Tag Archives: youth mission

“we only have one quote so far today–can we be funnier?” (2012 mission trip, day 6)


Youth conferences and mission trips always involve long days—late nights and early mornings, with lots packed in to the many waking hours. Often we get to the end of the day and say things like “was that just today?” By the end of the week, we either get much much funnier or much less…but it’s a minute-by-minute thing, really. One moment we are so tired everything we say or hear is hilarious. The next, we stop hearing or saying anything. ha!

So Thursday was…full! The morning keynote asked us to think about who are our enemies and what it might mean to sit at table with them, a la Psalm 23 (and Jesus). One of the most thought-provoking moments of the morning, which we were still discussing in the evening, was when Loli (the keynote speaker) showed a picture of Hitler as an infant and asked us to consider whether we would be willing to kill that child, knowing what he would later do. It was a hard question, and continues to be a hard question—since every child has such potential (for good and for evil), what would we do? As followers of Jesus, what would we do? What do you think?

Ultimately the keynote and the small group discussions had us thinking about who is at the table with us, and who God calls to the table. As Loli has said many times this week, “all God’s creatures got a place in the choir”…even if we don’t like them. In the evening, John Bell continued the theme by letting out the dirty little secret about the scripture readings we hear in church each Sunday: the lectionary (the schedule of scripture readings, which is a 3-year cycle) often leaves stuff out. A lot of stuff. In the example he used, the part that was cut out featured women as heroes who deliver the people of Israel. This happens regularly—that women are cut out of the lectionary, or stories that make us uncomfortable will just be skipped over—but most people who simply come to church most Sundays would never notice. This is one of the reasons that our pastors can often be heard saying such things as “the lectionary is just a guide—we can use it or not!”

In the afternoon we headed up to join a group of 130 other youth conference attendees to help package meals for Stop Hunger Now. At some tables, people were filling bags with vitamins, vegetables, soy protein, and rice. Then those bags were brought over to our table, where we weighed and adjusted until each one was perfect, then we sealed them and sent them over to be packed and sent out to places that experience famine, natural disaster, drought, etc. Each meal costs 25 cents. Each time the gong sounded meant that we had packed 1,000 meals, and the gong sounded 10 times before we were done. That’s right, in about 45 minutes we packed 10,000 meals for hungry people. It was a great afternoon that rounded out the mission portion of our week really nicely.

140 youth and leaders packing meals for Stop Hunger Now

weighing and adjusting

sealing packaged meals

In the evening we had a wonderful opportunity to practice hospitality and get to know people—we had the Covenant Presbyterian (from Staunton Virginia) over for dinner. First we had to get the house ready for guests—despiderfying the porch, sweeping the deck, and cleaning up the main floor.

The leaders cooked up a delicious dinner of local farmers-market salad, garlic bread (the main portion of the meal, haha), and Laura G’s famous fettuccine alfredo with roasted broccoli (also from the farmers market!). We picnicked out on the awesome deck, 13 youth and 6 adults, having a great time playing games, singing our prayers, and eating deliciousness! It was very fun to welcome another group into our home and offer them one of our favorite meals.

After dinner it was time for worship (it was a communion service), then the variety show—complete with many awesome acts: music, dance, and skits. We got home late, enjoyed some ice cream sundaes, and talked about all these great places God was revealed to each of us, before heading to bed to rest up for the last day.


“maybe it’s a different type of cotton candy” (2012 mission trip, day 5)


Wednesday was too busy to get to the internet to post about Tuesday…it was basically the same as Monday, full of conference, new friends (we went over and had lunch with the group from Covenant Presbyterian Church in Staunton Virginia, which was very fun and gave us a new appreciation for our cottage, which is nicely located a flat walk from the auditorium, whereas the Covenant group is staying up the mountain a way!)…

lunch with Covenant peeps!

dancing with covenant peeps!

Why was Wednesday so busy, you ask? Well…because it was Hannah’s 16th birthday! And because it’s the free afternoon at the conference, which means it was an afternoon spent in mission in Asheville, so we had to hurry to eat lunch and get to our mission site.

The day began with the leaders waking up early to decorate the living room with streamers and Sweet 16 decorations, continued with leaders singing happy birthday at the top of their lungs outside the bedrooms…then it was a morning at the conference before heading out to the Firestorm Café and Bookstore, where we helped the BeLoved house host the very first open mic coffeehouse for the homeless community in Asheville. We met people, invited them to let their voice be heard and share their art, made friends, made art, offered snacks, and generally practiced hospitality. “MC gingy-gin” was in the house—Chris was the MC for the afternoon (yes, that’s what he named himself!). The performances shared by the people were inspiring—everything from banjo playing to singing to Christian rap to a cross between rhythmic gymnastics and hula hooping. We even got to hear a new indie “band” (two teenagers) called Freedom Herd. More than a dozen people shared, were heard and seen (whereas the homeless and poor are often invisible and ignored), cheered for who they are and the gifts they shared. It was a wonderful afternoon, and we stayed an extra hour past our allotted time so we could hear everyone!

kicking off the open mic with some Indigo Girls!

doing art with people who struggle with homelessness

We grilled for dinner, and then went to worship, where Chris was one of the worship leaders! He was part of the procession, he read scripture and led another reading, and he prayed a prayer he wrote himself. He said it was a scary thing, to pray his own words on behalf of 1300 people. He did an amazing job and has been having a great time in his leadership-oriented small group.

