Be in prayer for our student missionaries as they travel home today from New Orleans after a great week of ministry.
- Pray for safety on the road.
- Pray that the drivers would stay alert.
- Pray for the vehicles and the AC unit on the bus that they had trouble with as they headed to New Orleans on Sunday.
We look forward to hearing about all that the Lord did through our Student Ministry when they return home!
Tuesday morning came early as the 59 students and adults on the mission trip awoke and ventured into the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary cafeteria around 7:00 AM. The menu consisted of bacon, eggs, sausage, biscuits, gravy, various cereals, some fruit, and (brace yourself) GRITS. That’s right – GRITS. We are definitely in the south. Many of our students made the mistake of thinking GRITS was oatmeal or applesauce. Needless to say, there were several shocked faces as some of them dug into their breakfast.
After breakfast, we headed to the worship for quiet time. There are 350 students and adults here on mission this week. Every bed is full!! They broke us up into two groups, so while one group is eating the other is having a quiet time. For approximately 30 minutes, the students read through the quiet time notebook provided by Mission Lab. This notebook is full of great information about the theme of the week – “Beyond My Church.”
Our students are learning first-hand what it means to live out their faith “Beyond My Church.” What a great concept!! What a great idea!! What a (wait for it) BIBLICAL approach to the life that Christ has called us to!! Am I living my faith Beyond My Church? Or is my faith stuck at church? Is my faith restricted to church Is my faith limited to the GPS coordinates of Hillcrest Baptist Church? We are all being stretched this week.
By 9:00 AM we were loading the buses and heading to our mission sites. The big bus was still in the shop, so we had to take two trips to deliver the students. I went to Site One today at Pontchartrain Park. Site One is a large park that has a golf course located on the back side. The houses surrounding the park are older smaller homes probably built in the 60s and 70s. Nearby are several low income apartments. The park has a playground and several sports courts. The students at site one set up under several large oak trees and just across from the playground.
Today, there were a little over 15 kids that came out to be a part of program. Each day, the teens spend an hour going door to door collecting children and walking them back to the park. After arriving at the park, they spend time swinging, drawing on the sidewalk, throwing and kicking balls, and sitting and talking to them. It truly is a site to see!!
After recreation time, it is arts and crafts time. Today the children and youth painted ceramic crosses. Some were blue. Others were pink or green. No matter what the color, it was incredible to see the children paint, hold, wear, and hug the cross. After arts and crafts, it is music time. The music team sets up and leads the children in all kinds of Jesus centered songs. I wish you could see the mass effect of forty something youth and children swaying and singing about the love of Christ. It is truly POWERFUL!!
After music time, it is Bible story time. Today was the story of the Birth of Christ. Several youth dressed up and played the role of a reporter meeting shepherds and Wiseman from the first century. They did a great job of portraying the mystery and miracle of the birth of Jesus Christ. The Bible story time ended with Emily Walraven asking questions about the lesson and giving suckers to children who answered the questions correctly. Around 11:30AM, a storm began to roll in and with winds pressing down on them, the youth gathered everything together and loaded up and headed back to the seminary for lunch.
We found out that the bus would be ready to pick up around 4PM. That meant that we had to take two trips to transport the youth to the nursing home. The teens arrived at the nursing home around 2:30 PM and set up the sound system and did a beautiful job presenting the message of Jesus in song. So many of the students sang with passion and conviction. The Chateau Living Center is large and very pretty. The main courtyard area is in the center and is covered with a high transparent ceiling. With all kinds of plants and flowers, the students and Brian Arnold were faithful to lead the many senior adults to the truth of God’s love.
We arrived back home with our bus running but without air conditioned around 5:30 PM. We had jambalaya for dinner and cleaned up quickly for worship. With over 350 youth and adults singing Gods praise and listening to God’s word, Hillcrest is living and learning how to live for Christ “Beyond my Church.”
We will have share time around 9:00 AM and then head to our rooms at 10:00 PM and hopefully slip to bed with lights out around 11:00 PM. Wednesday will come early and we have lots of work still to do for Christ. Pray for us as Wednesday is traditional the toughest day as the excitement of the week will grow dim and the lack of sleep and busy routine will catch up to many of the students.
God bless and thank you for your prayers.
Day number two started EARLY!!
Our day started at 6:30 AM for most of us. (We won’t talk about the girls that started at 5:00 AM) We had quiet time at 7:00 AM and then went to breakfast at 7:30 AM. Around 8:30 AM, we had a quick meeting and circled and prayed for the day.
Group One went to a park near by named “Pontchartrain Park.” I was not at this park today, but I heard things went really well. I will spend the majority of the blog tomorrow writing and posting pictures from that park.
Today, I went with Group Two to Richards Street Park. Richards Street Park is located across the big bridge and in the city of Gretna, Louisiana. The Park is a small neighborhood park just under an acre. The houses are small and the streets are tight. Most of the homes were built in the 60s and 70s. The park has a small playground and two basketball courts.
Team Two arrived around 9:15 AM and immediately went to work. The team of 26 students and adults set up the table, snacks, and awning and then began walking the neighborhood knocking on doors and inviting children. Within minutes the children were coming out and helping the teens find other children. Many of the children actually remembered us from last year. This put lots of smiles on our youth’s faces. Followed by hugs and “how are you?” the children and students made their way back to the park and began the recreation phase of the day.
Meanwhile, Steve Summers and I were limping our way from dropping of the students to the nearest mechanic to try and fix the bus. Seems both air condition compressors had broken and the pulley holding one of the belts on was coming off. If that pulley or belt had broke at any time during our drive down Sunday, we would have been stranded. What a blessing. We hope to get the bus back Tuesday.
