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Senior Youth Mission Testimonials

Sept 18, 2016

By Bob Myers and Addy Fagan

Bob

Good Morning!  My name is Bob Myers and I am a Senior Youth…. and I think I need to underline and Bold the word Senior.  This past July I had the opportunity to participant as a chaperon in the Senior High Community Service Mission Trip which was held in Charlotte NY.   Today, I would like to share some of my week’s experiences and I hope through my words and sharing leaves you filled with faith, joy, and love for the youth of First Parish, our local community, and of the USA.  Let me be clear, if you are worried about the future of First Parish, our small community of York, or of our country.   From my perspective and the week long experience with our Christian Youth we will be serviced very well.   Every day they demonstrated abilities in: faith through prayer, commitment to serve others, honoring God and Jesus Christ, and the skills to be future leaders in the church and the world.

The journey started well before we departed for Charlotte NY.  There were auctions, car washes, bake sales, some basic skills training, and local service project etc. in preparation for the mission trip.  Before we knew it, it’s the morning of July 23rd and the hustle and bustle of packaging the vans, holding a send-off blessing and prayer, and saying good bye.   The convoy is OFF!   4 vans, 2 trucks and a horse trailer full of tools and bags.   So I ask you all who have been on family vacations or road trips, what do you think the first questions was?   You’re right!  When will we get there?   For our first stop, we made it as far as the Charlton rest stop on the Mass Pike.  And then several other stops for gas, food, and bathroom breaks before reaching our first day’s designation of the United Church of Christ in Henrietta NY.   We met Pastor Inglis and he showed us around the Fellowship Facility, we unloaded the necessary overnight sleeping materials and personal travel bags.   It was a Pizza night, and we held our first mission session together with some ice breakers, getting to know you games, and time talking and discussing what it means to be representing First Parish.  On Sunday we attended worship with the congregation, where we were very welcomed by Pastor Inglis and the Congregants.    There we were all 43 of us dressed in our purple t-shirts, I don’t know if we represented half of attendees but, we were a significate presences.  We received their prayers and blessing for what and how we were serving the Rochester community.   After the wordship we joined the congregation for their coffee hour.  During this time you could see the smiles, hear the laughter as our kids and chaperons engaged with the Congregants.  Getting questions and having discussions about the Mission Trip we were embarking.  I had several people say how blessed our church was to have such and active and large youth program; and thanking us for worshiping with them.

Addy

The mission trip we all attended this summer was amazing. The week started out on a great note. We left early in the morning, but as you can imagine we weren’t too happy about the early part. Other than that, we were all ready to go. All that was left was to gather in for a group prayer, file in the vans, and we would be on our way.

Driving in a van for roughly 10 hours with anyone is interesting, to say the least. Now imagine riding with almost 10 sophomores, juniors and seniors. I won’t go into much detail, but I have to give all of  the chaperones some credit for putting up with us. It takes a lot to give up a week of your life to spend working with a bunch of high schoolers from all over. I am so grateful for all of the adults who came from our church and all the other churches too. They are what make these trips possible, so I just want to say a quick thank you.        

Bob

We arrived at Charlotte on Sunday afternoon, after group photos; the unloading of fans, air mattress, cot’s, sleeping bag, and personal luggage began.  We were staying in Boys School (older school no air conditioning, except in cafeteria) and of course the classrooms we were assigned were located on the third floor, no elevators.   After claiming a spot in the classroom where we would spend little time except for sleeping everyone set-up their Fans, cots, and blew-up the air mattresses and etc...  The Boys room looked pretty organized however, it was short lived.  I have to commend all our ladies for their week long indulgence, remember I mentioned this was a Boys School and their bathroom facility weren’t what they were accustomed.  Hopefully you can understand what I mean by this!  Finally everyone had a little quiet time before dinner and the evening program which allowed the beginning of the socialization and fellowship among the attending youth and adults.

Sunday evening we joined the other Churches youth members, chaperons, and Mission staff for opening camp introductions and the evening program.   There were 420 in total, 363 youth and the remainder being staff and adult chaperons.  The theme for the Mission week was EXTRAORDINARY turning ordinary to the EXTRAORDINARY; there is no ordinary with Jesus!  

As part of the evening program/devotion we discussed SEEING THE EXTRAORDINARY and discussed Acts 4:13 which (was) read earlier however, I want to read it once again.

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”

Peter and John got into trouble with the Jewish leaders because, through the power of Jesus they had healed a crippled man, and they were preaching boldly to all the people.  However, the interesting thing is... the Jewish leaders were astounded that these lowly men who just weeks before had been very frightened were now men who were highly powerful in their character and influence. 

