Monday, July 27, 2009

More Houston Testimonies

I went on the mission trip to serve and learn, and I did learn but not the things I thought I would. Instead of giving me some new insight about His heart for people or the world, God revealed things inside of me. I learned that I had been serving as a ‘favor’ to God, as if it was out of my own goodness that I was able to serve. Then it hit me that God doesn’t really need me at all. He could care for this world without me, but it is His delight to let me take part in His plans, to use my life and to use me. It is an honor to serve Him. It is through His goodness and His love that I am able to serve. I also found He showed Himself to me just as much, if not more, than I showed Him to others through serving. -Rachel Beise

Every mission trip stands out in my mind for a different reason, and each seems to carry a special theme in my life and relationship with God. Last year in Chicago, I was extremely moved in my faith and perseverance. This year in Houston, the theme for me was interaction and dedication. Interaction with the people in my team, the people that we volunteered with, the people we volunteered for, and interaction with God. Team Nasa--led by Jeffery (a.k.a. captain jeffery pants)--bonded extremely well, and we were able to utilize everyone's different personalities to achieve an extreme amount of connection and servitude to the people we were helping. My interaction with God was zeroed in on through devotions and prayer partners, and through seeing the many small miracles and moments that God blessed us with during our trip. Dedication came into play when I began feeling like we weren't needed in a few of our sites. I had to think through what i was doing and realize that I was still helping...even though I couldn't see the end result, there still was one. Even though sorting medical supplies was dull and confusing...I was helping save someone's life. And through the week I felt I became more dedicated to God, more open to sit down and spend time praying and staying focused on Him and His plan for me.
Through the joy on the kids' faces, writing our own Psalms, eating some amazing icecream, putting together hundreds of sandwiches, leaping over van seats to deliver lunches, working on fractions, dancing the macarina, huge water walls and God moments, amazing debriefs (with my group and with Dawn and Karen in a parking lot :) ), an intense case of hives, and some touching conversations, I found myself drawn even closer to the love and comfort of God. This week left me in awe of what He can offer to us if we just remain open to Him. -Kara Goodier

Monday, June 29, 2009

Another Testimony

This is a special story of mine
It's about my mission trip to Houston in 2009
I left home wondering how the week would go about
And i came back changed, there is no doubt
God has opened my eyes completely
This trip was amazing and was placed in my heart deeply
I met many people with completely different lives
Some young, some old, some with husbands, and some with wives
There is so much I didn't notice, sitting here at home
All people need is something simple, something like love or maybe even a comb
There was a lot of brokeness I noticed through people's eyes
I found it difficult meeting new people, and in the same day we were saying our final good-byes
God showed me something different every single day
I learned about many cultures and how they do things their own special way
This is just a glimpse of what I had seen throughout the week
I ended the trip with joy in my heart but also with tears streaming down my cheek.

-kelsey fellows

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Some Houston Testimonies

Here are some testimonies from Houston, with more (hopefully) to follow:

"The best part of the mission trip for me was my group. I got to know the people that I served with a lot better. To be around people so full of joy and love for an entire week non-stop is awesome. They were a blessing to me. God wins!" - Drew Nall

"When I think about the week in Houston, the lyrics, "...our God is an awesome God," come to mind. Houston really proved those to be true. It opened my eyes to the homeless. It made me realize that they are people too. They are just like us. This trip brought to mind the fact that I could become homeless too. Most of them became homeless overnight. Going to Salvation Army was amazing. The guys that live there were so happy that we were there. They each greeted us & asked where we were from or how we were doing. My team, Shell, went to a place called Open Door. We talked to a man who had only been there a month, but you could tell he was on fire for God & turning his life around. That was a great thing to see. A few days later we went to a place called Ujima, the kids that lived there were so full of life and loved playing. Our group decided to play water games, since it was so hot. I got soaked & got a bad sunburn, but I realized I got that sunburn for God, while showing his love and serving him. That day was the best day of the week for me. Houston was hot, sticky, humid, & full of bugs, but most importantly it was a place full of hope, impact, & love." - Hillary Caldwell

"Houston was a lot of things. 1. Hot. 2. Long Drive. 3. A blessing. But what stood out the most was the appreciation of people's faces and knowing that helping out for just a couple of hours lasted a lifetime. There is nothing more than the feeling of being fully satisfied by working in several ways for Christ. But even if I was satisfied enough, there is always the want & need to do more. Houston was awesome, I can't wait for next year. GO TEAM NASA!" - Sydney Ozbun

