Monday, July 18, 2011

Thoughts After My First Missions Trip

On Saturday I returned from my first missions trip. It was through Youth Works and was based in Harrisburg, PA. Our church sent 7 adults and 28 youths on this trip. I was blessed to attend with my two oldest children. 
Going into the trip, I thought it was going to be a fun experience for the 3 of us to share together. God had other plans. I did not have either one of my children in my work group, so we basically saw each other in passing at meals and in between activities in the evenings. It was an interesting experience to let them go like that. 

For me, I experienced friendship, acceptance and got to know some great youth and amazing people in the Harrisburg community. I met Sue and Vern who just pour out love, support, and everything they have back into the community, reaching out to those who fall through the cracks in society. What was even more amazing was to watch how their "family", those that used to be homeless but now live in the homes Sue and Vern own, pour back into the community themselves. They reach back to those still living on the streets and offer a hand in any way they can to help them get off the streets. The homes are a safe haven in a very rough part of the city. (Sue referred to it as the "ghetto" herself) One of the big "take homes" for me was how much I could do differently with the same 24 hours that I have. Something as simple as just putting out free vegetables on a table for the taking. There were also the "ugly" sleeping bags. Sue and Dan (a family member who used to live on the streets) explained that a nice sleeping bag could be sold for money or could be something you would be killed for. The solution is to make these "ugly" sleeping bags that are very warm and are filled with items like a hat, scarf, a hymn, hygiene items and a pad to keep the moisture from the ground from soaking your sleeping bag. These sleeping bags are very warm and are made with love. I can only imagine how comforting it must be to snuggle down into a hand made "ugly" sleeping bag, knowing that the love of Jesus was with you. Sue and Dan gave me one and I look forward to making them with the youth group at our church and sharing them with others who live out on the streets. The one other thing that struck me was that some of the "ugly" sleeping bags were made smaller and out of fabrics for children. There are children out there sleeping under the bridges that we drive by and over. Makes it a little easier to give up some of my time to help make these sleeping bags when I think of the people who will be sleeping in them. 
A rolled up Ugly Sleeping bag. Notice the ties used to tie it up.

Inside the UGLY sleeping bag are items to help the recipient.

Our group also spent some time playing BINGO at a home for the elderly. It is amazing how much joy the game of BINGO brings to someone. The time we take to talk with someone who does not have visitors is such a small amount of time for us but is so meaningful to them. Just helping out to wheel people down to the sanctuary for Hymn singing is such a help to the workers. They dedicate their time to help people during this time in their life when many others avoid them or get too busy to visit them. It only takes an hour to help out, to smile, ask how someone is doing, to just make some sort of contact with someone, to just show that you care about them, but that small amount of time out of my week can make such a difference. 

That is what I discovered this week, that just being present for others is more than enough to make a difference. To show another person that they matter and are worth caring about is all that it takes to spread God's love. That is what I learned about how I can use the same 24 hours in better ways to share God's love. I am not always going to be God's feet by going under the bridges to search out the homeless, but I can be the one who puts together "ugly" sleeping bags with our youth group to be given to the ones who do go to the bridges. 

Each one of us can be used by the Holy Spirit to do God's work and pour out His love onto His children.

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