Here we are on the bus on our way back to Indiana. Everyone was thankful to sleep in this morning because we were very tired after a week of hard work! Amidst the busyness of our week, many of us wanted time to reflect on what has happened this past week, so last night after a delicious taco dinner, we had an organized discussion time. We discussed some reflection questions with a partner and then shared together as a whole team. I just wanted to share some of the things that really stuck out to us this week:
- The Power of Showing Up:
- We met so many local people in passing who were so grateful that we came to Texas. A common phrase we heard was along the lines of, “There are so many fun things y’all could be doing with your Spring Break, and yet y’all came here.” We found that people were more vocal about the fact that we came than the actual work we were doing. Never underestimate the power of simply showing up.
- Big Picture Service:
- Before coming, we talked in Spring Break class about how short-term missions have to be thought of in terms of the big picture. While in Houston, this became very evident to our team. The people we were serving would mention all of the other teams who had come before us and that people would be continuing to help in the future. This was just a great reminder that the work we were a part of was way bigger than just us.
- Working as an act of Worship and Love
- I know there were several of us who were honestly a bit unsure about the importance/impact of the work we would be doing in Houston. I know that I personally wondered if physical labor was the most valuable thing that we could be doing during our Spring Break. After finishing our time in Houston, however, I am convinced that the work we accomplished was very valuable. You see, I believe that you need to not only declare the gospel but show it. By addressing the physical needs of people, we are able to love and care for them as Jesus would. Someone on my team also reminded us that if we keep in mind that we are not just working for man, but for God, it puts a much heavier weight on what we are doing. By choosing to do our very best at painting or mudding or whatever it may be, we can bring glory to our God!
This week was a beautiful one. Please pray that we may be impacted by what we have seen and experienced.
The past few days have flown by! We have put in lots of hard work on our house sites and gained lots of new skills along the way. It has been a pleasure working with Tom, our main Fuller Center leader who is always ready with a sassy comeback or to help us on the job. We have learned to install insulation, put in flooring, build cabinets, paint doors properly, and many more small construction and renovation skills. Along with these physical skills, we have incorporated some new Southern phrases into our vocabulary, such as, “y’all,” “fixin’ to,” and “beaver nuggets (evidently a delicious snack sold here).”
The people of the Houston area are so excited about us being here, even though there have been many teams before us and will be many after us. To show their thanks, we have had many people make us food, bring us donuts, cupcakes, and bring us other treats on our work sites. This being said, it is impossible to be hungry here 😊! We have also enjoyed getting to know another group of college students from Oregon serving with Fuller Center as we are both staying at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church! It has been interesting hearing the major differences between life on the West coast and life in Upland, Indiana.
Yesterday (Wednesday), we worked a half day on our houses and visited the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, which was a blast and a half! We took a 30 minute tram tour to see the NASA buildings and visit rocket park where we saw Saturn V, a giant rocket spanning 363 feet long. Saturn V is the same kind of rocket that has taken our astronauts to the moon several times. The rest of our Space Center trip was spent exploring exhibits of space shuttles, planets, and exhibits of about the history of space exploration. Fun fact: one of the churches that cooked meals for us has had many astronauts attend throughout history and one of these astronauts took communion in space along with the rest of his church on a Sunday morning!
After leaving the Space Center, our team enjoyed an authentic Italian dinner together at Franca’s. The restaurant was brimming with sculptures and art, all made by the owner’s father. The most touching of his art was a humongous 3D panorama that he made after the death of his wife, documenting their whole life together. The owner’s father mourned while he created the art and put so much emotion into it. His daughter, the current owner was so happy to have us there and loved telling us stories of how the restaurant came to be.
We are thriving here in Texas, folks. Thanks again for your prayers!!
It has been a little over 24 hours now since we arrived in Houston, and we are loving every minute. Our drive was pleasant and safe, filled with laughter, games, and good conversations as we really began to get to know one another. Along the way, we also had the privilege of meeting a couple of people who really encouraged us in our efforts this Spring Break.
During a stop at for dinner at Panera in Illinois, one of our bus drivers was approached by a man about our bus, bearing a cross, a giant image of the American flag, and the words, “In God We Trust.” Our bus driver proceeded to tell this man, Bill, where we were from and that we were planning to do hurricane relief work in Texas. Oddly enough, Bill told our bus driver that he was from Texas and really appreciated what we were going to do. Then, God laid some words on Bill’s heart that he ended up sharing with our whole team. He reminded us that no matter what we are doing or where we are, we should always be ready to share the gospel with whomever we meet. He encouraged us that what we would be doing was an important opportunity to live out the love of God. We were so touched that God spoke to us through a complete stranger.
The next morning we were blessed by the hospitality of one of our own leaders’ parents (Lauren Drogo). In Little Rock, Arkansas we were served a delicious breakfast and were taught the word of God by Lauren’s dad. This couple was and is such a beautiful example of being used by God in an untraditional ministry seetting, such as running a restaurant. They use the bistro as a bridge to share the gospel with those they came in contact with. He stressed the helplessness of humanity and the way that we must rely on God to be filled. One verse that was read was John 15:5, which says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” This verse was such a great reminder of how little of an impact we as people can have on others and the world if we do not rely on God to be our help and strength.
Since our arrival in Houston yesterday, our team has been overwhelmed by the gracious hospitality of our hosts. Fuller Center and several local churches have welcomed us with comfortable housing, a building to hang out in, and plenty of delicious Texas barbeque. As we have driven some of the suburban streets of Houston and talked to some local men and women, it is clear that the effects of Hurricane Harvey are far from gone. It is still common to see a house with large piles of drywall and wood in the front yards, remnants of the hurricane. The first dinner we had yesterday was made by a man who was about to open a barbeque restaurant just a few days after Harvey hit. The rain flooded his restaurant building and ruined all of his new facilities. Now more than 6 months later, this man has still not been able to open his restaurant but gives his food to volunteers and those in need. Stories like this are not rare among the residents of Houston. Though the hurricane destroyed a lot, it also brought a city together.
Today was our first day serving with Fuller Center for Housing, and we were satisfied but tired after our day of work. Our group was split into two teams, working on two different housing sites. One team worked on the house of a sweet woman and her daughter that was in some of its finishing stages. The two had been taken to safety from their home by boat during the hurricane after having received 51 inches of rain in a matter of two days. This team washed, caulked, and painted around windows, unloaded cabinetry, cut baseboards, and worked on flooring a bathroom. The flooring proved to be quite the challenge. The other team worked on the house of an older couple who woke up to deep water surrounding their bed during the hurricane. This couple also had to be taken by boat to higher ground. The team installed and painted trim on the house as well as several doors. All in all, our teams were delighted to have used power tools and nail guns without any injuries today.
We are looking forward to working more with Fuller Center this week and getting to know the families who will come back to their homes that we are working on. Please pray that we may be safe in our construction endeavors, stay hydrated in the heat, and may be flowing with the desire to serve and love as Jesus did.
Thank you for your support!
Meet the Houston Team. Join us in praying for their work with the Fuller Center this week. Check back for more posts from the team members themselves!
Team Members: Eric Andrews, Samantha Carlson, Justin Chapman, Jen Cline, Benjamin Kiers, Kimberlynn Kimi, Emily Lynn, Caleb Miller, Jackie Moskaliuk, Nic Myers, Abby Myers, Hannah Perry, Carolina Quintana, Claire Rush, Katy Sunderland. Leaders: Lauren Drogo, Ken Kiers, Amy Barnett. Bus Drivers and Participants (not pictured): Mike Manganello, Rich Coolman