As I type this, we are on the road heading back from Panama City. We sang this evening at the Panama City Rescue Mission to a great group of men who were very encouraging to the youth. It was a joy to share the love and hope of Christ with them.
Our teams worked on a variety of projects today. One team did some chainsaw and debris cleanup for a woman named Ms Debra. One team split a ton of wood for a family we met when we sang at a local nursing home. The wife was one of the staff and asked if we could come help as her husband was diagnosed with prostrate cancer right before the hurricane. About half our group worked in a warehouse being prepped for upcoming distribution of resources. They pulled up some flooring and began putting up some shelving. They will finish their work tomorrow.
20% of the lumber in the US comes from this county and the pine trees were devastated. It will take 2 years for it to recover, so if you see the cost of lumber increase, you can connect the dots to Hurricane Michael.
The town of Marianna lost 30% of their jobs. There is a lot of discouragement here but glimmers of hope as well. We hope we are a part of those glimmers.
- that we finish strong tomorrow with projects and our witness in Marianna
- rain to go away for tmrw and Saturday. (Doesn’t hurt to ask!)
- grace and gentleness in our dealings with one another
- safety in all things
Sorry for no blog post last night. This has been an incredibly busy trip with early mornings, late nights and full days.
We’ve been working on a variety of projects during the day. Lots of chainsaw work and debris removal; one team helping with roofing; singing each evening; and lots of encouraging hugs and conversations with folks who have been through so much.
We drove an hour this afteenoon to Panama City Beach Pier Park where the kids enjoyed around 3 hours of the beach and shopping. We find a mid-week break helps all our spirits and reenergizes us to finish the week strong. It poured on our way there and rained some on us but it didn’t dampen the fun.
Tmrw we work until 2 pm, then we will get cleaned up and drive to sing at the Panama City Rescue Mission.
-good weather to complete our work
-patience, kindness, and forgiveness with one another
-the people of Marianna as they continue to rebuild and recover from a devastating storm.
Monday Mission Trip
Today was a normal first day of a mission trip - chaotic but good. It took awhile to identify our work projects with home owners and to shuffle vehicles at the last minute. Charter buses aren’t meant for every road and getting 106 people working close together is challenging, so we were a bit spread out. But God provides and we were able to make it work.
Our teams worked hard in the heat and humidity. We did debris removal and chain saw work for people impacted by Hurricane Michael in October. The devastation is still very evident. We are working with a woman in her mid-70s who lived in a tent outside her home until just recently. Her tent was damaged so she moved into her home which has no electricity and structural challenges. So, there is still a lot of need.
Tonight we sang at a senior center. It was hot and crowded but they did great. We enjoyed a delicious supper, a devotion by senior Olivia Petty, and small group discussions.
Enjoy a few pics!
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.
Blogs are written by various adults and youth involved in Refuge.