The mission week focused on how the ordinary transforms into EXTRAORDINARY because of Jesus.  Spending time with him, serving with him, listening to him, and following him working together to transform our lives!  (Change t-shirt)

During the evening program the adults received their service project information and met their work crew members for the first time.  FROM STRANGERS TO LIFE-CHANGERS!   Crews consisted of 5 youth and an adult, and I was very grateful that my crew had an additional adult with previous experience.   As we met as a crew we reviewed our project assignment, we were to paint the external of a house.  There was one comment on the assignment work sheet that draws my immediate attention “Requires extensive scrapping” I thought ah, something to worry about!  No, it can wait until you see it tomorrow!  

As part of the introductions we had to eventually get to work assignment for each crew member.  The kids had to decide/volunteer for their weekly role within the work crew team.  There were six responsibilities to choose from:  Breaker Maker (responsible for ensure breaks were taken, and getting the food and drink for the crew each morning ;) Organizer (keeps the crew packet/assignment and first aid kit, makes sure members have some daily work assignment ;) Devotion Leader (leads the crew‘s daily devotion ;) Progress Reporter (reports daily on job progress to camp staff ;) Quartermaster (orders/get extra tools and ladders that are needed ;) Work Director (oversee the crew’s work to get project completed.)  What a fun time this is, you have the bold and confident those that speak first, and the shy those needing encouragement but, in the end everyone has a crew role/assignment that team becomes dependent.

Believe me the Sunday evening program is something to experience seeing 363 Christian youth singing, and celebrating their faith in God, Jesus Christ and Prayer.  Meeting their crew’s members for the first time and becoming a working team.  EXTRAORDINARY!

Now that I’ve shared some the rudimentary elements of our Service Mission trip WE would like to share some personal experiences and happening during the week.

Addy

Everyday, we would wake up bright and early, eat breakfast then go to our job site. The vans were filled with two crews. Luckily, my crew and the other crew we were with connected very quickly. We had so much fun singing on our way to work and we really got to know each other. When we arrived at our job site, we went straight to work. My crew had to paint the inside and outside of a two story home, and that is a lot of work for five teenagers and one adult to do in a week. Since it was rainy on our first day, we painted the inside of the house. Surprisingly, we finished painting with time to spare, so we used the time to our advantage. Everyone was given a book which had instructions for what we should discuss during our devotions at lunch. We would go over the message for the day, and we would relate the message into our own lives. There was normally an activity as well.

One day, our activity was going around the circle and have everyone come up with a descriptive word for each person. Not to mention the fact the some of the children at my residents’ home decided to join. They brought in some amazing compliments. As we went around the circle, the last person to describe was my crew leader, Diana. Now, Diana had decided to come on the trip last minute. She was told that more crew leaders were needed, and she thought it would be fun because her son, Jeremy, was also going. She had gone through a tough year. Sadly, she just divorced her husband who, she had told us, was verbally abusive throughout their marriage. Whenever she talked about it, she would become emotional, as anyone would in that scenario. I know that was in everyone’s mind when thinking of words for her because it was then that I realized that the point in saying all of these nice things wasn’t just to say them. It was saying the words that the people around you needed to hear and don’t get told enough.

This is when my head was filled with words like, “beautiful,” “strong,” and “amazing.” Of course, me being me, I couldn’t pick just one word for Diana, so I said them all. I also told her that she should never let anyone make her think otherwise because she’d be lying to herself. Everyone else said what they had to say, and I must say, my crew was filled with some of the most thoughtful people I have ever met. Everyone had such uplifting words for her, and it wasn’t long before Diana broke into tears. Not because she was sad, but because she hadn’t been told these things in way too long. She said it had been years since she’s been called beautiful, worthy or any other word that we said. We then had a further discussion on how some things change you for the better, and how it is all a part of God’s plan for each of us. The different conversations we had throughout the week were amazing.

That same day, my resident, Eva, joined us for a group prayer. It was her 75th birthday, and she wanted to show her appreciation with us and God. It was amazing to hear what she had to say because she hadn’t been as “involved” as we had all hoped. It was the first time she showed how grateful she was for us being there and helping her and her family. We were so blessed to be joined by her husband, daughter, best friend, grandchildren and our crew. Eva led us in prayer and took us all by surprise with all she has noticed about us while were working outside. It was an amazing feeling to know that our hard work was being appreciated.

