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.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

REPORT: 2010 July Fall City Feed the Hungry Lunch

On July 6 and 7, the noble volunteers for our Feed the Hungry program prepped, cooked and served lunch to a record number of Food Bank visitors. Phil Halloran and Charlotte Parkinsons led the Piper Family in prepping the food that Tuesday night. I was unable to make it there that night so I didn't get any pictures of their hard work!

FCUMC workers and their foodstuffs
The next day, the volunteers at the Fall City congregation opened their church to us early as they prepared their food bank. I visited with several of them and congratulated them on what a great program they had. It is impressive that for such a small church they can have such a big impact. The visitors to the food bank were lining up outside. I recognized several of them from June and said hello and invited them to have lunch with us.

Right Before the Fun Starts
Back in the kitchen, our Church's crack crew of volunteers worked at getting everything ready. In this picture you can see Sue O'Donnell putting the beat-down on some vegetables. Lucinda Hauser is looking back at the camera. Charles Grant is hanging out. I didn't get a picture of them, but Delaney and Stacy were there also. They ended up entertaining many of the visiting Food Bank children with a water-fight outside.

Good work makes good company
Rachel Combs arrived just in time to staff a crucial short-order role in the back. I tried to talk her into joining Lynn and me as table hosts since she appears to have at least SOME Spanish but she insisted that her talents could best be used on the back-end in the kitchen. My Amy couldn't come this time (Casey had woken with a bad cold) so we were short the waitress position. We were saved when He sent us Lacey Leigh and her son Paul. She took the role of waitress and he, the busser. Lacey ended up being one of the busiest people there that day; she really worked hard.

Denise and Terra setting settings
I caught up with Denise and Terra as they talked while preparing place settings. I tried to edge in the conversation but they would have none of it.

Pastor Lee Carney Hartman stopped by (on her day off!) to lead us in another starting-gun prayer at 11:55am and then the race was on! The line was opened and family after family poured and began their march down the line of tables, selecting their cans and bags. When they reached the end, Pastor Phil, Lynn Ritthaler or myself, as table hosts, invited them to sit and have lunch with us. Most did. The ones who did not were the quiet ones who wore nice clothes and had a look of tension on their faces. I guessed that they were people who had only recently fallen on hard times and were still coming to grips with their situation.

If you look at the visitors as a whole its about 90% women and children. The children are a delight and I'm finding that you can often get a family to come and eat if you appeal to the kids: "come and have lunch!" I'd say. "You can sit with me and we'll eat my neighbor Sam's cookies, which are the BEST I've ever had." (oops, sorry Amy!). Also, the kids are more likely to speak English and translate for you.

We are SO LUCKY to have the opportunity to do this. Seriously. Feeding disadvantaged women and children? How awesome is that? Slam dunk if you ask me. Also, I know of at least two groups of our church members, one from the early service and one from the second service, who got to know each while working together this time. That is another excellent side-effect of this program and a reason that we should encourage new people to help in this. There's no better way to get to know people than by working with your hands together.

The Amazing Laurie Edwards moves so fast a normal camera can't keep up!
And of course you know who was there the whole time, quietly mitigating problems before they arose and conducting us all like an orchestra of His will? That's right, Laurie Edwards. I tried to get a picture of her but she moves so fast that my camera couldn't keep up. Laurie never agreed to lead this endeavor but she has been a key person at each and every step along the way.

Later, after the food bank closed and the volunteers sat down to eat, Laurie announced that we'd fed 62 people that day. One of the Fall City members said that was an all-time record for lunches served in the history of their program. They thanked us for helping them, and we thanked them for giving us the opportunity and being so open about sharing their ministry with us.

We have ONE MORE lunch in front of us August. We still need SERVERS, CHEFS and COOKIE-BAKERS. Please contact me if you're interested in signing up for August! After that we get to decide how we are going to go forward with this program!

I want to thank everyone who contributed this July!