Friday, July 22, 2011

PNCC Camp Twinlow

We're back from our 2011 Mission Trip. For the second year in a row, we joined the PNCC at Camp Twinlow in Rathdrum, Idaho. We had a good time last year, but THIS YEAR WAS BETTER. Everything went JUST RIGHT this year.

Look at us in our Shirts!

Dakota took the lead in designing our shirts this year, and she did a fantastic job. They say "Know God, Know Peace. No God, No Peace" on the front, and then "I desire to do you will my god. Your law is written on my heart." Or something like that, from Psalms 40:8 I believe.

One thing that I really enjoyed this year was working at the camp to improve the camp itself. Here's a lumber shed we built. While this was going up, Dakota and I worked on cleaning out the fireplace.



Elderhelp program

Of course one of the best projects is working with Elderhelp. We had the perfect job: doing light yardwork for man who had Parkinsons. Tim and I were out back stacking wood when the man’s wife came out. She was crying. She called us angels and was very specific about giving all of us lots of hugs. She kept calling me “Big Papa” which I kind of liked. When we finished up and drove out of there, Tim and I agreed that jobs don’t get much sweeter than that one.

P.E.T. Project

Another project that we worked on was the P.E.T. project. We drove about 45 minutes into Spokane to this INCREDIBLE work shop where assembled and box these "Personal Energy Transports", which are three wheel wagons with pedals where the handlebars should be. These enable the legless in third world countries to become productive members of their communities. We had a blast building these things and it just felt great!

Human Rights Institute

Our third outreach was to volunteer at the Human Rights Institute in Spokane. We did a lot of light renovation and mural painting for them. The work that they are doing is good stuff and we had a lot of fun with it.

JD working

JD and I spent an evening just cleaning the beach stairs. It seems counter-intuitive to spend your vacation weeding someone else's property, but there was so much satisfaction in it, it really brings peace to one's soul. While we were working on it we watched the camp counselors doing their own challenge: they had to build a raft and use it to cross the lake. They got about 1/2 way across before the raft came apart and they had to swim the rest of the way.


Shannon and Me

We have become very close with our friends up in the Methow Valley. Here's a a shout out to Shannon, Dylan, Tim, Hannah. We miss you guys already.

Zam and Me

Campfires were like a party every night. Much more so than last year. Tyler and Zam, the new management, ran a tight ship this year and it really showed. It was basically all high-schoolers this year at camp, so the level of maturity was way up. Much less baby-sitting, much more interesting discussions and serious work.

Super China Buffet II

Again, we were so sad to leave! Everyone napped on the way home, but of course we had to stop at Super China Buffet II and chow down! At some point I realized that this was the best week I had had all year, and probably would remain that way until next year when we decide to go again.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Destination Unknown - Snoqualmie Tribal Canoe Makers

We're driving in the van. "David! Where are we going!?!?" the kids ask for the millionth time. Destination: Unknown. This time I honestly don't know, I'm just following Joe and Marcia. We drive out the back way of town, and up "Hospital Hill".

Now we're turning into a driveway, and then behind a house to a covered work area. Three men saunter out to meet us. We disembark from the van. "I'm John!" says a distinguished gentleman. "I'm Bruce" says a white-bearded man. "Jacob" says a younger, quieter, black bearded man. I think I've met Jacob before somewhere.

These are the Snoqualmie Tribal canoe makers. John shows us how they are making river canoe by carving out the woods with hand-made tools. He explains how some day they'll open it up by steaming it. Then he shows us an ocean canoe and tells us stories about sailings and gatherings and skippers.

Rachael is turning red; apparently she's allergic to cedar! She leaves the shed and stands away from all the wood, nervously kicking rocks and crossing her arms. John complains about being 6'10" but I'm pretty sure that he's actually more like 5'1" by height. I'd say 6'10" in personality and poise though. He passes around bone-carving tools and a river rocks. The weather has been nice to us all night.