"I think the image that will stick in my mind for a long time is when we were at the Operation Hydration. It was me, Casey, Dawn, Taylor and a few other people. We couldn't really find any homeless people that didn't already have water. So we were just walking around. and we see this man sitting on the ground. We go over and Dawn asks is he wants some water and he says yes. We give him some water and then Dawn asks him a couple more questions. She then asked him if we could pray over him. He says sure and Casey starts praying over him. I start by only putting one finger over him and then I eventually put my hand over him after I realize that even though he's a homeless person and he's dirty and kind of smells, he's still human. He's not some kind of disease. He's not a fungus. And he's not some rag someone threw out in the street. He's a person and he has thoughts and feelings just like the rest of us. So I got over my personal feelings and just let the Holy Spirit come in me and pray for this guy who has made mistakes in his life and who has sinned just like the rest of us. That image of him crying as we prayed for him and just told God to help him out will remind me that homeless people are just people who are homeless and have made mistakes that we could make ourselves in the future. That image made me realize that nobody is better than anybody and we are all equal." - Megan Stone

"Houston was my first mission trip. I was really scared because I didn't know what to expect. I had an amazing time & I'm so glad I got to come. One image that is in my mind is a guy at the Open Door Mission. He was graduating from the nine-month program. As I was talking to him, it was just like talking to my best friend. I had an amazing time. Toward the end of our conversation he told me, "Never give up. God is always going to be there." He just went on and on about it. This guy impacted my life more than I probably helped him. He taught me that they just don't need prayer, we also need prayer. I really enjoyed this week & God has taught me so much! I can't wait to see what other things he has in store for me! God is awesome & incredible!" - Whitney Bramlett

"This mission trip was very impactful for me and I learned a lot about myself. I appreciate all that CSM and all the SIMYs did for me. They helped make this trip worthwhile. I thought filled me with so much wisdom throughout the whole trip. My group had a lot of fun. We had a lot of leaders instead of followers on my team and it made my job a whole bunch easier. I really connected with God on this trip and I felt I opened up to God a lot and let him come back into my life. I hope to make this trip meaningful and be able to to bring it back to Cape. Thanks again!" - Myles Edwards

God was at work this past week. Pray that God continues to work in and through the lives of our students.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Houston, Day Five

It's weird. About an hour ago, I asked some students if they felt like we had been gone a week. The general consensus was no, that time has flown by. I really miss my family and being home in my recliner, so it has been good that time has moved along quickly.

After blogging yesterday and eating lunch, I headed out to William Booth Gardens with Team Port, the only team I had not gone to a ministry site with yet. This is a nursing home and our job was to facilitate Bingo. If there was ever a job that some of these students were made for, it was this one. Particularly Molly Turner. She was absolutely in her element calling out the bingo numbers, while mixing in random jokes and statements. Here are some of her highlights:
  • If you are wearing hat and you win, you have to wave your hat around while yelling, "Bingo!"
  • Why did the orange stop running? It ran out of juice.
  • (After calling N-40) 40 chickens in the hen house.
  • If you win, you're not allowed to hit your neighbor.
  • Two muffins are in the oven. One muffin says to the other, "Man, it's hot in here." The other muffin said, "EEK! A talking muffin!"
She was absolutely hilarious! A couple of the residents were pretty funny, too. And Tom was a trip trying to keep up with as many as eight cards. We had quite a bit of fun there.

We were running way ahead of schedule at this point, so our host took us to Canino's Marketplace. This is where Nate bought the ultra-hot peppers. There were all sorts of fruits and vegetables and spices in this partially open-air market. Many of the students dropped some money here, including on some more of the peppers. I opted for the dried pineapple, myself. We then went across the street to a Mexican bakery - more money spent. Then next door to a spice store. Man, did it smell good and strong in there. More money dropped. I'm not sure that everyone will have money for food on the way home. I hope their peppers and pastries will tide them over.

Not that we were hungry anymore, but we went to Shahnai - an Indian buffet - for dinner. The food has not disappointed on this trip, that's for sure. That was the first meal I've had this week that I walked away uncomfortable from due to the large quantities I consumed. The couple that is watching the Holman kids this week met us there. Chris decided that he was going to try to get Matthew to eat one of the peppers (despite the fact that many of told him that we would kill him if he did). In trying to convince him, Chris said, "They're not that bad. They're not any hotter than tobacco sauce." I think he meant Tabasco, but if not, I never want him to fix me food.

