The second week in July, I went on my first missions trip. Location: Brimfield, Ohio. Our church's youth group does a trip every year, and this year I went. It was a great trip.
Why Brimfield? Our church's former youth pastor, Matt, is involved with a church plant there - Bridge Bible Church. The area is reported to be over 90% unchurched. Our goal was to show Jesus' love to people, and to take every opportunity to introduce them to Him. We did a lot of work projects, especially cleaning and landscaping the elementary, middle, and high schools. Some people served breakfast to policemen, lunch to firemen, ice cream to senior citizens and preschoolers. Some people got up early and gave out free coffee at an intersection, in the afternoons some people handed out water bottles (it was hot out!). We ran a VBS in the evenings - I helped with crafts. What pinatas have to do with a circus theme I do not know. A couple of the afternoons we did Backyard Bible Clubs in a low-income neighborhood. We didn't know we were doing that until the night before, and I found myself head of the Bible lesson team. That was a stretching experience - leading and telling the Bible story - but God is good and it ended up being one of the highlights of my week. We did a lot of door-to-door, handing out flyers with information on the VBS and church. Later in the week we collected canned food. Always we looked for open doors to start conversations and Jesus with people.
It was a busy, busy week. There were so many activities every day that it felt like 2 or 3 weeks instead of one. We were told to expect to be exhausted by Wednesday and it was so. One of the things I learned was how to keep on working and serving even through the exhaustion. "Do not weary in doing good..." Of course it probably didn't help that bedtimes weren't enforced... lol. Speaking of late nights, on the eve of my birthday, I wanted to stay up til midnight, but I didn't tell anyone that. Strangely enough, no one else wanted to go to bed either. A whole bunch of people, especially from our youth group (there were 2 other youth groups from Ohio there) seemed uninterested in going to bed. We were just talking and playing games... nothing to make me suspect... but I should've seen it coming. Once the clock struck midnight, they dumped a bag of balloons on my head and sang "Happy Birthday". :D Thanks, guys, you're the best. And then we all went to bed. My actual birthday was really nice too. They gave me two cards and a present, and totally coincidentally, we had cheesecake for dessert (yum!) and went to see a movie that night. Tony from Ohio's dad owns the theater, and we got to watch Toy Story 3-D for free! And then we swept all the theaters. :) I think that it was the best way I could've spent the day! I love our youth group. It was awesome getting to know them better.
One of the things that I was really struck by was the genuine focus on serving. At camp, it's really about discipling and developing your character. Here, the whole point was to reach other people. Except for meals, a brief nightly worship time, and debriefing (daily "what happened today" testimony time), every other planned activity was work. No mandatory fun and very little preaching and teaching. If you were going to come out of it having learned something, great, but it was going to be because you took the time and thought to learn it. Yet, we learned stuff. And we had fun, too.
Oh and if you don't like cold Spaghettio's out of a can for dinner, too bad. :P (That was our actual first dinner. Matt is not a detail-oriented person at all, and he thought it was hilarious. After that some ladies from Bridge Bible stepped in and made us good food. Yay! So we didn't have to "rough it" the whole week, lol)
PS: I got to ride in a hot air balloon! The last day of VBS we had a carnival, and there was a real hot air balloon giving rides. It was pretty lame in terms of height and length of time, but it was a fun experience!