Before we know it, its time for us to be getting back. Another awesome Destination Unknown. Special thanks go out to Joe and Marcia who set this one up. And to John and crew for preserving the art of canoe making.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Feeding the Homeless, April, 2011

On April 13th, our intrepid youth group embarked on one of our favorite events; feeding the homeless downtown. This time, we were armed with dozens and dozens of sack lunches, made by the Junior Girl Scout Troop 52516 (Thank you Lori, Beth and girls!), Scott and Brenda Foster, and Cathy Brumbaugh and Pat McKiernan. Local businessman, Charlie McKissick, donated much of the fixin's for the lunches.

Denny Hancock, from Mama's Hands, picked us up at our Snoqualmie United Methodist church. We loaded over 75 sack lunches into the cargo holds underneath the seats and we rode to Seattle. On this particular trip, there was a film crew from the Mormon church who were filming our little mission, so we had to provide permission slips from our parents just in case we ended up on YouTube!

It wasn't raining in Seattle, but it was cold.  The girls from our group were shivering and standing in groups or huddled against their boyfriends.  Denny brought out a portable electronic piano, and Kaitlyn R. and I took turns playing funny songs for a while.  The film crew had cameras and sound booms pointed at everything.  The film crew and all their equipment scared the homeless people at first and they wouldn't come and get the food we'd brought for them.  But eventually, Dawn O., Ben and Jayna went out and invited them over to our little food station.

The Real Street Santa and his Sled

Also joining us, as an intern from the Union Gospel Mission (a nearby shelter), was none other than The Real Street Santa himself. Check out his cool Sled (atually a red truck) with the RSSANTA license plate!

For about 90 minutes we distributed sack after sack of lovingly prepared foods to all the homeless who came by. Some high points of the evening.
  • Our oldest youth, JD, talked for 45 minutes with one of the homeless who had just arrived from down south.
  • We talked with many of the homeless men and they shared their stories of hardship with us.
  • There are some homeless women as well, and to be honest, they seem more "touched in the head" than the men.
  • Kaitlyn boldly strode from person to person, inviting them to come and get some food or some hygiene kits.

At the end of the night, there we still people coming up to us asking for sack lunches, but we had to go. We gave the remaining sack lunches to the Real Street Santa and he took them over to the Union Mission Gospel to distribute there. He said they always need food at the Mission.

Feeding the homeless downtown is one of our favorite Youth Group Events. We'd like to thank Junior Girl Scout Troop 52516 and the people from our church for providing the food and support for this meaningful mission work.

-- david

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Boys and Girls

Normally we split the kids into two groups - one Senior High and one Junior High. Last night at youth group we had an interesting experiment, where we split the kids by GENDER. Dawn took the girls, and I took the boys.

When I told the boys what was going on they all groaned. “I don’t want to talk about Girls!” they wailed. One even said “I picked the wrong night to come back to youth group.” But you know what? Within about a minute they were all talking so animatedly and passionately I couldn’t shut them up. “Why do girls take everything so personally???” one boy yelled. “Yeah!” everyone agreed. I wanted so badly to share what little I’ve learned about the fairer sex but I didn’t. I have my doubts about how much they listen to me anyway.

All the boys agreed that women’s roles have changed in the last 100 years. “They have so much power now. And so many rights. We have to do everything they say!” The boys seemed a little oppressed.

We had each side think up of a question for the other side and then we exchanged questions half-way and discussed our answers.

I was very impressed with the question that the boys posed to the girls. “Why does everything have to be so full of drama and gossip?”

We rendezvoused later to share our answers. Initially, the girls blamed the drama on the boys’ refusal to treat them properly, but the boys called them out on this non-answer and then the girls got real. “We’re so full of drama because its coming from our insecurity about ourselves.” said one of the girls as she looked across the room at her boyfriend. The room got quiet. What a moment! Another girl said “and we gossip because it makes us feel better about ourselves.”

