(Melany is third from the left in the front row)
One of my favorite moments was being able to talk to the rest of the girls in our cabin. We would just talk about how great our day was, what happened, how we felt, or what we bought that day. We were able to laugh and joke around. In that moment we forgot that some of us had just met but it felt like we had know each other for years. That day I had realized that I made another family in South Africa. Every moment I created will never be experienced with anyone else. We worried about each other, we worked together, laughed together, cried together, played games and worshiped together. And I'm so blessed that I was able to go on this mission trip.
(Melany is third from the left in the front row)
How South African Trash and God are Related
What an experience. It is so hard to wrap all of this into a blog post, but I’ll try my best. After taking some time to process, I have narrowed it down to three points that have had an impact on me, which were faith, determination, and trash. The people of Door of Hope are some of the most faithful individuals I have ever met. David, one of the leaders of Door of Hope, talked to me about how he left his job to help continue the great works of Door of Hope. I really admire this. I don’t know what it’s like to leave a successful career behind to follow God’s call, but one day I hope I can listen to God like David.
There are many tensions currently in South Africa. Unemployment is around 30%, whites and blacks are still in heavy disagreement, and people are getting robbed, among many other issues. But through this, Door of Hope is staying in South Africa to help these babies and help these parents that can’t provide for their children. So much faith. During the week, I had the opportunity to work with a man named Anesu. He taught us how to put together the molds for the concrete blocks, how to make the concrete, carefully take apart the molds once it dried, how to build a fence for the garden, reusing materials for the fence, etc. He is a hard worker and wealth of knowledge.
Anesu is the definition of determination. He had many obstacles that week back home, but managed to help us finish our projects. He also didn’t want to stop for a break until we reached an appropriate stopping point. He helped us see the project through while giving us guidance, joking with us, and also encouraging us to learn about each other’s cultures. This doesn’t really apply to this topic, but he left me with one piece of advice that I pray sticks with me. He said “David, seize the day and every moment in it. If you want to do something, don’t wait. Just go ahead and do it.” This was said after his many encouragements for me to go and get a girlfriend. Thanks Anesu!
Lastly, how South African trash and God are related. The other day, I was telling one of my friends about this whole experience and he said “tell me how you saw God.” Well this was a loaded question because the whole time over there I felt God’s presence. The sun setting behind the ridge of mountains as we walked to dinner every night, getting to know some amazing people that I wish I knew earlier in my college career, cabin chats with the other guys, etc. But when I really thought about it, my faith got flipped upside down and there was only ONE thing I could compare it to, which was trash.
After every meal, we had to separate our trash. Plastics go together, compost pile, all the paper products together, etc. We all had to do it. I related this back to faith. At home, I don’t take enough time to unpack or separate what good and not-so-good things are happening in my life. Are there things in my life that I can compost? Can I let them go so they can grow (or so I can grow) into something else? Or are they worth just throwing in the trash. We all had to do this for meals and the same goes with faith. My favorite passage stuck with me the whole trip, Isaiah 43:1-3. I encourage you to read the passage…super good. But, it talks about the Israelites being watched over by God and that’s how I felt since being on the trip and being back home. I need to take time to separate different aspects of my life and consciously find God in everything that I do. I wish I didn’t wait this long to go on my first Chowan mission trip because I think this has been my favorite college experience. But, God’s time.
There’s was so much to take in on this trip I honestly don’t even know where to start! It was amazing to see how God was moving and working through each of us to make sure our mission was getting accomplished. Everyday, each one of us had a devotion. During my devotion I spoke about how God had chosen each of us specifically for this trip because he knew that our individual talents and attributes could work together so well. And they did!! All of us come from different places, we had different cultures within ourselves and just all around different backgrounds but that was never seen on the trip. We were one! We were united! We loved each other! We loved each other hard. And what I mean by that is, we showed how much we loved each other by always giving a helping hand, caring for one another, sharing a thousand laughs.....it was just endless love amongst us. What’s even crazier is some of the people on the trip I had never really spoke to while we were at school on campus. I’d see them around but never got the chance to get to know them. And I believe that was true for all of us. But on this trip, I know especially for me, I regret not having met some of the people earlier and really getting to know them, as I do now. This team really had some amazing people on it. And I’m beyond glad that I had to the chance to get to know them on a more personal level and really see how God uses them. As a whole I’ve realized that through this trip everyone one of us at some point woke up and realized that we wanted to be somebody. Somebody that makes a difference in this world and can shine our light. I had also mentioned this in my devotion. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
We as a team, as a Family, have not conformed to this world and have changed because of our new perspectives. For the better of course, but now we are able to take we have learned and share it with others with hope that they’ll see God through us and go running to him for a better relationship.
