Home again (with photos!)

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Our final day, Thursday, at SOS was a mad dash to finish as much of our projects as we could, and time wasn’t on our side: storms were predicted for the late afternoon. Fortunately, each team was ready to work hard and fast, and we all accomplished much before the storms showed up, right on schedule, around 3 p.m. (this despite the windiness, sprinkles, a transformer blowing up down the block from one home, and one of us falling off the roof—but don’t worry, the harnesses work). SOS staff will be back over the next few weeks to wrap up where we left off.

IMG_9326In chapel Thursday night, we enjoyed worshiping with the other two schools one last time before some students shared highlights from the week and hammered nails into SOS’s “Say So” cross, which is a physical testimony to the work God has done in thousands of SOS volunteers over the last 20 years. It was a blessing for us to hear how God has been working in others’ lives this week as we reflected on what it meant to us. God certainly challenged each one of us to consider our own situations and how he calls each of us to “downward mobility,” to embrace physical and spiritual brokenness and join him in his work.

On Friday, we woke early for a quick breakfast and said farewell to our SOS team leaders and to SOS itself. We spent the day in rainy Memphis, exploring and resting before enjoying spicy fried chicken near Beale Street, Memphis’ famous musical avenue. On Beale Street, we got the chance to walk and shop, and some team members had the opportunity to talk to some men they encountered on the street. Even here, though, God continued to challenge us, as one of the men got a little bit verbally aggressive with the team. Certainly God calls us out of the safety of our comfort zones sometimes.

IMG_9320Saturday morning we got up and headed to our final destination: St. Louis. There we explored the famous City Museum, an old shoe factory converted into an architectural and historical jungle gym, complete with planes suspended from the outside of the building and a 10-story slide down what were once shoe chutes. After the museum, we headed to the Arch and enjoyed a pleasant evening together at its base, our last together as a team. In the evening we headed to Applebee’s for dinner and then to the hotel.

On Sunday we were blessed by Jon and Jake, our trip leaders, through a foot-washing and time of encouragement and prayer for each one of us. It was a beautiful time for us to reflect on the relationships we’ve built with one another throughout the week and a chance to look forward to continuing those relationships after we return to Taylor. I was particularly struck by the passage Jake shared with us to open and close our time:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

IMG_9315I think this demonstrates so well what we tried to do as a team throughout this week as we showed love to one another, to SOS’s staff, to the homeowners with whom we were working, and to many others we encountered in restaurants, on the streets, and in our hotels. It was really awesome today (Monday) in chapel for Dr. Jay Kesler to share about this passage (God’s so cool, right?) and encourage us as the Taylor community to love one another in order to create the body of Christ. Through loving God and loving one another, we accomplish the ultimate goal of God’s kingdom-building work, to bring as many people into to body of Christ as possible.

Thank you so much to everyone who supported us, prayed for us, and followed our work throughout this week. We’re looking forward to sharing our stories and experiences with many of you in the coming weeks. If you’d like to continue praying for us, pray that we would be challenged and changed by what we experienced in Memphis and apply what we learned in our lives. Pray also for our transition back into life at TU as we resume our studies and cope with feeling separated from our team and others we met in Memphis.

Blessings, for the last time, from Team Memphis!

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Days 2 and 3

Tuesday morning all of the teams headed out to their worksites again. Some of the groups faced trials as we had to do other smaller projects before we would be able to shingle the roof again. When we faced these trials, some of us struggled with the fact that we thought we had better plans than God had for us. Our relationships with our homeowners grew quite a bit as we continue to spend time eating lunch with them and also doing our devotionals with them. It seems as though most of the homeowners are really enjoying our company as we work on their roofs.

In our devotional on Tuesday we discussed redemption. We were challenged by the idea that we are all poor, blind, imprisoned, and oppressed in some way. In contrast, today we talked about every human being created in the image of God. I think the way that we were challenged today was in knowing how our relationships with others remind us that we are all made in God’s likeness.

Wednesday was SOS’s designated half-day for the work teams, and all of us were glad that our work progressed more smoothly in the morning than it did on Tuesday. We certainly learned the lesson of patience God was teaching us yesterday! (And I should add that many of us were sad to quit working at lunchtime as we were raring to keep working.)

After lunch we returned to SOS to learn more about organizations working in Memphis and seeking to better the community, after which the director of SOS challenged us to think about how we might be called to serve in poorer communities. One message that really stuck out to us was this: Christians often return from weeks like these with the realization that they take their many blessings for granted and they ought to be more grateful. Yet Jesus didn’t come to earth, see the brokenness of humanity, and return to heaven grateful that he’d been blessed by God. He ran to the brokenness and sacrificed his life to begin the process of restoring it.

Our team got to experience “running to brokenness” firsthand when several of us were approached by three men who were struggling with material poverty. Although we were unable to give them the money they were seeking, the team members instead told the men they were Christians and asked to pray for them, and their reactions were stunning. Each was overwhelmed with the joy only a relationship with Jesus can bring, and our team was so glad to be able to share that joy with them.

We ended Wednesday first by enjoying some delicious Memphis barbecue (and a chance encounter with the men’s UCLA basketball team who were doing the same) and second by sharing our experiences so far as a team and worshiping together. We continue to be amazed by all that God is teaching us here and all that he is challenging us to consider as we think about returning to our “normal” lives next week. The evening was an amazing time of worship for all of us, and we’re so excited for our last few days on the trip.

