Youth Mission Trip 2019 - Wilmington, North Carolina
In July of 2019, our Senior High Youth group along with 4 adult leaders headed to the shores of Wilmington, North Carolina to participate with the disaster relief of Hurricane Florence. We worked alongside two other church youth groups, as well as the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, and our host Pelican Disaster Relief. Still, ten months after Hurricane Florence the devastation of Mother Nature could easily be seen. We spent our days on various work projects: ripping up flooring, taking down walls, hanging drywall, clearing out trees and debris, and painting. At the end of each day we joined for group worship and broke off into our individual church groups to share and reflect on the day. A truly amazing trip was had by all and everyone is looking forward to where next year's mission trip will bring us.
All of our experiences were then shared with the church congregation at the “Carolina Calling” service held on August 17 & 18th. We cooked up a taste of North Carolina foods and shared in our blessings of our church’s support.
Photos from Mission Trip 2019
Thanks to Mike Gehring, Cathy Johnson, & Mike Ihnen for their leadership and to the whole congregation for your support through financial contributions, prayers, and encouragement.
Following are reflections from some of our participants:
I had a great experience on the mission trip to The Carolinas. We helped with a multitude of different work that was a great new experience for me. I learned so much about what had happened and heard some great stories about the homeowners who were so nice and really loved to see us there helping them. It was a really awesome and priceless experience that I definitely cherish. It made feel really good that I went and helped with stuff as small as moving trash, picking weeds, painting a shed, and conversing with the homeowners really put a smile on their faces. One particular part of this trip that really touched me was when we met this person who was in the military and got shot down out of a helicopter from a rocket and is super lucky today that he is still here and now help with hurricane relief. This trip was so magical it felt like God sent us there for a reason. The mission trip was incredible and a once in a lifetime experience that made a great impact on my life.
On our 3rd day in Wilmington, we were almost done at our worksite, so the groups there split up to branch off to new worksites. I chose to go with a group that was cleaning the house of a woman whose liver was failing, so that she could come home from the hospital with hospice. My group consisted of people from Massachusetts and Mary, and the tasks we did to clean her house were nothing I thought I'd ever do, but because I was doing it for someone, and with new people, it didn't feel like work, it just felt like a vessel to strengthen relationships. Knowing when she got home that night she could relax in a clean house, while I got to return with new friends and new practical skills was a remarkable feeling.
On the trip I was in a group going to the Salvation Army. It was really cool because we got to help them get back on their feet, so they could spend their time on helping others. We really got to get to know everybody there. My group was invited to go to early morning devotions with the Salvation Army which was super cool. Anthony, the guy we were working for, talked about the history of the Salvation Army, and told us how it was started. We got to sit down and reflect for 30 minutes all as a group about the work we were doing and focus on God. It was a really amazing way to start off the morning of working. This trip was truly incredible.
Going into this mission trip I was thinking that I was gonna learn more about giving my time and talents to those in need. However, what I walked away with was the amazing experience of learning from those that we helped. One thing that I learned was that it is just as important to receive as it is to give. Anthony, a resident at our work site, was talking to us about how he too has been on mission trips. He was telling us all of these amazing stories about what he has done for others. Once he rented a food truck and drove it to Florida to cook meals for victims after a hurricane. With him being such a giver what I learned from him was that he was grateful for the help that he received through us. I believe this was God’s way of showing me what giving and receiving truly is. Although we love to help others, we need to accept that we need to be helped also. This trip I really did learn about giving. Giving my time. Giving love to those around me. But what I walked away with, which was not expected, was receiving even more than I could give: the support, love, new friendships, and God’s true presence in my life.