This mission trip has definitely humbled me and allowed me to appreciate the trials and tribulations in my life on a whole new level. Being here in Red Springs/Lumberton has shown me so many people who have lost parts of their homes, who have been struggling financially, who have lost multiple family members and yet their faith in God has not wavered. Being here reminds me that despite our hardships, God still takes the time out to come and see about and bless each and everyone of us. This mission trip reminds me of the story of Job in the Bible. God will take everything we have (things we think we just can't live without) just to see how much faith we have in him. If we stand fast and don't give up he will bless us beyond our understanding! I truly thank God for an amazing group of people he has put with me to serve on this mission trip. It has truly been a blessing!
This was my first actual mission trip and I have to say i am glad I took the opportunity to apply and attend. This trip opened my eyes to to a lot of things. It showed me that no matter what you are going through you can still help someone else whose problems may be way bigger than yours. And in a way the mission we had made me appreciate what I do have and the circumstances I am in because things could be worse. I am also grateful for this opportunity because it allowed me to be a blessing to someone else and that is a very good feeling.
The most memorable moment for me on this trip so far is seeing the reactions of the woman and son who's house we worked on. She was so appreciative and grateful for us coming along and helping during our spring break. Seeing how she reacted and hearing how she's stayed strong during and after the hurricane made me appreciate the smaller things in life such as love and care. This trip has made me grateful and thankful for everything I have at home and at school.
This trip to Lumberton was my first mission trip. Off the bat, I would say this was an investment in my walk with Christ. It sparked a higher desire in me to help communities and individuals in Jesus’ name. During this trip I really felt like we did more than just fix houses and yards. I believe we showed the people we assisted some of who God is. God is loving, caring, and is concerned about us, and that’s what we portrayed. I really enjoyed seeing the residents receive our help and even helping us work and fellowship with us. And one of the most touching parts was when we were finished with the work and we all prayed together, which unified us all, calling on God to continue to help the ones that have been affected by the storm so badly.
Words can't describe how humbled I am to be a part of this, my last Chowan mission trip. This trip was different from other trips I have been a part of. Our team served at Preble Street preparing and providing meals or those experiencing homelessness. Since day one there's not a day we don't see something that touches our hearts. Volunteering was eye-opening because we learned what people go through everyday. Preble Street staff told us they believe in letting those who come having a choice in what they eat because those who come don't have choices in where they get food or shelter. This allows them to have some say.
When working all I could do is just say in my mind, "Lord, I'm so grateful for the little things in my current situation. I thought my life was falling apart. But no, that's not the case."
Seeing people living on the streets, families sleeping on the streets together, and so much more, opened my eyes and inspired me to keep reminding myself, "Yes, this is not good, but I have a roof over my head. Yes, I don't have a bed but I do have a couch to lay on! I have food and water." It literally took me to see that personally.
There was a night where Mama Mari and Drew gave us $2.00. She then told us that the population that has $2.00 or less a day is growing. Our mission was that the $2.00 was our dinner and we had to shop and be back at a certain time.
My first thought was, "Are we really doing this? What can I get that will hold me?"
The experience of trying to find food was frustrating. A group of us decided if we work together then we could get a cooked chicken. But then we thought about taxes, napkins, forks, spoons and what little we had we couldn't afford all of it. After coming together I realized this was a great lesson. In our minds we sometimes take things for granted to where we get caught up. Two dollars was not going to last a whole day. I thought that some people go days and weeks with not having any food at all. I'm even more blessed to know there's food if I'm hungry. But those that don't have it, what do they do? So many things I never thought about until I physically saw and did things to help.
God is so worthy, he still made ways for Preble to serve over 200/300 people seven days a week; breakfast, lunch and dinner! You never know what a person goes through until you are in their shoes. Regardless of their situations they were a community that had each other's back! God has not forgotten about his people.
Being a recent graduate I truly encourage Chowan students to apply for mission trips! It's a life changing experience!
Every mission trip I've been on God has always given me a better understanding of his word and glory. We have to be a light for others because that may be all they can see.
My last thought is that I'm thankful for the little things. Yes, it might not look good but it could be worse. Give it to God be cause he does care and hears all of our prayers! Never doubt what God promises us!