When we got back to the housing site, some of the students played a game that should be banned. They were spitting grapes through the air to the next person, and if you missed it when it came to you, you had to eat a hot pepper. I told them that if they experienced any physical problems from eating the peppers in the middle of the night, they were to not bother any of the SIMYs. They should simply go downstairs and die quietly. Hey, they brought it on themselves, right?

Last night, we had our first Team Captain meeting at which everyone was present. Everyone's schedule has been so different that it has been hard getting everyone together at the same time, so it was good to get these eight students in the room at the same time. Here are a couple of the things I heard from them:
  • Team Astrodome made 762 sandwiches at Kid's Meals. These sandwiches are packed with a juice and piece of fruit and delivered to the needy children of the community. That's 762 kids that will get a free meal!
  • Kara mentioned that Chase and Brett climbed a water wall at the park they debriefed at (not allowed, BTW). But after that, she had a good time just sitting by the water wall singing worship songs by herself.
  • Several of them expressed that many of the students found the devotional that we did that morning to be very meaningful. We had them write their own psalms, which allowed them to connect in a way that a group discussion may not all the time.
  • Nate mentioned that he felt the most sense of community on this trip compared to other mission trips he had been on. His group is getting along really well. They had a somewhat difficult relational day the day before, but he felt like yesterday was a recharge day. He said, "I really love these people!"
  • Casey noted that she has seen God really working on Madison this week. She seems to be opening up to people in a way that she normally does not do, and she seems really happy.
  • Rachel that it was cool to see how Whitney was really impacted by how she was able to impact the lives of others. The two of them greeted and handed out silverware to over 400 people coming to a shelter to eat. She noted that Whitney is great at drawing people into conversations and has been very comfortable praying out loud.
Bottom line, I know God is really working through the lives of our teenagers, and I believe that He is really working in their lives, too. And this is the point. This is why we do mission trips: so we can make a difference in the world and so we can provide an opening for God to mess up the lives of our youth.

This morning, I had the opportunity to go with Team NASA to Kid's Meals. We were lunch / sandwich-making machines. We packed several hundred lunches and made close to 1,200 sandwiches. We also were able to deliver many of these lunches. I made sure to remind all of us that each of these lunches / sandwiches represented a child who would have a meal that they normally may not have had.It's important to keep perspective.

Thank you for your prayers this week. I will try to blog one last time from Texarkana, but it will depend on the availability of wi-fi. If not, I will do one last summary when we get back. Don't forget to check our Flickr site, as there are even more pictures to view. Thanks again!

B'ham Update - Homeward Bound

Angel texted me this morning to tell me that they got on the road at 9:15am...and promptly got a flat tire at 9:17am. So while Danny and Steve took care of the flat, the rest of them took the students to McDonald's. Their current ETA, according to their GPS - which does not factor in lots of potty break for small bladders - is 4:30pm. So they will probably be in around 6:00pm or so...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Story from Sydney

I forgot to include this in my earlier post, so here is an experience from Operation Hydration that Sydney (far right) thought was cool (in her words):

"Me (Sydney), Karen the Brave, Tyler, and Nick walked up of course with water in hand, to a bunch of (3) guys. That quickly narrowed to two. Steven and Syneca. Steven was born in Oregon and made his way to Houston because of a bad marriage, and he lost his job. He was thankful for the water and Karen the Brave prayed for him. Next me, Hillary, Tyler, and Nick started to talk to Syneca. Syneca was very open to anything and was more concerned about what our dreams and goals are for the rest of our adulthood than himself. So we proceed to tell him. We told him how we took a test that would determine what job would be best for us and when we told him, he cut us off mid-sentence and told us not to listen or care about what a test tells us but what we dream of doing and what we want to do. He was very thankful that a group of kids would just take the time to hand out water and talk to him. He is/was impressed and proud of our church group. And so are we."

Houston, Day Four

We have passed the midway mark of our mission trip, and so far, so good. It has been a great week thus far. Granted, it has not been without its hiccups along the way: minor injuries and illnesses, relational dynamics, and the oppressive heat (have I mentioned that it is HOT?!). But all in all, it has been a great week. And this is not just me saying this. I have heard from a number of SIMYs and students saying the same thing. So if you are a parent reading this, know that your son or daughter is serving well, learning lots, and having a great time while doing it.

