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.