Monday, January 30, 2012

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.

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