Monday, January 30, 2012

New Orleans Missions' Trip: Day Two (January 23, 2012)

Morning at the Yellow House

This morning, I read Luke 8:1-15, where Jesus talks about different kinds of soil and different heart conditions. I noticed that there are three different kinds of soil and seed in this passage (with soil referring to our heart conditions, and seed referring to God's Word). First, there's the kind of seed that can be given. Say you're on a path or road and it's right there for you to receive. Yet, it has the potential to be snatched away just as easily as it can be received. Then, there's the kind that's thrown on rocks. The rocks get the seeds, but it doesn't get rooted in them. Rather, the seeds just bounce off them. Another way to look at this is the rocks see the seeds as joyous and appealing. At least, for a while. It is simply temporary for them. And there's a third kind, consisting of thorns. The seeds fall in these areas, but get wrapped up and choked. The thorns illustrate worries and fears, and even distractions, of life that give many of us no sense of maturity or growth. It can be an autopilot phase for such.

As far as my relationship with God goes, I fit this latter kind of soil. To be honest, one of the things I struggle with sometimes is how much to do in a given situation. Should there be more or less in this situation, I ask myself. There is also difficulty in finding a balance between being overwhelmed and doing so little.

When I work, most of the time I focus on what I'm doing. But sometimes, I don't take an interest in what other people are doing, for some reason or another. What I mean is that I'm too focused on my own thing that it's hard for me to care about what other members of the group or team of employees or such are doing. Likewise, I ask myself (as I did today), Am I doing this the way I want to, or the way I was asked/told to do it? On the other hand, as workers or volunteers (or both), we are told to work in a specific area, and are told what we need to do in that area to get the job done. After all, everybody does a different thing. This makes the collaborative efforts and process so unique and worthwhile.

A glimpse of the new facility

Inside the new facility (and its status)

Team members checking things out

Some of the walls I got to work on - er, paste and tape.
(Others called it "mudding" or something.)

I was assigned to work on the walls in the church we helped built. The sub-team (if you will) that I got to work with consisted of about four or five people (including myself), with a couple more people helping out as the week went on. I prayed later that night for wisdom and strength to be less careless and to take an interest in what my fellow workers were doing in their assigned/volunteered groups. I also told myself not to stress about this, and that I still can talk to and listen to people as we socialize, eat, and enjoy the free time given to us.

I was told a couple weeks prior that the first day would be difficult, but would get better after that. During this evening, one of my friends pointed out that "ministry wasn't meant to be comfortable." Hence, the effects of stepping out of one's comfort zone. Yet, we're not alone in this.

View of New Orleans from second floor of Yellow House

We were given an opportunity this week to be strong and courageous in what we were doing. The same applied (and applies) to the people we were given the opportunity to get to know and understand.

It's refreshing to know that none of us are alone in where we're at.

Some of the work me and my colleagues finished today.

Here are a few quotes from John Gerhardt, who spoke at the current church that night.

"Do you believe in [God] enough? Do you love your friends enough? It's time to trash the joint." (Read Mark 2, and hopefully you'll get the reference/implication.)

"Jesus didn't die for us to be comfortable. He died for us to be courageous."

New Orleans Missions' Trip: Day One (January 21-22, 2012)

I had an incredible opportunity to go to New Orleans with the mission's team from my church this past week. During said time, we helped with Urban Impact Ministries and Castle Rock Community Church build their new facility, as well as build relationships within our team and with a few people in the neighborhood we stayed in. The Sunday prior to when we left, I got to stand up on stage at my church with most of the team members and/or volunteers that would be going, and it made me less stressed and worried than I was at the time.

I first became interested in this trip a while after I heard John Gerhardt (who's the executive director of Urban Impact and head pastor of Castle Rock) speak at my church last October. His sermon challenged and encouraged me to consider doing something selflessly and willingly for others. (By the way, his sermon had three points:

1. "Sometimes you gotta go when you don't have the dough."
2. "Sometimes you gotta go when you don't know."
3. "Sometimes you gotta go 'til God says no.")