The question we received from the girls was impressive too. “Why do you boys have to put on a ‘show’ when you’re around your friends, but then you’re all sweet when its just the boy and the girl?”

What a great question! “We HAVE to act tough around the other guys because otherwise we’d get eaten alive!” said one of the boys. “And THAT comes from OUR insecurity.”

The discussions had started out so turbulently and so angry at “the other.” Neither Dawn nor I had anticipated such a significant and dramatic climax of agreement and confession. Dawn pointed out the moment to the kids in case they missed it.

Before we knew it, it was time to go home. As we all walked out together I thought about how alien each side seemed to the other, but yet, in the lives of these young people, their relationship with the opposite sex was going to be taking center stage for the next decade. And at some critical point in their lives, their relationship with their significant other may be the only thing they have in this world to cling to.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mission Trip: Riley's Report

First, I want to say that the mission trip was an amazing week, in so many ways, and I want all of you who helped make it possible to know how grateful I am for that opportunity. Thank you.

I’ve been thinking for a week about what I would say to you today, trying to find an “aha moment” or something to describe that would wrap up everything I felt that week into a nice little speech that wouldn’t put you to sleep and might even make you laugh once or twice. I couldn’t find that moment. I never had a voice announce in my head, “Congratulations! Your life has been changed!” or anything like that. I didn’t get any great advice that changed the way I looked at life. But despite the lack of one defining moment, the week definitely did change me. I couldn’t find one defining moment that summed it all up, because the week was the moment. It was everything added together that made the full effect.

There was the time that Tabby and I mustered up our courage and encouraged each other to take our swim tests in the cold lake so we could go kayaking together. Once we got out onto the middle of the lake, we just pulled our paddles out of the water and sat for a while, trying to take in all the beauty around us.

There were the times at the work sites, when we worked together to get our projects done and did our best to improve the lives of the people we’d been assigned to help. There was always a lot of work to do, and it was sometimes overwhelming, but everyone put in their energy and enthusiasm and we accomplished some impressive things.

There were the times the whole camp played Ultimate Frisbee. It started with the most athletic guys doing the whole thing, leaving the rest of us out, but with some encouragement from the counselors, they learned that all of us could contribute, and wanted to. We all started to pour out our energy trying to get that Frisbee into the goal, congratulating each other on great passes and encouraging each other to keep trying after making a mistake. That was a great feeling.

On the last full day of camp, Tabby, Elizabeth and I had some extra time and decided to explore a trail we hadn’t been on. We talked and laughed on our way up, and at the end, we found an outdoor chapel with a perfect view of the lake. We sat there for a while, silently. I don’t know what the other two were thinking about, but I was thinking about how this week had brought me together with them, and with the rest of the group from my church, and with youth and adults from all across the state. I looked out at the lake and realized how much I’d miss jumping off the dock in a line with all these people I now call friends. I have a feeling we were all occupied with similar thoughts about the significance of the week. Eventually, the silence passed, and we all got up and went back to camp, laughing and talking about seeing each other at school and maybe returning to Twinlow next summer. We didn’t say a prayer, but to me, that whole hike was a prayer, of thanksgiving, of wonder, and of hope.

There were so many moments, too many to tell in one speech or twenty. I really, really, really, really want to go back next year. If I could go back next week, see everyone again, and keep working to serve the community, I would. One week wasn’t enough to get to know all of those amazing people, and the need for our enthusiastic help in the community will never be met if we don’t step up.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dawn Olson's Mission Trip Report

It has been about 2 full weeks since we returned from an amazing Mission Trip to Northern Idaho.  We took seven kids, some of which could not be here today.  I want you all to know how proud I am of this group.  I was very proud of one of them before we left.  I am so proud of  them and would be proud to call any one of them my child.  You should also be proud and if you can take the time to get to know them it is definitely worth it.  I want to tell you a little about the logistics of our trip.  We traveled together to camp in our awesome van which by the way became the most popular “ride” there.  The girls and I bunked together while
David and the boys were together with an additional three boys from the Methow Valley.   We were then divided into mission groups to out  serve the people in the community.  Mostly elderly, those living in poverty and with disabilities.  We worked with this team all week and also prepared several worship times with them.  We were all separated for the most part from one another until we came back to camp each afternoon. 