Back at the park, team two was doing a great job. Even though the temperature of the day was 88, the heat index was 104. Following recreation, the kids had a snack and then did a fun arts and craft project. The children and teens made visors and decorated them in all kinds of creative ways.
After the arts and crafts project, the music aspect of the program began. Daniel Johnson, our audio man, did a great job of running the extension cord across the street from a willing neighbor to the park and played the CD. The youth began dancing and leading the children in all kinds of silly songs. (See pics below) Soon there were children and teens dancing together and singing about the love of Christ. This brought tears to my eyes. (But I’m a guy so I didn’t cry long.)
After the music part, we all headed over to the play ground equipment and set up the puppet show for Bible story time. Brittany and the Bible story team did a great job teaching about Creation and helping the children understand that God created all things, “and it was good!”
Soon the morning had past. Now it was 11:00 AM and the sun was almost straight overhead. Teens and kids were drinking water quickly but still playing and laughing together. You all would have been so proud of them. They truly were the hands and feet of Jesus. So many little children had a new friend today!!
We stayed at the park till 3:00 PM. The bus was still in the shop, so the other group had to come and get us. I never heard any complaints. The students stayed focused and adjusted consistently through the day. Although it was hot and humid and they were thirsty and hungry, none of them ever said a word but instead continued to love on the kids.
Shortly after arriving back at the seminary, some of the students took showers. Some are taking summer classes on online and spent two hours doing homework. Others rested and enjoyed the coolness of their air conditioned dorm room. Dinner is at 5:30 then then we will meet and debrief about today and then go over details regarding tomorrow.
They will get a chance to go swimming about 9:00 PM then head to their rooms around 10:00 PM. Lights out is at 11PM and then we start all over again at 6:30 AM tomorrow. Tuesday we will be singing at the nursing home. I will do my best to update you with pics from the other site and another blog about how God is doing wonderful things in the lives of our students.
God bless and keep praying.
P.S. (We have 8 students needing financial help with this trip. If God leads you to help please let Tina know.)
WE MADE IT!!!!
After leaving Hillcrest at 7:15 AM Sunday morning, we arrived at The Covenant Church in Bossier City, LA right at 10:15 AM. The 57 students and adults and myself freshened up quickly and sat down in the first four rows of the church. After some powerful worship, Pastor Luke Allen brought a great message from James chapter 5. The students listened intently as Luke shared his heart regarding the importance of giving God everything in your life.
After the service ended, and lots of hugs to Luke and his family, we headed just two miles down the road to a local mall. The students were hungry and it was right at Noon. As we surrounded, and I mean surrounded, the food court, the students began devouring all types of food in their path. From pizza to Subway and everything else between, these teens were as hungry as any group on their way to a mission trip.
Around 1:15 PM we began our journey south towards Baton Rouge and eventually New Orleans. Little did we know that our planned 5 hour drive would turn into a 8 hour pilgrimage.
The first two hours were great. Fast moving highway eventually gave way to some road work that slowed things down for us. The air conditioner in the big bus faded quickly and a strange burnt rubber odor filled the cabin. About an hour later, after stopping to look things over and taking a potty break, a strange sound partnered with the odor and we all became a little nervous. By now, the air conditioner was gone and the bus was really hot.
But the students and adults stayed strong and we prayed and stuck to the plan to make it to New Orleans by 7:00 PM. After wading through another road repair and a small wreck, we pulled over just one hour out from New Orleans to take a quick look at the big bus as the odor and sound became worse. We only sat at the gas station for ten minutes, but this was just enough time to keep us from what could have been a very scary and dangerous moment during the trip.
At approximately 6:40 PM, we pulled up on what we thought at the time was a very bad wreck. We couldn’t see what had happened, but we knew it must have been very recent as the police and emergency vehicles were not on sight. As we creeped forward towards the bridge, I looked down at my phone and realized that there was an alternate route that would take us another 30 minutes out of the way, but might be worth it as we could see police cars closing down all the entry ramps to the highway.
I hollered to Steve Summers to make a quick right within 20 feet of being on the bridge. The other vehicles followed after us as we moved slowly away from the bridge and the emergency vehicles began arriving to the highway. Due to heavy traffic that was also following the alternate route, we made it around the congested area and traveled approximately 20 miles back to the highway we needed to be on. We arrived at our destination around 8:30PM and filed into the cafeteria hot, tired, and hungry. The students energy level began to rise quickly as they ate pizza feverishly and returned repeatedly to the drink machine. At around 9PM we received our room keys and began the process of unloading the trailer. At 1o:00 PM we met in a designated room and had our orientation and passed out the awesome water bottles and goody boxes provided by Tinky Gohlke.
Finally, around 11:00 PM, we all made it to our rooms, showered, and after some pillow fights and story telling, we slowly settled in for the night. WHAT A DAY!! Thank you Lord for taking care of us. Thank you for the prayers that many of you sent our way.
This morning, we found out that what we thought was a wreck, had actually been a suicidal man with a gun that had stopped traffic on the bridge and held up traffic till 11PM that night. The man eventually jumped from the bridge where he was captured by police. Had we not stopped and checked on the bus that ten minutes just up the road from the bridge, we would have been caught in the middle of the event. The newspaper online said this morning, “At 6:30 PM Sunday night a suicidal man stopped traffic as he threatened onlookers with a hand gun and aimed at anyone who approached him.” One of the other youth groups was just in front of us and were stuck on the bridge all afternoon and did not make it in the Mission Lab till almost midnight. Thank God no one was hurt.
Day two coming soon!!!