Chris leading worship Wednesday night

After worship there was a tiny bit of sneakiness on the part of the leaders, so that we could throw Hannah a surprise party! We had brownie sundaes and each gave her a very fun present. She received a strobe-light squishy T-Rex, a bubble wand, goldfish crackers, a “moo-spoon” (an ice cream spoon with a  cow for a handle!), light-up rings for her fingers, a car (every 16 year old needs a car….a matchbox car!), and some blue nail polish that smells like cotton candy. Hence today’s quote of the day: it turns out that the nail polish smells good only when it dries, so if you just smell the open bottle, it smells like a strange combination of sugar and grossly alcohol-y nail polish….which is “a different type of cotton candy”—ha!

birthday party!

All in all it was a great day—one of our best mission experiences, a great evening of worship, and a day-long sweet16 birthday party!

Excitements of the day: The song Ashe Ashe, which has great rhythm and helps us think about the Spirit of God in every thing. Birthday balloons, presents, and sundaes! Hearing people share songs and poems they have written, some singing in front of people for the first time ever. Chris looking across the birthday dessert table and saying “I will Redi-Whip you!”

Things we learned today: If you make two boxes of brownies and use a 15×10 pan, it takes the same amount of time as one box in a 13×9. weird, right?

“I saw God in the woman who was checking me out” (2012 mission trip day 3)


Yes, that was a Teri quote that was quickly followed by “well, not checking me out, but the woman who scans your groceries…the check out person…” (hey, it was late after a long day! And she was very awesome.)

back home group time

Each evening we gather in the living room of our cottage to talk about where God was moving today. Often we have seen God in random strangers, in new friends, in small moments, and it’s nice to stop and reflect on those moments and be more aware of them.

Today we had our first full day of the Youth Conference. The day began with energizers, including Teri’s favorite to the song “Istanbul” (the energizer involves running from camels. awesome!).


After we got our energy flowing, Loli offered a great opening keynote about how “all God’s creatures got a place in the choir”—even the ones we disagree with, even the ones we don’t notice are missing, even the ones who looks different from us. She went on to discuss the idea that Jesus was a real, 100% human being…the money quote from this morning was “even Jesus tooted!” (that’s stuck with the kids especially, as an image of Jesus’ full humanity and the lengths to which God will go to identify with us.)

After keynote it was off to small groups—everyone to a different group. There are nearly 40 small groups, each with about 30 people in it. The groups play, learn, talk, and grow together. So far all our small groups seem really great and everyone is making good friends.

afternoon fun

Worship this evening included lots of singing and a great reflection on the Ten Commandments from John Bell, focusing especially on the 10th commandment as one of the most difficult, because we are all (especially teens) so prone to compare and judge ourselves based on what others have (or what they are or what they do). A couple of memorable moments included the phrase “mystery is not something we figure out, but something we are embraced by” and “we often care about Having, but God cares about Being and Loving.” At the prayers of the people, we each wrote people and places we want to pray for on paper, then folded them into paper airplanes which we sent into the air, then we picked up nearby planes and prayed for the things on the paper. It was a fun way to engage in praying for one another.

Excitements of the day: rain. lots of rain. amazing tacos and homemade guacamole. really hilarious quotes (including “they’re our Montweeps!” and “you can always go despiderfy the porch…” and Chris saying “be calm!” ).

Things we learned today: Some of the members of the band The Youngbloods are Canadian. Girls can (and should) play Ultimate Frisbee even if no other girls are playing. How to use the washing machine in our cottage.

skipping to worship

portrait artist and subject!

“we can’t just take machetes wherever we go!” (2012 mission trip day 2)


well, at least, probably not. But you might be able to get a saw.


After breakfast we headed out for a day with Asheville Youth Mission. About 60 people  gathered for worship and mission work. Our group worked at the Veteran’s Restoration Quarters, a converted motel that serves mainly veterans who struggle with homelessness, mental health, addiction, job retention, etc. At any given time about 250 veterans live in the old motel. They eat meals together, they have a variety of services and healthcare provided, and they learn skills for jobs and for coping with life post-military service. Veterans can live there for up to 2 years, so it’s an important transitional ministry that helps those who have served our country get back on their feet. Our group worked here in 2009 as well, so it was neat to see how things have progressed in the past three years.