When I heard about this trip, I sensed if this was an open door for the aforementioned reasons. I spoke with some people who were getting things together for it, and about what needed to be filled out and paid for and so forth. I also spoke to some friends, colleagues and family members about it and prayed about it. I questioned at times why I should go and why I decided to go in the first place. But after seeing team members a week before leaving, I felt better.

I got to know just about everybody I drove down with when we left on Saturday, January 22 (during which time we drove all afternoon and evening). We didn't get to a hotel until about one in the morning. We woke up between 6:30 and 7:30 and left around 8:30. We had about 5.5 hours to drive.

Russ, Jeff, and me

Emily and Mindy

Jake, Jamie, and Jeff at on of our first pit stops on the way

John (left), and everyone else checking out slushy machines.
(Russ was disappointed they didn't have Mountain Dew slushies.)

Scott (our esteemed driver!), ordering at Sonic
the afternoon before we got to N.O.

Entering New Orleans

The Yellow House, where we stayed

A glimpse of the bunks

We got to the house we would be staying at between 3 and 3:30. We spent some time getting our stuff situated and meeting some members of the other team that came down to help (from Madison, WI). At 5pm, we went down the street to where the current church (Castle Rock Community Church) was. We had an orientation session for about an hour, with an overview of what the week would consist of and expectations on our parts.

Castle Rock Community Church

I will be honest, I was fearful. One, because this was a new experience for me (never had I been on a missions' trip, nor have I been to New Orleans), and two, because I believed that I might (and probably would) be put in situations outside my comfort zone. Even the Day 1 devotional in the packets we were each given sounded scary. (It referenced Philippians 2:1-11 and talked about the role of Jesus and how "God would become a man and die for us.") I don't know about you, but that would indeed be a scary thought, to think that one would live just so he can die.

But then (at the orientation), I remembered faithfulness.

Terry Sistrunk (Director of Operations, and speaker at the orientation, and a great guy!) put it this way. "You have a great opportunity this week to move forward if you give God a chance."

The Bible says that there is no death in Christ. There is only death to ourselves--er, to our earthly flesh. However, there is a "new creation," a new form, a new perspective, a new way of living. (2 Cor. 5:17.) I've been a Christian for many years, which does not mean that my life's been perfect (by any means). I struggle, go through emotions, and get confused like everybody else. Yet I do believe God has given me people to work with, talk with, and pray with throughout the week. I also believe that He was challenging me to consider what hinders me, and to take a step of faith outside my comfort zone.

I had told myself many times this past fall that I'm sick of laziness and doing things only for myself. I may have exaggerated a few of those times, though. However, this week provided what would be the next challenge and phase of not only my life, but the lives of those I worked with.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Random Thoughts from Last Thursday and Friday of 2011

Thursday at 11:38am
This morning, I slipped my bike off an icy curb (which I was not aware of) and landed on right hip on the pavement. Owwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww! Even though I was fine after that, that fall was a pain!

This morning at work was good, until I spilt a bunch of little package boxes. Things like this instantly make me throw a fit and get me frustrated. (I can even have a tendancy to slip one or two s-words, I'll sadly admit.) "I HAD to do that," I quetly yell at myself.

I regret acting this way. I realize I need help and support in controlling my anger. Other people (and things, for that matter) deserve so much more than my behavior is toward them.

Friday at 12:56pm
Last night, my right hip and the left side of my neck started getting sore.

I'm feeling depressed again, as if I hadn't really accomplished anything lately. I haven't found work, moreover looked for any, hardly.

There is so much I can do, but I can't focus.

Again, I need help controlling my anger and my frustration.

I remember the "Hancock" quote that gives me assurance:

Life here can be difficult for me. After all, I'm the only one of my kind. You deserve better from me, I can be better. I will be better.

I also need to remember how I am toward those around me, including my friends and family. How I influence others is very important.

I am so thankful to be reminded of the importance and joy of starting again, of getting the chance to set things right again.

In regards to my behavior this morning, I am sorry. (I have offended no one but God. Yet, he holds account for those I have offended.)

What amazing reminders of love, friends and family. This is how I am put up with.