Bob

On Monday we met our residents, in my case ”Bonnie”. She was so delighted to see us arrive and welcomed our arrival with a big smile, open arms and hugs for all.  She had made applications to have her house be a selected project for the last four years and was very grateful this year was her year.  As we spent some initial time with her our devotional leader ask her to join us for lunch and devotion.   There was another crew assigned to the project so there was a total of eleven new “white” faces in the community.  So we were the attraction, people driving and walking by slowly, wondering what’s happening?   My worry about extensive scrapping in deed was a reality, but the team and I moved quickly beyond it, we were here to provide a service to Bonnie and God no matter what the task.   As our sight in the community became familiar and our work progressed on the transformation of the appearance of Bonnie’s home we started to receive visitors that would stop by to tell us Thank you, you’re doing a great job, and we appreciate the service you’re providing.   As we continued our lunch and devotion on the front lawn; Bonnie’s daughter and grandson joined as well as three neighborhood kids.  The kids really enjoyed the interaction and playing with our kids, one of the crew-members showed them how to paint and then let them paint for a while.  I felt a transformation and acceptance with in this community that may have be likened to that of how Jewish leaders felt about Peter and John being with Jesus.  Weeks before had been very frightened were now men who were highly powerful in their character and influence.  I think this really speaks volumes about servicing our neighbors.

As we continued to discuss Acts 14:13 during our devotions, I had a devotional experience that brought tears to my eyes.  I witnessed Extraordinary Boldness!    To encourage folks to talk there were prepared questions Examples like:  What does a bold faith look like anyway?   How did “being with Jesus” change the two men?  How have you felt challenged to be bold today or this week?  The last question was hard for the kids and the adults; however, as we went around the circle everyone felt BOLD enough to say something: “I find it difficult talking about my faith with friends that aren’t religious.”  “I have had problems with drugs in the past and I’m working really hard to stay straight.”   When it was the turn of a 16 year old girl, she said because I have come to trust and love you during this week I can tell you.   “I used to abuse or hurt myself by cutting myself and I’ve attempted suicide.   I’ve been clean for the last five years and finding God and my savior Jesus Christ has allowed me to do so.”   As you can imagine complete silence, and the adults didn’t have a dry eye.   After devotion I gave her a big hug and told her that was Extraordinary Boldness and that I was very proud of her talking about her faith and her past.    To me this was really a God Moment and what it means to being with Jesus. 

Addy

Now, this mission trip was more than just helping people. I got so much out of this trip. For example, I saw God’s work throughout the week in my youth group, my crew, my residents and even the neighbors at our job site. I was lucky enough to have watched, and be a part of, everyone go from a little uncomfortable and nervous to being themselves, branching out, trying new things, meeting new people and forming new relationships that will last after we all go home.

At the school where we were staying, I was exposed to so many different views, beliefs and opinions than I ever have. I was also able to share my faith with people in need of direction or even reassurance. It was amazing to know that what has saved me from some very dark times can help others with theirs too. It’s true. Finding my faith in God was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. It saved me from some pretty hard times.

We have one night on the mission trip that is designated to facing what you’ve done that you aren’t necessarily proud of and moving on. Whether it’s through prayer or talking it out with someone, everyone had the choice of letting go. The night is more personal than the other nights. I was lucky enough to be able to comfort someone from another school who had a similar struggle that I did. This person just couldn’t stop asking if things would ever get better. Of course, I said they do. I mean, look at me. I am standing here in front of my congregation, and I am better than ever. I told this person, who had a few tears running down their cheeks, that God didn’t put them on this earth for them to struggle and suffer. He wants the best for us, and once you find him in your life, you can get that. It isn’t always easy to get what makes you happy, but having faith in God and yourself makes it a lot more achievable. This is the message that I left Charlotte with because I have never had that much exposure to God before. I was able to help myself and others on this trip with God’s guidance, and I’m so excited for next year

Bob

Several people have asked me about why I decided to go on the Mission Trip.   My initial reply was that I have seven grandchildren and we have short periods of time we spend together and that I wanted to build a better relationship with them by knowing more about what and how our young people are thinking and doing.  In retrospect I now think that was a selfish reason.   Thanks to Gus, Addy, and Keeley I learned more about Pokémon.   But I would also add it wasn’t just about the experience with the kids.  It was about the bigger experience with the whole community’ the kids, the chaperons, the Staff that facilitated the Mission Services, the sponsors, and residents we serviced.   It was a life changing experience that I will remember and cherish for the remainder of my life.  A different learning experience from my Cuba Mission trip!  However, both have given me the opportunity to grow and share my faith and for that I am thankful and full of gratitude for God’s GRACE that has been shed upon me. 

Those kids’ adult leaders and chaperons to my right are TRULY EXTRAODINARY, May God’s blessing and light shine upon you!