Today was a repeat of Monday and Tuesday but hotter! These youth and adults are troopers. I owe them a mission trip to Alaska next year.
Our teams continued their their work at our three projects. The anti trafficking group finished their work today, having distributed 1,500 informational cards throughout South Houston!
The Rosharon teams did some impressive repairs on the greenhouses, scaling great heights to replace the tarps over the greenhouse.
At the Kids Club, they had a record 65 kids show up for swimming lessons! Amazing. What a great thing to provide to these kids and families.
The group did their fourth performance tonight and did an amazing job. They enjoyed a delicious dinner, small group time and then an ice cream sundae bar! They earned it.
We learned a few years ago to take a little work break on Wednesday afternoon in order to lessen the “Thursday meltdowns”. 😏 The youth work so hard. Seriously. They work at sites in the heat most of the day and then sing each evening, often eating dinner as late as 8 pm. They’ve earned a little fun in the middle.
Today they worked from 7 or 8 until 12 pm. Then, we traveled about 30 minutes to sing at a nursing home. The residents there just moved in a week ago after having been displaced 10 months ago because of Hurricane Harvey. It was a great celebration for them!
After the performance, we traveled another 30-40 minutes to Stewart Beach in Galveston. Some of our youth had never seen the ocean or been to a beach! Although we only had a couple of hours there, they loved it. Everyone grabbed dinner at a nearby place before heading back to the hotel.
Pray for our youth and adults that we will finish strong the next two days. Pray for safety as we serve and work in hot weather. Pray for our continued relationships with the children in the apartment complex and at the homes we are serving. Pray for the refugees resettling in this city and for help to navigate the systems and find meaningful work. Pray for Butch and Nell Green and their continued work and ministry here in Houston long after we’re gone.
Your kids rock. I’m so very proud of them. Thanks for sharing them and trusting us with them. ❤️
Even though it is Texas HOT, today was a really great day. The teams headed out for their projects between 8 and 9 am, depending on their locations and start times.
Our hottest projects are the Rosharon projects. They are in the outdoor sun, heat, and humidity all day. And one group is working in a large greenhouse which has to be around 120 degrees inside. I’m amazed and humbled by our youth and adults and their willingness to work and serve.
Our Kids Camp has a fantastic day with even more children coming out for fun. The swimming lessons are a HUGE hit. Many of the refugee children have never swam. Last year, a child drowned in the complex pool because he didn’t know how to swim. So, people are eager for their children to be taught. It has opened a lot of doors for conversation and relationship building. On a persona note, I was pumped to be able to use my Swahili to bond with some kids from Tanzania and Rwanda.
Our antitrafficking group visited hundreds of home today giving out information to help people speak up about forced labor and sex trafficking. Such important work in a city that has some of the highest rates of trafficking in the US.
We sang at a senior center this evening and the crowd loved our youth. What’s not to love, right?
After a delicious dinner by our Kitchen Extreme team, we heard briefly from Butch and Nell Green about their work with refugees in Houston. Great to hear stories that remind us of the very difficult journey for refugees and how, as followers of Jesus, we can help.
Enjoy the pictires! Tomorrow we work in the morning, sing early afternoon and then enjoy the evening at Stewart Beach!
Tonight's update won't be long. It has been a full day and it is midnight. First days are always a bit chaotic as we try to get a routine established and familiarize everyone with our new host city for a week and expectations.
This morning we met with Cooperative Baptist Field Personnel, Butch and Nell Green, for orientation for our work projects this week. Tomorrow night at dinner, the Greens will go into more detail about their work and ministry.
One large group worked in Rosharon on two separate teams. One team is doing repairs to a greenhouse, a source of income for a Cambodian family. This was an incredibly hot job with no breeze in the greenhouse. Our youth were troopers. The other worked on some home and greenhouse repair for a Cambodian woman. The other large group worked at an apartment complex sharing stories, playing games and building relationships with parents and kids that will hopefully deepen as the week continues. A final small group distributed information about human trafficking in the South Houston area.
We had our first concert this evening at the retirement center. The energy was high and the kids sounded phenomenal. I did a Facebook live event of our performance that you can see on my Facebook page.
We're having a great week thus far! Thank you for praying for us and cheering us on from home. Below are a few pictures from our Monday.
