John’s anniversary and Jake’s birthday (the next day).   We used team devotion time to laugh some more (of course) and affirm how we saw God working in each team member so far in the week.

The night ended with each member receiving their letters from home, encouragement to keep moving through the final days of the trip.

I will forever remember this day in Jamaica!

Crossroads, First Trinity, Mission Work, Young Adult Ministry

Jamaica Mission Recap Day 3

Britney and Mr. Stone - VBS Day 1
Britney and Mr. Stone – VBS Day 1

Wow, what a day! So full, I”m not sure where to start…. so many joys in today… so much to praise God for!

This morning started after a great night’s rest. YAY! 🙂  … and a few bug bites 😦  Breakfast included fried dumplings, ackee fruit with fish (ackee is the national fruit though it’s not really what we think of as a fruit.  It doesn’t have much taste but rather is used somewhat like tofu where it takes on the seasonings and spices of what you cook it with.), eggs, and fruit.

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VBS Crafts – Day 1

We headed right out for VBS.  The day started about 30 minutes late and with only 10 kids, but ended with nearly 60!  It was such a joy for me to see all the participants leading the stations they’ve been preparing so long for and to see it all come together.  A special joy was seeing Britney, a girl we met at church the day before.  She especially loved spending time with Mr. Stone.   Britney’s brother Popsie also joined us despite some hesitations due to needing a walker and not having much use of his legs.  He’s had countless surgeries in his few years already on earth.  One of my favorite moments of the day was seeing Gina sit with him making a bracelet while the other kids were doing a game he couldn’t really play. We had a good debriefing time trying to figure out what changes might need to be made for the net day while eating some more Juci Patties for lunch.

Gina and Popsie making bracelets
Gina and Popsie making bracelets

The infirmary was a tough one for many of us.  (Side note: the infirmaries in Jamaica are kind of a mix between a hospital and a nursing home.  The reality is that while they get decent care, the people there really have no family to care for them or even visit them.  So, visits like ours are important to get one-on-one attention and care for them beyond medical care.  There is one infirmary in each parish/state in Jamaica. We went with one other church to visit and love on the people.)  Here are some of the stories of the people we met:

  • Megan and I began our visit with a bed-ridden woman named Mary.  She couldn’t talk with us too much but we had a chance to both read some Scripture to her and pray over her.
  • I wish I could remember the name of the man I met near the end of our visit in the men’s ward.  He was unable to talk really but was able to communicate to use through motions that he had had a stroke and was trying to recover use of his right side of his body including his ability to speak.  I would guess he was in his 50s or 60s.  Much of our group had gone further down the ward when I began talking with him.  When asked if he’d like me to read some Scripture, his face lit up and I began sharing some favorite verses from Psalms and Isaiah.  After a few chapters I asked Becca and Paul to come read some more.  While they were reading, I held the man’s hand.  It felt as if every verse they read his grip got stronger and stronger and his face less and less weary.  A funny moment came with Paul was reading Psalm 91.  He stopped part way through and the man motioned to him with a look on his face that communicated, “I know that’s not the end… keep reading.”  The motion was repeated for the next few chapters anytime Paul stopped.  This man was truly savoring every moment he could with people and hearing God’s Word.  You could tell he was dependent upon it to stay in the fight toward healing.  It was difficult to leave his bedside wondering when the next time would be he would have visitors.
  • Meanwhile, a large portion of our group found themselves talking with two young men in their 20s.  The other team members could probably give more specifics about their interactions with these guys but from what I heard one of them was 17 when he fell out of a tree and was hurt so severely that he was till here at the infirmary now at 21.  We couldn’t fathom the fact that he would likely be there, in that bed, in that place the rest of his entire life.  Many of us were just at a loss of words.  How do you encourage people who have been abandoned by their family or don’t even really have one to begin with and will spend the rest of their days stuck in the walls of the infirmary?!?
  • My last encounter was with a group of 3 women Sarah had been talking with for nearly and hour. I had to laugh at the request the one woman had when asked if I could read any Scripture for her.  She wanted Judges 4, especially the part about the woman Jael killing a guy by hammering a tent peg through his temple.  Let’s just say the conversations that ensued was quite humorous.  These women were awesome and had some courage and determination just like Deborah and Jael in Judges 4.  When Dillon came to get us to tell us it was time to leave, they refused to let us leave!  We eventually were able to make it out of there and it was nice to end such a tough afternoon with some laughter.

We ended our time at the infirmary presenting the matron with donations from both groups.  We were able to leave two suitcases full of towels and toiletries that will be a huge blessing to all of the residents.  We were definitely ALL out of our comfort zones but God met us there.

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Coconuts!
Coconuts!

We came back to the church (Town Head Baptist – our home for the week), hung out, and experienced coconut water. I personally enjoyed some time recapping the day with two women from FBC Carolina Beach, the other group that was at the infirmary that day before dinner.  Dinner was rice and beans, fried chicken, stewed beef, and potato salad (more like mashed potatoes with eggs).  After dinner we all headed back to Fullersfield Church for our evening program.  It was originally supposed to be Wednesday but since that was Jamaican Independence Day it got moved to Monday.

Dillon cutting open the coconuts with the machete!
Dillon cutting open the coconuts with the machete!

The FBC’s evening program got cancelled so they joined us tonight at our Family Community night which was so fun.  We did games and activities about our theme “Wear Love” from Colossians 3:12-17.  We taught them the game “electricity” before working to memorize Colossians 12 and 14.  We ended the night breaking into groups by age and thinking about how we could apply these verses in our lives.  It was a fun time to see the participants step up and lead each group!  (Sarah especially had some fun keeping the PPM staff and other adults in line!)  We ended the night with the challenge to take a card we brought with the verses on it and place it by your clothes.  Each day as you get up and put clothes on, read through the verse and pray for God to clothe you with clothes from his closet… kindness, gentleness, humility, patience, forgiveness, love, etc.

Ricardo (the team leader for all the teams this week) was excited that there were left over cards so he could use them for the sermon he was going to preach that coming Sunday.   Because some of us got back so late, we did our debrief in the bus on the way back so we could just shower and get to bed.

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Personal Challenge for the Day:

  • not being able to understand some of the people at the infirmary as they switched back and forth between English and Patwa and wanting so bad for them to be understood :/

Personal Highs for the Day:

  • spontaneously singing “10,000 Reasons” as a group in the bus on the way to our evening event
  • holding the man’s hand while we read Scripture to him in the infirmary
  • everyone laughing so much
  • conversations with the amazing PPM staff