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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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.