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.