Monday, April 27, 2009

The First GRAND Mission Trip

It was after our retreat that we grew excited about the possibility of taking a "big" mission trip. I loved one experience in particular that Rev. Coombs shared with me regarding being out west and being woken by a herd of wild horses. Low and behold, with lots of hard, hard work (washing hundreds and hundreds of windows inside and out & many church dinners), we were able to take an extraordinary mission trip. This first mission trip held many first for me and our youth group. We drove to Illinois where we would catch a train; a real life train. The kind of train you see in movies. It was so cool. Of course to save money, we didn't sleep in sleeper cars. No, we slept in our seats. However, it was one of the best experiences. We saw a part of the country I am sure that few see these days. The train took us through the heart of our beautiful country where we were able to see God's handy work. We enjoyed meals in the dinner car. The snack car was good if you were low on cash, wanted to save some money and eat cheap. The observation car was so cool. Imagine being able to see out on both sides of the train, not just through windows but almost feeling like you could reach out and touch the outside. We all had a great time on the train. We pretended to be way more Mountainous than we were. It is now that I must apologize to the group of Boy Scouts that we told we didn't have inside plumbing, electricity, or more than one pair of shoes. We did tell them the truth before they got off, but I am not sure they believed us by that point.
I remember doing lots of labor intensive work while in Mexico. We worked through the morning, took a break in the middle of the day because of the extreme temperatures and lack of shade, and resumed work again in the evening. We dug trenches for plumbing, poured concrete, worked on exterior walls, laid the foundation for interior walls in an orphange. I remember the worst Mexican meal I have ever eaten. We were all sure that when one of the ladies said she wanted to cook us a meal, that we would be in for a treat. However, we were sorely disappointed upon filling our plates with cheese and potato quesadillas. All I can say is we were so glad that Papa Coombs had thought it important enough to pack large cans of fruit cocktail. The fruit cocktail from the can sure was extra good that night! The children were so adorable. We helped with a local VBS going on that same week. Even without speaking much spanish it was amazing how much we were able to communicate. I also remember being so concerned about not drinking the water; none of us wanted to be sick. The lady that the girls stayed with was fairly wealthy fro her community. She had a TV, and her grandkids loved watching "The Lion King" Disney movie. At the time it was my favorite movie, and I remember feeling lucky to watch it in Spanish. This lady was such a gracious host; she made us popcorn. It was so good. She offered us Jell-o one day. We all drooled wanting it, but we turned it down knowing it was made with water. Then once we were all back on the work site, we remember it was made by boiling the water. We could have eaten it. We were all eager to return sure they probably saved us some. However, it was clearly gone when were returned several hours later. We learned a valuable lesson: be a gracious guest. When your host offers you food, accept! I also remember how bizarre we all felt by being out of the country on the 4th of July; we felt unpatriotic. To make up for this, we sang patriotic songs most of the day.

Later on this trip we went to California and decided to get "California" hair styles. Goodbye brown hair, hello blonde!! Not the best fashion move I've ever made, but it was fun at the time.

The trip ended with a sad goodbye. The last stop of our trip was Colorado where we stayed with the Wilsons and Meredith would no longer be a part of the youth group. After our group of girls had become so close, it was extremely hard to say goodbye. Our group was never the same, in many ways, after this trip. It was until a few years later that we would rebound, thanks to a new minister (Keith).

Panama Retreat

After the great experiences of the Appalachia missions, I longed to take a "bigger" mission trip; I wanted to see other peoples and help them as well. When Rev. Coombs came to the church, he breathed life into my vision. He told of mission trips he had done at other churches. Of course, he cautioned me that they were bigger youth groups. He knew that the kind of trip I was dreaming of would cost a lot of money. However, I think he underestimated the determination of our church to help others. It wasn't something I felt alone; instead I had an entire congregation that also had the same vision of helping others. However, Rev. Coombs decided that the next summer, as the youth group grew, it would probably be better to take a retreat. Therefore, we went to Panama City, FL. It was a great time of getting to know one another and connecting in a different way. It was really a time of reflection: self, group, and relationships.

This was an all girl retreat. Looking back, we probably did need to grow. A few boys wouldn't hurt the group. However, us girls had a wonderful time bonding with each other. The ocean was full of seaweed so we didn't spend much time near the ocean. Instead the time we did spend on the sand, was spent doing exercises to help us connect with each other. I had my two best friends at the time go with me. I truly believe this trip helped bring the three of us closer. In fact, we are still close to this day. Every group needs to spend some time bonding with each other, reflecting inward and outward, laughing, crying, and sharing. We did it all during that retreat. I didn't understand at the time why we didn't take a mission trip, but I now know. I guess this is why I wasn't in charge.

At my expense.

So one of my favorite stories from the Costa Rica trip comes at my own expense.
Nicholas and Nathan Smith, and myself where staying with a family in the town where we where working. The father was named Rene, with a son Kenny and a daughter Yendre (not sure how you spell that one) and I can't for the life of me remember his wife's name. I am not and have never been a morning person, so one morning Rene walks into the room where we are staying as we are waking ourselves up, I am sitting on the edge of the bed when Rene tells me to hold out my hand. So I stick my hand out there, palm up, he puts his closed hand out there and places something in my palm, then slowly he pulls it away. I look down at my palm and realize THERE IS A HUGE CENTIPEDE CURLED UP IN THE MIDDLE OF MY HAND! I flick my wrist and jump to my feet as the thing hits the floor I probably yelled too. It turns out however that I had freaked over nothing, the stupid bug was already dead although Rene, Nick and Nate had gotten a good laugh out of it. Looking back I can laugh too, although at the time it didn't seem to funny.

Applachia Missions

I remember my first mission trip was to the Appalachia Mountains with Rev. Puckett. I was so eager to help and experience a mission trip for myself; my older brothers always made them sound like so much fun. They were very eye opening. I always thought of myself as "not rich" until I was introduced to the true poverty of the mountains. The people were poor when you looked at their monetary value; however, what they lacked in money they made up for in character. They were very warm, loving people. They worked hard and didn't want a hand out, but they did appreciate a helping hand. The first mission trip I had a great time with some youth from New York.

I did another Appalachia mission trip with Rev. Coombs and Amy Coombs, his daughter. Again we worked with some youth from New York. This time we worked more with the people of the community. My favorite memory to share from the Applaachia mission trips is when we were building the interior walls for an elderly lady. She came in just after a few days and said, "My house keeps gettin' littler and littler." The way she said littler was so bizarre; we were quite sure what she had said. This community shared a two room "community center". We were all astonished at what they called a community center. However, looking back it was the true definition of a community center. The only phone was located at the community center. It was one of the few buildings in the community that had running water. This is where people gathered if they wanted to share with each other. It really was the center of their community; it didn't matter how small it was. It was this mission that made me realize that their was work that we could really do in our own backyard.