Pray for good weather and high spirits Thursday as we work to finish out our roofs!

A Tennessee Weekend

The Memphis team went south on Saturday in search of warmer weather than chilly Upland had to offer. We found it in sunny Nashville, our first stop on the way to Memphis.

In Nashville, we enjoyed a restful evening filled with frisbees, fried food, and the Final Four (or the games leading up to it, anyway–I needed another “f”). We felt rejuvenated following a hectic week of midterms and continued to bond as a team through visiting Opryland, go-karting, and sleeping a good long while.

Sunday we headed to a larger church in downtown Nashville. The worship and message were a great experience for many of us, but we also spent time debriefing the service afterward. The worship, free (delicious) coffee, and high-budget nature of the church led many of us to consider what ministry looks like in a showy city like Nashville and how best to reach its star-struck people. Our conversations helped many of us to realize that the key part of any ministry is the end goal: to glorify God and proclaim his love. This was just the first of many lessons we’re learning in Tennessee.

After church we finished out the drive to Memphis and arrived at our base for the week, Service Over Self’s headquarters. We made ourselves at home among bunk beds, ping pong tables, and family-style meals, each of which has taken many of us back to our days in summer camp. We also enjoyed meeting students from two other colleges (Mizzou and the College of the Ozarks), and we quickly combined to play a few games of Murder in the Dark Sunday night.

SOS staff welcomed us and oriented us to our week, encouraging us to enter our mission as humble learners, ready to listen to the stories and pour into the lives of the homeowners we’ll be serving. Chapel Sunday night began with a focus on God’s creation, which he called “very good,” and an encouragement to remember creation’s goodness before the brokenness of the Fall which followed. Another lesson learned was that we do missions because God’s world was and is meant to be good, not because it’s broken and needs fixing.

Monday we woke early–at 7:30, to be precise, with Katy Perry’s “Eye of the Tiger” blaring loudly in our rooms–and split into our 3 work teams for the week before heading out to our sites for the week. Each team is working primarily on roofing–tearing off old layers of shingles (sometimes layers on layers on layers…), preparing the roof for new shingles, and laying down new shingles. We’re all learning how to maneuver adeptly on sloped rooftops (but don’t worry, moms and dads, we’re all harnessed securely to the peaks).

Much was accomplished at each site, and we’ve all gotten to connect with the homeowners to varying degrees. My team had the privilege of hearing one woman’s story, about her difficult life and the ways she struggles with sin, and to share the love of Christ with her. While there was no “come to Jesus” moment today, we hope and pray that our words and actions this week will speak volumes into her life–and we invite you to join us in those prayers.

In the evening, we split into two groups to visit the homes of Christians who’ve decided to move into the low-income neighborhoods in which we’re working. Although one team was unable to find their home (we wandered around Memphis for an hour looking for it), the other team was blessed to hear from a couple who are loving their neighbors in the fullest sense of the phrase. The team appreciated that the couple did not come in with the expectation of saving the community and changing everything but simply desire to build relationships and serve their neighbors well.

To sum up our Tennessee weekend, we’re excited to be working with one another as our friendships within the team deepen. Pray for our continued energy, rooftop safety, positive attitudes, and the ability for all of us to glorify God and love one another and the people with whom we interact deeply.

It’s Almost Here

Hey Friends,

I hope that this message is finding you enjoying your last few days of the semester before we head out on our spring break trips. Just some things to share about our Memphis team. We have raised more than enough money to support our trip to Memphis!! Praise be to the Lord!! On Monday, March 10 the Memphis team had our local service project. We headed over to Jerry Nelson’s farm to help him organize some things that he had collected in his chicken coop. It was a really neat experience and we learned as a team that we work well together, which is super uplifting. This past week, we had our final class meeting before we head out to Memphis. We went over the logistics of our trip, but what was really awesome and unique about our night was that we spent time sharing communion as a team. We were able to gather around the Lord’s Supper as a team. That was super awesome. In addition to sharing in the Lord’s Supper, we also spent time sharing some of our worries and hopes with one another for our trip. After this we prayed all out loud at the same time. You might think, how can you have 20 people praying all at the same time and for God to hear it? Well what’s really neat is that God does hear all 20 voices when they speak at the same time.

We start our journey to Memphis on Saturday at 10 am so if you all could keep us in your prayers as we are traveling. Throughout the week we will be serving alongside Service Over Self (SOS). If you could also pray that our time goes well and that we can not only make an impact on the people that we serve in Memphis, but that we make an impact on our hosts and team leaders at SOS. We are all getting excited to head out and do God’s work. Thank you for your support and prayers.

For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. ~ Hebrews 3:4

Memphis, TN

In Memphis, Spring Break Missions and Carpenter’s Hands are teaming up with Service Over Self (SOS) helping to rebuild and improve houses of families in need. Through this ministry, we will help qualified homeowners to rebuild their homes for their families, giving us the opportunity to minister to them by and through this work. This trip, then, is for those who enjoy getting their hands dirty, wearing out every muscle in their body, and having swollen hearts for the families they work with face-to-face.

Memphis Team Picture 2014

Prayer Requests:

  1. Safety as we drive to and work in Memphis.
  2. ‪With a large team of 20 that we could get to know each other quickly and learn how we can best use our skills together.
  3. For our team would be that we are aware. Just that we are aware of ourselves and our surroundings, not only as we minister to people in Memphis, but also as we travel and have fun.

Hebrews 3:4 – “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.”