Our Mission Trip to Portland Maine
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
My heart is in Chowan and my soul is in Portland, Maine. And if you ask me what Heaven is like I’ll tell you it’s a lot like Preble Street.
After graduating from Chowan this past May I knew that my heart was left at Chowan and now after this mission trip to Portland, ME I know my soul is in Maine. I got to see my God, my savior and his spirit a bit differently through this trip. God whispered in every encounter and at every location, and with every member.
Bright and early 6:30 Monday morning; we headed to serve at Preble Street. Preble Street is an organization that is dedicated to serving and supporting people experiencing homelessness. Upon arrival, the Preble Street staff welcomed us and showed us the ropes. We then got to work. We did just about everything, from helping prepare meals, setting up the dining area. Working together and encouraging each other through the tasks definitely bonded our team’s hearts together.
When the time came to serve the food to the community I didn’t know what to expect. Steve and I were placed on the family cart in the dining area, that first day. As the doors to Preble Street opened and people quickly entered. I changed after that experience.
I saw their eyes.
I saw people who’ve known a different world then I have.
The faces of everyone I saw I will never forget. While serving I kept asking God how can I pray for the people of Preble Street. And I think there are probably a million answers to that question.
As a team, we then set out to sweep the streets. I found myself worried about what might happen to us while out there. But the stories and laughs of Shaniqua, Elena, Hannah, and Drew gave me peace. And to my surprise, we met a man who gave each of us a flower. I sure was humbled after that.
The rest of our week was filled with dozens more unforgettable moments.
We were then able to visit the coast. At the coast, God began to whisper to me about the beautiful nature around me and I began to think… God, what if you are like the water and I’m the rocky coast. What if you’re moving around me; eroding, washing and wearing down my sinful ways. Sharp and Jagged. You the living water; what if your water is healing, soothing and smoothing and making the coast of my soul safe and peaceful. The water splashed and puddled and pooled. It surrounded the rocky terrain. I know God surrounds my life. His grace gets in the cracks. His love splashes and reaches even the highest rocky cliffs of my sins.
At the Prayer Labyrinth we visited, I heard God whisper again. “Look at the leaves and the branches” And this verse about branches came to mind.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for apart from Me, you can do nothing.”
God said to me at that Prayer Labyrinth “I want the world to be a community like the leaves on the branches. Leaf connected to leaf; People connected to each other. I want my people to be connected to each other through me.”
I pray we can do just that. I pray I can be a community builder for Christ; letting everyone see that they belong.
And on the last night at our hotel, God whispered once again. And what He said moved me to tears. “Jesus our Savior experienced homelessness. On his first day on earth and throughout his years of ministry he didn’t have a place to stay just like people you encountered at Preble Street.
He came with the least.
He came to serve and lived to die. So that all who were without would have a family, a community, a home.
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
On this mission trip that’s what God showed me through Preble Street.
And I know…
If you ask me what Heaven is like I’ll tell you it’s a lot like Preble Street. A place with plenty of friends and food for everyone. A place where everyone is welcome.
To Preble Street; thank you!
To the reader; I encourage you to serve as our Savior served.
And To the Maine Mission Trip Members; I love you!
Going on a mission trip is like playing a game of chance, you never know what's going to happen. Preparing for this week I had my preconceived ideas about what we would be getting into. I thought I knew what was going to happen because, in my past, I have had to experience times of homelessness myself. That's why I had such a strong impression and thought I knew what was to come when we got here. I couldn't have been more wrong.
It's so much different to be on the opposite side of that serving counter. It has been a very emotionally draining week for me. I had to revisit some untouched memories that were a bit hard to think about. This week something amazing happened in the midst of my personal flashbacks. This week I was able to see God in some of the most unlikely places: I saw him in the great volunteers that gave countless hours to Preble Street, I saw him in the single mother that was with her children, I also saw him in the addict that couldn't function properly in the middle of the street.
Sometimes we forget to look for God where no one wants to be. I just so happened to forget that Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. Drew told us a story in the beginning of the week that has sat with me all week. There's this kitchen in New York and the lady that prays them in every morning says to have a smile because Jesus will be walking through that line and one knows who he'll be.
This week has been nothing but humbling and educational. I've never felt so close with God before in my life. Whether it be because of the relationships I've made with volunteers or being able to finally give back and show people on the opposite side of that counter that it does get better and one day they could be where I am today.
I always thought that helping people who are experiencing homelessness was my call to ministry, I truly believe that serving at Preble Street has made that call very evident now.