Today was physically exhausting, but our minds and hearts stayed strong! We started the morning by rehabbing the exterior of a local woman’s house. It was amazing how much of a difference our team made in just a few hours of work. Some students used saws for the first time, confronting wasps, a hornet, and what ended up being a waist-high seven foot-wide pile of live brush to transform this house from dilapidated to dazzling. Our 6 Stones liaison told us before we went that this work is not fun, but it’s really helpful to a person in need. Student after student came to me at the work site and said, “what was he talking about? This is fun!” Let me report on the next two days before you get your yard tools ready to hand over to them as soon as we get home…today’s difficulty level was about a quarter of what we’re about to face.
The afternoon was a great time to chill out from the morning’s work at the church building. The trip leaders planned several elaborate water games for the students, which we blazed through in about 20 minutes. We leaders marveled as our beautifully planned and prepared-for games devolved into students just dumping buckets of water on each other, especially that they seemed to have more fun in the impromptu dump-fest than at the games! We had a great time.
We finished the day by facilitating a Vacation Bible School at a local apartment complex. We didn’t know how many kids would come or if they’d be interested in the games, stories, snacks, and relationship-building we had planned. We didn’t know how to break the ice, so we started the evening as we best knew how: by playing. We played frisbee in the central courtyard, which drew a single 5 year-old girl to join in. Her courageous involvement encouraged a few other kids and then more to have some fun with us. After a full-blown game of “sharks-and-minnows” we had somewhere near 20 kids at VBS, with more trickling in the entire night. A small group of us roamed the complex, searching for kids to invite…all happily agreed to come, but none needed directions. They knew to follow the sounds of laughter. One 5 year-old told Trudie and Neena: “Thank you for making me happy today. I have never been happy before.” A teenager well-known in the complex for getting into trouble came in and out of the VBS today, but dropped what she was doing and listened intently to the gospel presentation when she saw that it was Abby who was delivering the message; “ooh, that’s my best friend!”, she said.
Our students learned a lot today and were extremely eager to share their newfound knowledge with our group at debrief time tonight. The two primary things that they took away from today were that (1) they had no idea how many people living right in our area did not know the basics about the life, death, and resurrection of Christ and (2) that people long to be connected with and prayed for. Maddie Walden summed it up well: “People want others to know them, ask them how they’re doing, and pray for them. But they won’t ask you to ask them to do it. We have to just do it.”
We closed with a message on 1 Peter 2:9-10, a passage that powerfully describes our identity in Christ. We talked about that what we do for others flows out of who we are in Christ. Religion says, “I obey and therefore I am accepted.” The Gospel says, “I am accepted, and therefore I obey.” It is our sincere prayer that our students will learn more how to see themselves and their community through God’s eyes, and we’re seeing that happening in small ways. We pray it kicks into high gear tomorrow.
Parents, we covet your prayers and your continued support of your student as we travel through this week. Just like you, we look forward to tomorrow bringing us a new challenge, and a new opportunity to see God at work!