We wrapped up our work projects today throughout Knoxville. It has been a fast week but we were able to complete every assignment given and we're blessed while doing it.
The Second Harvest team packaged more food for distribution. They did an amazing job these week packing nearly 3,000 lbs of cereal and and nearly 2,500 lbs of noodles for distribution to families in East Tennessee dealing with food insecurity.
The Knoxville Area Rescue Mission team wrote encouragement cards with scripture and placed them on nearly 350 beds. They prayed over each bed as well and for those who would be sleeping in them this evening. In the afternoon, part of our group painted walls in the courtroom and part organized a storage room.
The Bridge Refugee group painted their big school bus, organized a clothing closet and played with some kids while their parents were in a meeting.
The Operation Backyard team completed their projects at the home of Brenda They built a ramp, painted a porch, patio and shutters. They cleaned outdoor furniture and did a little yard cleanup as well.
A final team went to an elementary school in north Knoxville to paint some hallways.
Tonight we are driving about 50 miles east to Sevierville to sing at a retirement community. We will do pizza there for supper before returning around 9:40 pm to pack up! Tomorrow is Dollywood!!!
Knoxville is experiencing some unusually hot and humid days this week. Feels like home to us but definitely makes for some exhausting days working out in the heat. Our youth and adult are troopers. We've received several compliments this week from leaders of organizations, home owners, the hotel manager and our bus driver, Steve. He told the youth that they are the most well-behaved and polite group he has ever worked with. The hotel manager said this was the best group of young people they've ever had at their hotel. Our young people have been complimented on their attitudes, their kindness, their musical gifts, and their commitment to working hard. I know you are proud of them as I am. And while a pat on the back is awesome and well-deserved, I believe, we continue to direct our gratitude to God. We don't want our heads to get so big that we can't fit through the door we just framed. :)
We remind the youth and ourselves to give God glory every opportunity we can and to remember it is the fruit of the Spirit at work in us that is most appealing to others. If they experience love, we can honestly say that we love because Christ first loved us. (I John 4:19). If we are compassionate, it is because our Heavenly Father is compassionate with us. (Luke 6:36). If we chose to forgive someone who has wronged us or hurt our feelings, it is because we remember God forgives us. (Ephesians 4:32)
In all things, may God be praised for we would be lost without Him.
Our youth worked tirelessly today - repacking food at Second Harvest; playing with refugee children from Iraq; finishing a ramp for Ms. Betty and her husband; building another ramp and painting ramps, porches and shutters for another family; and visiting with and praying for those staying at the Knoxville Rescue Mission. The group at KARM was invited to eat lunch with the guests. And although some guests got up and left when one of our youth sat down to eat with them, our youth were not discouraged. They went to someone else until they found someone who was eager to fellowship over some chicken chili. :)
Tonight they sang at Echo Ridge Retirement Center. It will be a late night with supper at 7:45pm followed by small groups were we debrief the day. Pray for our Friday as we wrapped up our projects. Pray that we can complete the work we've been tasked with. Pray for wonderful conversations with individuals God brings our way. Pray for open hearts and eyes to see God at work and simply to see God - our loving Creator who wishes to bless each of us throughout the day with His presence and His love.
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 (NRSV)
This is our guiding verse for the week as we serve in Knoxville. The LORD is not cryptic in His instructions to those who follow Him. It is simple: Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with God. The Message translates it as do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously. These are our prayers for our time in Knoxville - that we would actively pursue justice for our neighbors here; that our actions and words to one another and others would be birthed and drenched in compassion and love and that through it all, we would walk closely and humbly with our God.
We worked for the first half of the day at our projects and sang at a retirement center mid-afternoon. We decided to give the kids a mid-week break this year so they spent about 3 hours at an amazing mall near the hotel so they could have some downtime. We then went to the church for supper and returned a little early to the hotel so they could enjoy the pool tonight. We keep them very busy from morning until night so most have not had much time to enjoy the pool or relax. We hope this will reenergize them for the last two days of service!