After I finished blogging yesterday, I headed out to Yildizlar to have a Middle Eastern dinner with two of our groups, Team Shell and Team Port. Most of the students opted for the chicken, but we SIMYs who know better got the lamb. It was so yummy! The chicken came with some kind of garlic dipping sauce. I have never had anything that garlicky strong in my life. Tyler ended up eating a whole forkful of of because someone offered him a dollar to do it. (I won't mention what he ate later for a little more money. You'll have to ask him about that.) Next door was a TCBY, so Windall - The Silver Fox - bought a cone for his entire team. It was $.99 waffle cone day so we came on the right night. That $.99 included up to three scoops! If we had a TCBY in Cape with that kind of deal every week, I would be a much fatter man. We got back early and were able to shower and chill for a while before the other groups returned. That was nice after the late night the night before.

When the other two groups returned, Nate came in to the common room with a plastic bag with something in it. He called everyone around him and produced these tiny peppers called chile patins (apparently about 10x hotter than jalapenos). He passed them around telling everyone that they were really hot. Several of the students - and none of the SIMYs - tried them...and were not happy that they had. There was lots of screaming and running to get milk, water, ketchup, or anything that would make the burning stop (the picture of Molly above is from this incident). Nate explained to me that they had an immersion experience at a Hispanic market where they had to look around and sample foods. One of the Mexican men gave these peppers to him and told him that they were 'muy caliente' (very hot). Nate looked at me and said, "It's the hottest thing I've had in my life. You want one?" Who in their right mind would say yes to that? Then Will came in and said, "I ate three of those little green things. I cried a little bit." I was on the floor from laughing so hard! I can tell you this much - if I end up at that same immersion experience, I will NOT be sucked in to trying those peppers. More hanging out after that, followed by an impromptu concert in our stairwell, then off to bed.

Team Shell had a cool experience yesterday at the Urban Plunge. After talking with a homeless man, they prayed for him. When they were done, a woman walked up to them and said that she wanted them to pray for her, too, and she bowed her head and waited. So they gathered around her and prayed for her, too. What a great thing for them to experience! They also got to get soaked at their afternoon site - Ujima - playing water games with kids. It started out as dodge sponge, but ended up as people throwing buckets of water on each other. And Tyler was proud about the fact that he got to show a kid how to punt the football.

Team Port also had fun playing with kids yesterday at a different Ujima site. They are a little banged up, though. As mentioned yesterday, Shelby is working off of a sprained ankle. That meant that Myles carried her for a good part of the Urban Plunge. That, combined with the fact that Myles fell off a skateboard trying to show a kid some tricks, means that he has a sore back today. A couple of people in their groups were impressed by what one of the singers at the Harbor Light had to say to encourage them. He told them to be "cunning as serpents and gentle as doves." I'm not sure that they recognize that quote is from the Bible, but I'm glad that it made an impact on them. The other quote that Molly heard a few times that she really liked when she asked the homeless people how they were, they would say, "I'm blessed by the best and praying for the rest." Cool.

Team NASA has the opportunity to meet a need for a man yesterday. They saw him holding a sign that said that he needed diapers and formula for his baby. They talked with him and found out that he recently got laid off from his job as a roofer. So they went to the store and picked him up some diapers and formula to meet his need. He was very grateful and humble about their generosity.

Team Astrodome shared with me that they had the opportunity to cut up some wild boar. They described it as a sinkful of bloody meat...with eyelashes. I'm grossed out, so I'm moving on. They also shared that their debrief times have been very good, with people really sharing about what has been going on. Rachel also pointed out that people are really coming out of their shell and are willing to pray out loud which they weren't willing to do at the beginning of the week. That is exciting to hear!

Kara (Team NASA) mentioned last night that she feels like God is really speaking to them this week and showing them what their lives could be. That was really evident at the Salvation Army. Here were men who had to turn to Jesus to literally save their lives. He was truly their Saviour. And it could totally be seen in the joy that they expressed. This is so cool for our students to see! Sometimes I feel like teenagers are impervious to the kind of stuff they witness, but they are just a few bad choices away from being right where these men are. I hope they realize how much they need Jesus to help them to not only save their souls, but their whole lives as well.

That's all for today. More pictures have been uploaded at our Flickr site - check them out! And keep praying for our students as they make a difference in Houston...