Last month in Wilmington, I was blown away by how God was working through us. We were able to help others by working on many physical projects. However, the best way we were able to help was being a listening ear to those who needed it most: the homeowners and their family and friends. For one of my workdays, Logan and I joined another group from Massachusetts to clean a nearby home. We met the owner’s family friend, Larry, upon arriving. We learned the owner, Dana, was given just 3 weeks left to live due to organ failure and wanted hospice to come in. In just a few hours, we were able to give her a clean house to come home to that night. The next day, we heard the news that Dana came to her newly cleaned home that night, and died peacefully and painlessly with hospice at her side. While sad, this is good news. We were able to give her her last gift and bless her family with less work to do. Larry told us it was the biggest weight we took off the family’s shoulders. One of the best moments I had this trip was due to the fact I was blessed with the opportunity to hand out the Bill Fleck crosses that we brought along on the 1100 mile journey. We gave them out to people such as Larry and Mrs.Dockery, whose landscaping we were working on. At this point in the day, I had not yet said a word to Mrs. Dockery, but when I went and handed her the cross necklace, she simply stood up and hugged me. These small wooden crosses represent so much hope and faith in God, even in the toughest of situations.
The mission trip to Wilmington North Carolina was my first one. I expected to endure a boring 18 hour car ride, help some people in need, then go home. I soon found out it was much more than this. I ended up enjoying every detail, from the long car rides to the work projects. In order to complete said work projects, they divided everyone into groups and sent us to different work sites. My group was assigned to two houses. My first impression was slight confusion, because I had sort of expected the houses to be completely destroyed by the hurricane that had passed through a while back. Luckily, this was not the case. The house that my group worked at needed some interior work to be done, so we went in to see what our job would be. I entered the one house that I would work at and learned that my group’s job would be to rip up what was left of the kitchen and bathroom floor. It looked easy enough, but once I started tediously chipping away at the many layers of glue and tile, I realized that this would take a while. It was hard enough jabbing a tiny handheld scraper into rock hard glue, but on top of that we weren’t able to sit down because of the puddles of boiling water and glue remover that we had generously applied all over the floor. After the first couple days, I started to get excited about going to the site. When we finished taking out the kitchen floor, we moved on to the bathroom. We removed the toilet, sink and floor, then we began to add in new flooring. It was tricky to get the laminate pieces to lock into place perfectly, so It took forever to get It done. The owner, Ms. Candy, was happy that we were there to help her, but we understood that it wasn’t exactly enjoyable having a bunch of people making a ton of noise with hammers and electric tools. Once we finished everything, she seemed very happy with how everything turned out. We gifted her one of Bill Fleck’s famous crosses and invited her to the community barbecue we went to Thursday night. I not only had a great time helping Ms. Candy, I also made many friends and strengthened relationships with old friends along the way.
While I was in Wilmington I did a variety of things from redoing someone’s entire kitchen to replacing someone’s air conditioning unit. However, the story that I want to share with you today is about the woman who we helped move out of her house. When we showed at her house, she was supposed to get married in two days, but she had been scammed out of her entire life. She had nothing left. Yet she had a friend willing to house her while she got back on her feet and this amazing program that helped her move for free. Without either the program we joined with or her amazing friend, who knows what would have happened to her? She would have had to pay for movers to come and get her stuff and then she might not have had enough money to put the things she really needs in storage and if she didn’t have that amazing friend to help her get back on her feet she might have had to sell all of her stuff so she could find someplace to live. Now when we went on this trip, I didn’t necessarily think I would be doing something like move a woman out of her house; I thought we would be building houses from the ground up. However, just this small thing such as moving a person out of their house, or letting someone crash at your house can really make a huge difference in someone's life. Even though I never did rebuild someone’s house from scratch I still did change someone's life in a big way. So in your life I challenge you to do something small for someone, like holding the door open for someone, or help them carry their extra bags to the car. And even though it feels like such a small thing to do it could really change someone’s life.
On the final night of the mission trip, we had gathering as usual after dinner and the leaders told us after worship that we were going to have our feet washed by our adult leaders. Each of the mission leaders went around in the circles that each individual church had formed and washed and blessed each adult leaders’ feet. After, the adult leaders went around to wash and bless each of us. The room was very quiet, but immediately you could feel the power of what we were doing and it felt so incredibly moving to watch each person sitting up here and everyone who I had spent this trip and a good chunk of my life with get their feet washed and receive a personal blessing. The emotion of the room was so powerful that I started to cry, and I saw everyone in our circle start to cry to. As our adult leaders continued to wash and bless each of us, we all started to cry even harder because of the overwhelming emotion and presence in the room. After each of us got our blessing, there was so much support and love from the people up here, and we all hugged each other after each. It was a very personal and deep emotion that we were all feeling, that was so new to each of us. I received my blessing from Mr. Inhen, which was so beautiful and personal and we all felt so touched by God that we all didn’t stop crying until after gathering was over, or after our church group time afterward.