Before, at VRQ in 2009

clearing brush at VRQ in 2009

digging a flower bed at VRQ in 2009

Where three years ago we dug flower beds and cleared brush from the woods, today there is a lovely bed of plants and a clear and beautiful meadow with a knoll built on the edge.

VRQ today!

early in the season, but planting bed today at VRQ!

Today we pulled weeds (including quite a bit of poison ivy…thanks gloves!) on the knoll and re-edged the pathways with stones, to make a nice peaceful spot for reflection and outdoor chapel services.

working hard at VRQ


We also ate lunch with the veterans who live at the VRQ, and got to hear some of their stories. Several in our group were touched to hear from James, Paul, and Armando about their experiences struggling with homelessness, working hard to overcome their challenges, and their positive outlooks on life. In particular James, who also calls himself “the can king,” was an inspiration. He talked a lot about his period of disillusionment with the American Dream, and then with his effort to make a better life. He recently applied for and received a grant to start an aluminum can recycling program, and he was trying to get people to participate. One of the things he said was “God did not create me to fail.” What a great attitude from someone who has seen so much and still has so many challenges to face.

Near the end of the day we noticed a tree that had been infested with what the leaders know as “bag-worm,” which eventually kills the tree and spreads to the surrounding trees as well, and we negotiated the opportunity for Hannah and Chris to put their tree-chopping skills to good use getting rid of it. An exciting end to the day!

cutting down a tree!

Tonight we enjoyed baked potatoes for dinner before heading to the opening celebration of the youth conference. The auditorium was filled with 1300 people singing, clapping, and cheering—the energy was palpable and awesome, and we had a great time. We sang a wide variety of songs, we heard a preview of some amazing people who’ll be leading us this week, and John Bell had us singing in three part harmony in just a few minutes. Our youth would like to thank Pastor John for “preparing us to understand Scottish accents!” We can’t wait for what tomorrow will bring!

gathering for the opening celebration


Excitements of the day: more tree chopping! singing at the top of our lungs with a thousand other people!


Things we learned today: we don’t really understand washing machines. All 8 of us can shower in less than an hour. how to play Phase 10. and that energizers are fun!

ant party…

“we should bedazzle a machete!!” (2012 mission trip, day 1)


on our way

We arrived in Asheville late Friday evening, and went on a little adventure to find our hotel. Scott is incredibly good at following Teri even when the directions are not clear and there’s lots of almost-turning, only to go straight after all. We slept the night away, and in the morning enjoyed “the best hotel breakfast in Asheville” (according to the sign in the hotel lobby!). Then it was off to dedicate our week to God by walking a beautiful outdoor labyrinth in the River Arts district of Asheville.

staring the week off right at the outdoor labyrinth

When we’d finished our prayer walk and sung “We Walk His Way,” we headed out to Asheville GreenWorks for a day of serious labor.


After hearing about all the different invasive plant species in the area, and being warned about snakes and spiders and ticks (oh my!), we headed into what will eventually be a beautiful greenway along the Buttermilk and Hominy creeks (which feed into the French Broad River). Of course, it’s not yet this beautiful park…one day it will have native ferns, green space, a gazebo…it’ll be an outdoor classroom, a community gathering area, a great park for the people of Asheville to enjoy the water and nature. But right now it’s a tangle of 9 of the top 10 invasive plant species in the country. We hiked into the woods and got to work cutting down chest-high Japanese Knotweed and Multiflora Rose bushes. As we worked we talked with the various workers, volunteers, and interns of Asheville Greenworks and heard about their vision for education, recreation, and conservation. One of the families walking the trail stopped to thank us, and they asked “what did you do to have to do this?” and we realized that many people think about community service as a punishment rather than a privilege. So interesting. But we did enjoy the day of working hard, even if it was sometimes hot and dirty.


Of course, the highlights included machetes and axes…some of the tools had names, including the machete nicknamed “Pretty Princess,” which Scott got to use…

Scott and the Pretty Princess

At the end of a long hot day of work, we hopped into inner tubes and were the first ones to float down the newly cleaned up French Broad river this season, many thanks to the Asheville Outdoor Center for that opportunity.

Excitements of the day: we got to use machetes! There are fireflies! Hannah and Chris chopped down trees!

Things we learned today: that Japanese knotweed is incredibly invasive and strong and can grow 2 feet in a day. Also, poison ivy can’t even compete with the knotweed. Flamingos use echolocation to find their food (a tidbit from a Greenworks volunteer). Peanut butter, honey, and pretzel sandwiches are delicious.

chopping down the very invasive honey locust tree

machete-ing away!