On August 2nd through August 9th, six basketball teammates, one swimmer, and two adult leaders went on a mission trip to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It was amazing to see how God was able to allow the trip to happen, what we accomplished, and the lessons and stories that came along with the trip.
For the week, our team would wake up early, have a devotional (quiet time reading the Bible), go serve the Lord by doing a construction project, host a camp at the YMCA, and lastly, end the day with a Bible study about the book of James.
On the first day of construction, we drove to a two bedroom house that has been passed down generations among a family and is currently owned by two sisters. This house has never had an air conditioning unit, where meanwhile I sit at home in a 80 degree (classic Daddy Knight saving money in the summer) house during the day and complain because it’s hot. In general, seeing the house and hearing stories about it made me realize how much I take for granted at home in my comfort zone.
After listening to Gary Wendt, the leader of the construction project, our team immediately went to work on the house. We split into three groups and began to put sheet rock up in the house to help remodel the walls. Here, I stood in awe of God as he was chiseling at me and humbling me to serve and love those in need with joy in my heart. Every group ran into obstacles and made numerous mistakes when cutting the sheet rock, but we persevered through the challenges and failures of our mis-measurements. Doing this part of the house was an incredible lesson of preciseness and patience. Even though we were serving Gary, and the two sisters, we also began to learn how to serve each other on the team as well. When we would recognize that people were getting discouraged or stressed, we would burst into dance moves, sing along to the radio, or converse over a water break. Eventually we even made a music video to entertain us during our mission. In general, the sheet rock was completed with time and helped us grow closer to each other. James 1:2-4: Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Well, we were able to finish the sheet rock in three days of work, and then we moved on to bigger and better... the porch. This porch that we demolished and rebuilt, began with rotted wood supporting the house, and some creative combinations of supporting poles. One pole was jammed diagonally between the house and the porch to support the roof, and another was actually four smaller poles nailed together to pretend to be one. Our team bought wood with the money we fundraised, and used several power tools (nail guns, electric saws, impact drivers, etc.) to construct a new porch and stairs that would brought smiles to the sisters’ faces. Imagine seven college students using these power tools because it was a scary sight. After squishing the surplus of spiders, wedging supports between the porch and the roof, and laying down a solid foundation, the porch was complete and we marveled at our craftsmanship and, at God, who gave us the capabilities and resources to accomplish it.
The people we met during the construction project were amazing inspirations because one could see the light of God shining through them. Gary, the leader of the construction project, began this non-profit mission by himself to bring in groups, like our team, to share the Word of God with and to serve those who are not financially capable of serving themselves. Everyday we worked, Gary and his truck would turn the corner and we would know he is ready to share his wisdom with us. The coolest thing about Gary is that he is tenacious and patient. Although he is probably in his 60s, he worked ten hour long days with us, and only took one or two breaks. Then, on top of him working nonstop, he had all nine of us constantly pestering him with questions, making mistakes, and last, he had a wife at home with arthritis that limited her from leaving the house, so he would FaceTime occasionally to check in on her and show her his devotion. Gary was a remarkable person to meet, even just for a week, and it was encouraging to see someone completely content in the Lord, relying on God’s wisdom, even as chaos was going on around him. James 3:17: But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
Also, the sisters, Mary and Chrissy, were the two women who lived in the house that we worked on. On our second day of work, Mary strolled over to the house with her cane, showed us her appreciation, and then sat outside to keep us company while we worked. She did not say too many words, but her actions could confirm her gratitude as she would sit with a huge smile on her face as she tried to avoid being inconvenient. It made me think about what difference it makes to have the presence of people around. Mary was a woman of few words, but God used her to move our team and draw us near to Him. Her sister, Chrissy, also brought laughter when she crossed the street to the house. Her enthusiasm was astonishing and at one point when the house was finished she praised God and said, “I cannot stop smiling!” The emotion that Chrissy showed was encouraging and it showed me why God made us to serve others instead of ourselves. Even the sisters, who could barely afford to live in a house without air conditioning, would serve us by bringing over popsicles and juice packs. These women were amazing, and it was comforting to see their gratitude, but even more comforting to see that their joy came from God and not from the actions of this world. I thought I came to serve them, yet they still did everything they could to serve my team and I. James 2:26: As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
Finally, our third project was to host a sports camp at the YMCA. We walked into the camp planning to teach the kids basketball, but that plan was immediately overthrown when we arrived. The YMCA had six basketballs for seventy-four kids between the ages of four and fourteen. After a failed attempt to teach lay ups and knockout, we reverted to childhood games such as freeze tag, duck duck goose, etc. At this camp, it was recognizable that the kids were yearning for attention and love. I would say one word and the next thing I knew, eight children would swarm around me screaming with happiness, anger, or confusion. They were such precious children, and everybody on our team would share stories about the kids that they became closest too. For me, my story was about a boy who thought he was too cool to play our games. On the second day of sports camp, a teammate and I took a third of the kids into a separate room where we played red light green light, and then we would have a few minutes of free time until the next rotation of kids would come in. During free time, this boy, Braylynn, was getting frustrated with people messing with his pool balls as he tried to play pool. I walked over there and all he wanted to do was show me how he could hit the balls into the pockets. Whenever I looked away it was obvious that he was waiting for me to turn around to watch him hit the next ball. His frustrations with the others would go away because he was seeking my love, which was really God’s love, instead of his success.
Anyways, the children were incredible to adore and love. At the end of the days of camp, we would share a short Bible verse with them and let them respond by sharing their opinions too. It was a great experience to hear their thoughts and see them seeking love, which in retrospect, love is all we seek, and God is the ultimate giver of it. James 1:17: Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
Overall, our projects led to several stories, memories, and lessons. God was moving in myself, and everyone around me, especially my team. Every night of the week my team would come together for worship songs and Bible study. We meditated on the book of James. God quickly convicted me each night that my choices in life is a battle between God’s plan or Satan’s deceit. We were made to obey and glorify God, to accept his love and mercy, yet we constantly choose to disregard his purpose for us. Personally, I know that I have messed up numerous times in my life, so I am a sinner, yet God sacrificed his son, Jesus, to forgive us when we screw up. Well, the book of James humbled me because the more I would read it, the more God would show me that I am not perfect, but He is. I am undeserving of God’s grace and mercy, but His power and love have overwhelmed me.
Basically, throughout the projects, meals, and the mission trip week in general, God became a radiance; highlighting his power, love, and wisdom; and I simply stood in awe of Him. James 4:14-15: Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
Again, I just wanted to share the experience and love that God gave me through it. Overall, it was an amazing week full of chasing after God. If you have any other questions about what I learned or did please let me know!
Posted on Thu, September 8, 2016
by Wendy Knight