Overall the trip was the best week of my life from the relationships I built with all the youth to the things I learned from all the new experiences. One thing that really stood out to me on this trip was that doing something so little could have such a big impact.
My group was working in a church of the Salvation Army - more specifically where the people stayed after the hurricane because the original shelter building had lost its roof. In times of crisis the Salvation Army is very focused on making sure the homeless community is safe and taken care of. Because the Salvation Army was so focused on helping others, they didn’t get a chance to fix up their own building. It had been 10 months since the hurricane hit and the building where we worked still had some water damage. We painted walls and replaced baseboards in the fellowship hall and although it did not seem like it was a big thing it was very much appreciated. Over all I feel as though it was one step forward in helping the community recover.
Let me preface this by saying I had already shared with our group that I do not like praying out loud for others to hear.
On the last night of the mission trip there is a ceremony where the staff washes the feet and shares a blessing over each of the adult leaders. Then the adult leaders do the same for the youth. I had never taken part in this before. I readily volunteered to do the feet washing part. I’m a nurse and this just seemed “nursey” to me. I assumed that Pastor Linda would follow behind me and give the blessing to each of our youth. Well, turns out I was WRONG. I was doing both the foot washing and the blessing. I didn’t have time to panic. I just jumped right in and went for it. Something came over me. I can only assume it was the Holy Spirit. I was able to find the words to share with each of the youth. Mike Ihnen also jumped in and began washing and blessing. Many heartfelt hugs and tears were shared in our group that night. It was a truly beautiful experience.
Always excited to hear after the breakfast hour where we might be headed off to for our daily project(s). On this morning we were asked to move a lady by the name of Jeanine out of her house as she had lost everything and could no longer afford to live where she was. She had no job, no income, no place to go, and no money. Upon arrival she asked me if I would go with her to pick up the rental truck as she was afraid to drive something that big. She and I jumped into her vehicle to get the truck while the remaining youth and leaders stayed behind to pack her things into boxes and get them ready to move into the truck. What many in our group don't know is that while driving, she broke down crying, telling me how much she appreciated the help she was now getting and how uncertain she was of what the future ahead was for her. The first thing I could think of to say was to ask if she was a believer and she immediately replied yes. I then said well you've probably heard this before but all you need to do now is take a deep breath and accept the path God has laid before you. Look at it as a new adventure however scary it may be. We don't understand God's plan for us, but need to be faithful that it is the right one. She then settled down, picked up the rental truck and headed back.
We were both surprised when we got back and saw literally her whole house packed and ready on the front driveway. As we were loading, she said she was selling some work out equipment and that the guy was on his way over and that she was going to give us the money for it so we could all have a lunch on her. I told her to keep the money as she needed it more than us and that we all brought our lunches with us already. Well she insisted....The guy came to buy her equipment and sure enough she tried to pass off a stack of $20's to us. I told her no, another leader from the other church said the same thing that she needed it to get to Florida where she had just set up to stay at a friend’s house while she regrouped. She was stubborn about it and the director from the Cape Fear Volunteer Center came over saw what was happening and took the money to use this for others that had been affected by the hurricane. We all agreed then. We moved all her belongings into a storage unit and actually had lunch in the storage unit. When all was done she again broke down, telling us how overwhelmed she was by us helping her in this way. We then all hugged, prayed, took pictures and went on our way.
Reflecting back on it, in our personal and church lives we are so blessed and have everything we need right in front of us here and now.
The mission trip for me was more than working and helping people. It turned out to be one of the best experiences I have ever had. I saw God working in many ways, from our kids doing jobs most kids don’t do, to seeing smiles on homeowner’s faces and them telling us how grateful they are for our help. Praying with the kids and having them share their highs and lows was very powerful and meaningful to me. I can see God at work in all these experiences including the support we got from our church members to help make this trip happen. Thank you.