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.

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