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!!!