As I reflected back on the week two words stick out in my mind, relationship and growth.  For me this trip was about relationships built with others, relationship with God and a lot of growth.   I know I was moved out of my comfort zone to stretch my relationships and reach out to others who may differ from me throughout the week.  It wasn’t just with those we worked for but others at the camp as well. 

I saw God in four girls who on the first night were quite anxious and spent a lot of time talking about not wanting to work with the others but stick with their own group.  But then I saw them return each day with enthusiasm for the work they had done, the friends they had made and the happiness that was felt.  Hope said it best on the second or third night with a huge giddy smile on her face as she jumped into bed, “I am just soooo Happy but I don’t know why.” I saw the four of them having a hard time saying good bye to new friends and experiences gained. God working through relationship.

I saw God in an elderly woman named Nina whom my team helped by building a porch and roof for a very dilapidated trailer home that probably should have been condemned.  When we returned the second day after only spending less than 5 minutes actually with her the day before.  She greeted us all by name, all eight of us.  We were shocked.  She was touched beyond words when one of the members of our team quietly gave her a hand cut cross.  She quietly turned and hung it on her wall.  God working through relationships.

I saw God in a man named Wade who, for the lack of any better word was a horder.  Wade had a 9000 sq. ft. house on 2½ acres.  One might ask as I did as we drove up his very long driveway, “Why does this man need our help?”  He explained quietly to two of us that he had built his house on his own for his wife and parent who died shortly after within months of each other.  He had been widowed for 15 years and had recently been remarried and wanted to clean up for his new wife.  He clearly had issues with hording.  There were in excess of 300 tires and rims on his land that we hauled and stacked for him as well as many vehicles(some classics) and a whole lot of other stuff.  His house was also full of stuff that was overflowing into his driveway which we cleared for him.  He shared with us that he had made bad choices in his the past and could not pay for his house any longer.  He told us he would have to sell something to get by this month.  Not an easy thing to do for a person in his position.  We invited Wade to hold hands and pray with us before we left.  He was clearly moved by what we had accomplished for him.  God working through relationships. 

I saw God working through these young people creating a bond among them that will not easily be broken.  I thank all of you for sharing this experience with me and thank you for the opportunity.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

2010 PNCC - Mission Trip Report - David

Last Sunday we took over the sermon and each delivered some a short speech covering a different aspect of the Mission Trip. My talk was about the Work and its meaning.

One phrase that kept coming up for each person when we were doing the planning for the Mission Trip was “to get out of our comfort zone.” For me, the idea of spending a whole week with other people’s teenagers, leading a crew of kids I didn’t know on jobs I didn’t know how to do at places I’d never been was definitely getting out of my comfort zone.

To be honest, I was definitely skeptical about the labor. I mean, I’m taking a week off to do other people’s yard work? How is that sensible? As we drove in the van, approaching our destination of Camp Twinlow, I decided that I would critically appraise the “worth” of the mission work to see if it was indeed crucial to the experience. Because if it wasn’t, then hey next year we just sign up for camp and play tag and sing songs.

From 2010 PNCC Mission Trip

But on the first day they threw us right into the fire at a 5-acre “ranch” that we’ll call the Triple Tree. It looks like ... as if insanity had a physical form. Refuse and debris everywhere. An exploded trailer (partially demolished). Vehicles, propane tanks, bags of trash, refrigerators (full of food). Andrew Young and I had to go inside the owner’s trailer to stack wood in a dilapidated room. The stench was unbearable. We were 30 minutes into it and I was thinking “I can’t believe how hard-core this is. I don’t think I can do this another MINUTE much less a whole week!

