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.
Our team of 72 youth and adults departed Jefferson City this morning for our youth mission trip to Knoxville, Tennessee! We're so excited to love, grow and serve this week as we partner with five different organizations in Knoxville and as we sing each evening.
Each night I'll post an update from the day and a few pictures. We hope you will check in each day to hear about our adventures and pray for us throughout our trip. We are grateful that you are joining us in spirit and partnering with us through prayer. We are better together!
We will sing one performance this morning in Bellfontaine Neighbors (outside St Louis) at the Missouri Veterans Home. The rest of the day is a long drive to Knoxville.
Today was our final day of work with Rippling Hope. We’ve had such a great work partnering with this wonderful organization. I hope you’ll take a few moments to look at their website or to like their Facebook page and learn more about them. They are God’s hands and feet in Detroit and El Paso as they partner with neighbors to transform their communities. It was a honor to work with them.
Almost all of our crew worked on three streets in the neighborhood where Carl and Robyn, the founders of Rippling Hope, live. They have a few homes around them that are abandoned, boarded up or have fire damage beyond repair. We spent time cleaning up the yards and removing debris as well as painting a couple of porches. It is important to those neighbors who call that area home that other homes are taken care of – important for safety and important for morale. No one wants to live next to abandoned, neglected homes. One of our teams installed a fence at another home. They could not have ended the week any stronger. I was so incredibly proud of them all week. I’ve received so many wonderful comments from various folks about how polite our group is and how hard they work. Even the hotel staff said that this was one of the best behaved groups of teens they've ever had! I know you all are proud of them too.
This afternoon we drove about 90 minutes northwest to Port Huron to the beach from on the Canadian border! It was a beautiful and fun afternoon as a Refuge family – swimming, playing sand volleyball, football, and just chilling. The water was pretty chilly and a cool breeze picked up at the end. It was a perfect end to a week of hard work!
Tomorrow we leave early for Chicago. The kids will have a fun day there from noon – 7 pm. Pray for safety and protection as we travel and as we enjoy the city.
I probably won’t blog Saturday evening. We will arrive around 9:30 p.m. to our hotel and by the time we get settled in it will be late. On Sunday morning we will sing in Bloomington so we can sleep in a little. Then, we will head to Jefferson City after lunch.
Please join us for our Homecoming Concert and invite friends and family. We can’t wait to share with you about what God has allowed us to be a part of this week.
This will be short and sweet. :) Thursdays on Mission Trip are usually tough nights. We're tired. We've been living and laboring together for several days so we're a little more "real" with one another. But we're family so we make it through and finish the week strong with our second or fourth or fourteenth wind.
We spent the first half of the day working in a new neighborhood Many of the projects were the same. We've intentionally tried to switch up the teams each day so our Refuge family can get better acquainted with one another - especially across the grades. It has been fun to watch our large Refuge family get a little "smaller".
This afternoon we sang at senior care center in the central part of Detroit. We performed our concert outside for some of the residents and staff. It turned out to be a pretty nice day outside. Afterwards we were able to drive the youth through downtown Detroit so they could see the skyline and get a little better understanding of Detroit. We had a little more free time this evening after our dinner and it was nice for the youth to swim and to just hang out together. We also had a delicious cake for our three birthdays this week- Lexie, Samantha and Mark Leesman.
Tomorrow we will work one more time with Rippling Hope. After lunch, we will drive about 90 minutes to the Port Huron beach on Lake Huron. The youth are excited for a fun afternoon and to frolic in the beach some. Looks like it will be cool but dry for our outing.
Thanks for your support, comments and prayers. It means a lot and we still very much need them all.
We hope you are making plans to join us for our Homecoming Concert this Sunday at 6:00 p.m. We'd love to see you there.
Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love. Mother Theresa
We have not done great things this week. But we have done many, many small things with great love. Things like pulling up weeds and painting sheds. Cleaning out gutters and repairing decks. But some of the most important things we do relate to relationships. Conversations with the neighbors. Working with other youth group members we might now know as well. Songs of encouragement at nursing homes and churches.
Today was a warm day full of small things with great love. All 69 of us were on the street of Piedmont in the heart of Detroit. We did a lot of yard work and painting - inside and out. We installed new security doors and decks. In the evening, we sang at Rippling Hope for a few of the neighbors and another group that has been volunteering this week.
The leader of the organization we are working with told me tonight that our group was amazing. A "primo youth group." I was one proud youth pastor. We do have a hard working group that loves to serve and bless. They want to make a difference and want to brighten the day for others whether through painting a security door or singing a song about God's faithfulness. They work very hard and also laugh a ton. They truly are a "primo group". And we also have a "primo group" of adults. Great leaders surround themselves with people who are smart, capable, and of good character. I've got 15 of these people - people who love the Lord, serving others, and young people.
Tomorrow we have a shorter work day. We will finish around 12:20 p.m. and eat lunch on the bus on our way to sing at a nursing home. That is our last singing engagement until Sunday morning in Bloomington, IN. We are nearing the end of a really great week. Keep those prayers and comments coming. We feel them and we know you are a part of the good work that God is doing.
After a long day of travel, we finally arrived in Detroit around 7:30 p.m. We had a smooth day of travel with our most excellent bus driver, Johnny! Thanks for the prayers for travel safety.
Rippling Hope staff fed us a great meal this evening and then we spent a few minutes in orientation preparing for the week ahead. It is going to be a hot week so please pray for us as we serve and work in the heat. We are excited to meet the neighbors and to work with them to provide some TLC to their homes and improve their neighborhoods.
Tomorrow we will leave at 8 am (EST) to go pack lunches and then arrive at work projects at 9:00 a.m. We will work doing various projects like painting, cleaning gutters, tearing down fences, and yard clean up. Then at 6:30 p.m. we will head out to sing at a local church followed by a late dinner and small group time.
Keep those awesome prayers coming! We love each of you.