Monday, July 28, 2008

living the Kingdom in west virginia

i'm sitting here at my dining room table in the morning quiet of our house that always occurs before the boys wake up and start their daily storm. over the rhine is singing softly from the ipod across the room, and the sun is sewing a patchwork quilt in the woods that i can see through our big back window. its good to be home.

sorry for the lack of posts this last week, but i was on a mission trip with 45 other people to west virginia, and (despite what we were told) we had no internet access where we were staying. so i've been gathering my thoughts over the last week and now i'm a bit overwhelmed (as i wrote that two deer just went bouncing through the quilted woods, tails held high, scampering for safety).

west virginia was wild and wonderful. well, at least, that's what their license plates say. it certainly was wild. we stayed at a large church called central chapel in hedgesville, a "town" outside of martinsville. we worked at a residence, or i should say several residences, on a piece of property. there was a home and several trailers, and i'm not sure who all lived in all these places, but i think they were all related. there were many dogs and cats, as well as a few horses. and the place was broken. that's just the best word i can think of to describe it. broken. the roof had a huge hole in it. the trailer roof was caving in. the yard was absolutely covered in garbage and stuff. the animals seemed hungry. the people seemed cautious and careful. the place, at least in my evaluation, was broken.

and so all 47 of us had a chance to minister to these folks. we worked on roofs. we tore shingles off and started a new roof. we built a whole new roof structure on the trailer. we cleaned up garbage. we painted. we played with the children. we sang while we worked. we did our best to love on this family without making any kind of judgments about how they got this way or why they stay this way. we simply served them. as a leader, i was truly amazed at how the young people (it was a senior high trip) so graciously did this work. in the rain. in the smell of cat pee and dog poop. on top of precarious roofs. amidst questions of how they could afford to have cars and tvs but couldn't afford garbage removal. in all of this, they just hammered and cleaned and painted and sang and smiled without complaint. it was a blessing for me, and, i hope, for that family as well.

as always, though, the mission trip was not only about what we were able to do for others, but about how God was so clearly at work within our own lives in the midst of our serving. i have been on so many youth trips in my life, and i don't remember bonding together quite like this. we were almost always together, so we had so much time to get to know one another and grow in relationship (which was totally awesome, because in my understanding of ministry, building relationships is what it is all about). by the end of the week, we had really built some solidarity and unity, and we had an amazing closing worship service which evidenced some real change in some of the lives of the young people. as a leader, it was a joy to witness this and a blessing to be a part of it.

so, thanks for your prayers. we had an awesome trip. we didn't change the whole world or eradicate poverty in west virginia or even fix one family's problems. but we did love some people and show them that love in action. we did grow in relationship with one another and sow some seeds in these young lives that will continue to grow long into their adulthood. and we learned a little bit more about what it means to be a part of God's coming Kingdom, a kingdom where there is no distinction between rich and poor; a kingdom where all of our bad decisions are made right; a kingdom in which each one is loved and accepted for who they are in all of their beautiful uniqueness; a kingdom in which love is the currency; a kingdom in which we put down our pretenses and just live the way we are: broken and bent beings who are redeemed by an unspeakably extravagant love.

(ps. when i get some pictures, i'll add some to this post for you visual types)


Crafty P said...

lovely post.

what a blessing.

I always say, when God wants to teach us something... he takes us on a trip. Sounds like yours was full of awe, wonder, and growth.

NJ Grandma said...

Welcome Home! Glad you have a safe trip ther and back.

NJ Grandma said...

Welcome home! Glad you had a safe trip there and back!

Anonymous said...

that was a lot of words, i definitly need the pictures!!

Mary said...

I was so glad to read all those words. It's been way to long since we have talked so in a way...i enjoyed reading our long conversation. Hope you get a little bit of rest before you embark on your next trip. should i send you a picture of me?