From 2010 PNCC Mission Trip

I talked with Pastor Steve, who had been doing this for 15 years. He said that they’d been coming to this same ranch every year and each year it was like STARTING OVER. I was very disturbed to hear that. He also told me that in those 15 years, the owner of the ranch, a older, wheel-chair-bound man, had never once said thank you. I was even MORE disturbed to hear that too.

The old porch

Back at camp that night, I wrestled to put some meaning into what we were doing. I felt like we were doing extremely hard work for no thanks and with no lasting meaning. While the kids played Ultimate Frisbee I wandered around trying to get my head around the situation and make sense of it. This is what I came up with.

I likened the work to a hypothetical situation: Suppose your child was in a coma and you had to clean their body every day. Would you do it? Yes, you would (of course). Your kid wouldn’t be thanking you (they wouldn’t even know). If you cleaned him one day you’d still have to clean him the next day. Maybe service to the impoverished is like that.

The new porch

The GRACE of God comes through the act of service, itself. If you get gratitude that’s gravy. If you get a sense of making a difference, that’s gravy too. But if you don’t get those things you still get the GRACE and you still get the PEACE.

The second day, armed with this revelation, I drove my team back to the Ranch and we set about work again. I worked with a sense of freedom AND purpose. I told the kids “Yeah, this is hard work, but THAT’S HOW WE METHODISTS ROLL. BRING IT!”

On the third day, they told us that we were going somewhere else. The way I figured it, after the Triple Tree Ranch, ANYWHERE was going to be a vacation. We showed up that morning at a woman’s house with our clipboard and we announced that we were there to fix her shed. She said “Who are you????” So we told her. She didn’t know we were coming. In fact, she didn’t even know that she was on a list! She said we were an answer to her prayers. Her tin shed had caved in due to a heavy snow storm a few years ago and she was an invalid now due to a bad car wreck. Her husband was on crutches.

From 2010 PNCC Mission Trip

Over the next two days we fixed the roof of her shed and installed some support beams using carpentry techniques suggested to us by the camp. It was easy, rewarding work and when we were done the couple were positively dripping with gratitude. After the hard work at the Triple Tree, this was a HOME RUN. We drove back to the camp that afternoon, hot and dusty. I asked the kids if they wanted to stop for a soda (I hadn’t had one in almost a week) and they yelled “YEAH!!!!” I knew it was going to be best soda ever. At that moment, I was so happy I wished that I could do this EVERY DAY. I wished my job was driving around in an old van, helping people. And from that I can say that the I’ve answered the original question that I had posed to myself:

From 2010 PNCC Mission Trip

Is the work a crucial part of the experience? YES!!!!!!!!!!!! The work provided meaning and context to everything else that happened. It made our teams meaningful in that we weren’t bound together just for fun but for purpose.

From 2010 PNCC Mission Trip

On the last day of work we were back at the Triple Tree, finishing up. Kaleb asked me why all the adults were grumpy. I told him that as adults we had to look a day into the future and we were all thinking about getting the kids packed and the tools separated and the vehicles cleaned and it was forcing us to realize that this was all about to come to an end. And that it was making us sad and that’s why we were barking at them.

Pastor Steve, as was his custom, was the last person to see the owner of the Triple Tree ranch that final day. He said “I want to thank you sir, for letting us help you.” And you know what the owner said? He said “Thank you, for helping me.” It took him 15 years to say it but he said it!

If you've heard me talk at Church before I've probably spouted off about wanting to be a Ninja for Jesus. THIS is exactly what I'm talking about. Using your skills to do his will: which is to help the people around you. Man, it makes so much sense I don't know why I haven't lived this way my whole life.

From 2010 PNCC Mission Trip

Our homecoming was bittersweet. We were of course delighted to see our families but it was hard to let each other go. I know some of the kids will talk about that and I’ll see if I can get their speeches and post them here.