Pray for us to finish strong with our projects and relationships with one another and those we work with here in Knoxville. Pray that we would understand more clearly what justice means for our neighbors; that we will live from a place of compassion and love; and, most importantly, that we will draw near to our God who loves us deeply. Pray for relief from the heat and for the rain forecasted this Friday and Saturday to occur at times that enable us to still complete our work and enjoy Dollywood. While not always convenient, rain is needed and beneficial. Just like some challenges we face in life.
Today our youth continued their work throughout Knoxville.
We had a team return to Second Harvest to package Cheerios for distribution to food pantries throughout Eastern Tennessee. The Bridge Refugee group went to a different apartment complex to play with children. Most of the children were from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Another group returned with Operation Backyard to paint the house they began yesterday. They finished the exterior and cleaned and painted the foundation as well. Another team went with Operation Backyard to build a ramp for a home owner. Our final group partnered with Samaritan Ministry which works with individuals dealing with HIV/AIDS. The group did an amazing job transforming the yard, cleaning lots of brush and weeds that had gathered over time. The homeowner, Doug, was very emotional as he expressed gratitude to our youth group for their time and work.
Tonight they sang at Atria Weston Place, a senior adult care center in Knoxville. The residents truly enjoyed the music and the young people. One of our favorite activities on mission trip is greeting the residents after we sing. It is a small act with big impact. We also had the wonderful opportunity to bless a man whose wife passed away this week. His son told us that his wife's favorite hymn was "It is Well". So a small group of our youth went to the dining hall and sang the hymn for him. Pray for Dave and his family as they celebrate the life of his wife this Friday.
The sun has set on a very warm but great first day here in Knoxville. The youth were up early for breakfast and ready to head out to serve around 8:15 am. We divided into four different teams today. Each day the teams are new for two purposes: 1) our youth are able to learn about different ministries in the city by spending one or two days with each ministry and 2) our youth and adults get a chance to work with everyone in our Refuge family at least once.
Some of our youth worked with Knoxville Area Rescue Mission (KARM). KARM serves over 1,000 meals a day and provides shelter for nearly 400 each night. It is a huge and impressive operation. Our team of youth were moved to tears by the sight of numerous folks lined up outside the shelter when they arrived. The youth spent the morning writing prayer notes and placing them on each bed in the shelter. As they placed a note, the youth prayed over the person who would sleep in that bed. Several wept as they prayed. In the afternoon after lunch, they helped clean the playground area for the children who stay at the shelter.
Another group served with Bridge Refugee Ministries. This ministry helps refugees who are fleeing conflicts around the world and seeking to resettle in the states. Our team spent the day playing with children of these families seeking a new beginning. Language may not be shared but laughter is universal.
Another group worked with Operation Backyard, an organization assisting low income families with home projects. The crew painted the exterior of a home today nearly finishing the project. They also began construction of a ramp.
The final group worked at Second Harvest Food Bank, one of the largest providers of food for local food pantries on the area. The crew bagged and labeled over 175 bags of toasted oats cereal so that it can be distributed to families dealing with food insecurity.
Tonight we sang at the Knoxville Area Rescue Mission, the same place where the group served earlier. There were nearly 100 folks present for the concert and it was a powerful night. One lady visited with one of our youth afterwards, stating often that preachers come and tell them all the things they are doing wrong and how God is disappointed in them. "But tonight," she said, "it was so wonderful to have a group of young people come and sing about God's love for us." If we do nothing else all week, that will be enough for me. My heart is full.
We give thanks for God's goodness and mercy. We praise God for safety today as we served. We are grateful for these amazing local ministries that serve every day 365 days a year and that welcome us to join them for a week in what God is doing.
Pray for rest and opportunities to share the love of Christ in word and deed tomorrow. Thank you for being our prayer partners and co-laborers.
After a 7 am departure from Jefferson City, we drove a couple of hours to the Missouri Veteran's Home in Bellefontaine Neighbors to sing our first performance. We have sang here several times over the years and always enjoy our time with these amazing veterans. They are a great audience and are always incredibly grateful for the visit. It is an honor to sing for them and to visit with them briefly after the performance.
We watched several movies throughout the drive and are ready for an amazing week here in Knoxville. We arrived to our hotel around 10 pm EST and did a brief orientation meeting. We're ready to hit the ground running in the morning! Pray for a great first day with smooth logistics and open hearts to God and others.