By way of background, three years ago and again two years ago, a large group of Saint Matthew youth and a few adults, including me, participated in Group Workcamps mission trip weeks, in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Nashville, Tennessee. As had been true of a mission trip I took with youth and adults from a congregation I previously served, we had great experiences on both of those trips, working with folks from other congregation (of varying denominations) working with places like community centers, thrift shops, Christian education programs, senior centers, and so on. We cleaned, planted, weeded, mulched, sorted, built, painted, and so on.
Last year, we decided that we would "go local" and do our own local mission "trip" in our home area of Logan and Hocking County. It went so well that we opted to do it again this year.
The reason we undertake mission weeks--or many of the other things we do to share God's love in practical ways with others--is pure and simple: Jesus has told us to! We remind ourselves of this throughout the week. Biblical passages we've looked at on the first three mornings of this year's mission have reminded us of this:
- In Acts 1:6-8, the risen Jesus, just before going to heaven, told His disciples to share the Good News that all can have new and everlasting life with God when they turn from sin and believe in Him. As followers of Jesus, we're to share this wonderful news in both word and deed in our own communities and in the whole world. We do this through our mission weeks.
- Acts 2:44-46 finds the first Christians not only being outwardly focused toward the world, serving and loving others outside the Christian family, but also looking out for others within the Christian family. We do this through our mission weeks, when we undertake projects for some folks from within out own Saint Matthew congregation.
- Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that we aren't saved by the kinds of good works we do during our mission weeks. We are saved from sin and death by Christ's death and resurrection and our faith in Jesus. But, James 2:14-17, reminds us that if you have become one of God's people through Christ, then you will undertake good works as a way of thanking God and loving God back.
Here's this year's mission week schedule for Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. We...
- meet at 8:00 for breakfast, devotions, and prayer (the devotions remind us of why we serve)
- split into two crews to take on two projects at the same time
- have a lunch provided for us by wonderful folks or fix our own from lunch meats we have on hand
- do more work
- finish up at 3:30
Among the projects we've taken on this year
- scraping and painting a porch
- weeding flower beds
- weeding and mulching at a local public park
- volunteering at a food pantry
- made logs
We've been blessed with the help, supervision, transportation, and food provided by adult members of the congregation.
The youth who have participated have, once more this year, dug in and worked hard and had fun together!
I love the way the mission week brings youth and adults together.
Today, we put a little bit of fun and a great additional service project into the week's mix. We met at the church building at 7:45, then drove to Columbus, about an hour away.
In the morning, we toured the American Whistle Corporation's small manufacturing facility. This company is the only manufacturer of metal whistles in the United States. The ten employees churn out tens of thousands of whistles every year. This was interesting and the tour guide made it lots of fun. (I got the idea for doing this after seeing the tour featured on Ohio News Network. American Whistle Corporation's manufacturing process has also been profiled on the Discovery Channel.)
After the tour, we went to Tommy's Pizza's East Lane Avenue location, across from the campus of The Ohio State University. Although my pizza-eating days are largely over (except for the occasional half-slice of the real stuff or individual servings of the healthy stuff), Tommy's remains my favorite pizza on the planet. And while Martha and I ate our salads and many dove into subs, I think the rest of the group enjoyed their pizza. Before eating, the sixteen of us joined in praying a common Lutheran table grace:
Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed. AmenWe had six youth, three children, and seven adults for our foray to Columbus and, after lunch, we went to the Lutheran Social Services food pantry on Champion Avenue on Columbus's south side. This is an impressive operation.
People needing food evidently screened into the process when they arrive at the pantry.
Volunteers then meet these folks with shopping carts and proceed to help to bag items from categories like grains, proteins, meats, vegetables, breads, greens, and fruits.
What I love about the process is that, for the recipients of the food, it's more like going shopping than it is sticking out their hands. That diminishes any threat to their dignity.
I also love the interaction with the clients the process gave to volunteers like us. It was fun talking about various foods and different ways of preparing them with folks as we moved from aisle to aisle with shopping carts today.
Most of our folks were involved in dealing with the recipients directly in this way. But some of our young people were drafted to bring food items upstairs from a basement storage area, replenishing supplies on the main floor. This was really needed, as some of the LSS staff told us that today brought an unusually large number of folks to the pantry today.
There were a number of volunteers from Bank of America too. They appeared to be working really hard.
I was unable to snap pictures at either the American Whistle Corporation or at the food pantry. I took some pictures and videos on the Monday and Tuesday of our mission week. I'll hopefully post those later.
In no particular order, I want to thank the following folks for their hard work with the mission week so far:
Isaac D. (aka: Critter)
Bob and Carolyn
Tony (aka: Chuck!)
We're also thankful to all who have donated items and money. I'm especially grateful to all who are praying that God will keep us safe, teach us to serve in Christ's Name, and have fun. (I hope that I haven't forgotten anyone!)
More volunteer names will be added as we come into the last two days of the mission, which will include a Friday night sleep deprivation...er, lock-in.