Making a Difference in Lynn, MA – DUMC High School Missions Trip…

July 20, 2011

This past week I had the privilege of leading my first Missions Trip with my new youth group. Five of our adult leaders and I took a group of 39 High School-ers to serve the community of Lynn, MA (right outside of Boston).  It was a phenomenal week and one that I will never forget. I was blown away (again) by the way my new students welcomed, supported, and loved me. I wasn’t sure of what to expect going into the trip, but now that it’s over I realize that I had no reason to worry. I believe that bonds were formed, friendships were strengthened, and lives were changed because of this trip and I am so thankful that I was able to be a part of it all!

The leaders and I picked up the vans the day before we left and we had the students meet at the church the night before to load the vans. This was an exciting time because we all knew it meant that we would get to leave soon! We also spent some time decorating the windows of the vans to let people know who we were and what our purpose was (to spread the love of Jesus)! Once we had the vans packed, and the names checked off on the list of attendees, we all got to go home and get a good night’s sleep before we embarked on our journey to Massachusetts. We pulled out of the church at 8:30 AM and after two bathroom stops, one of which was extremely long (on account of the Starbucks that distracted our kids), and one lunch stop, we made it safely to the church we stayed at in Lynn, MA.

On our first night in Lynn, we had a leaders meeting where we spent time assigning all of our students into the work groups/locations that we thought would best fit them. Being that this trip was my first time meeting some of these students; it was a very difficult/stressful thing to figure out where they best fit. Thankfully, I had some veteran youth leaders there with me who were able to help me out.

Surprisingly there were no problems with the groups or who the students were paired up with. A few of the students weren’t happy with the work that they were actually doing and expressed to me that they would rather have been doing something different but I just used that as an opportunity to stress to them the importance of stepping out of their comfort zones and sticking it out to make a difference in peoples’ lives! I told them that we weren’t there that week for us, but for the people of Lynn, MA. These students really stepped it up after this and I was very impressed with them.

Being that I am the youngest leader in our group, I got assigned to do sports camp where we played football with community kids aged 10-14 all week. I got to take 6 of my students to the sports camp to help lead with me. It was great to see my students stepping up and being a positive influence in the lives of these community kids. I saw tremendous leadership qualities in all 6 of those guys and I think they learned a lot from the experience. Some of the community kids we worked with were tough and did not want to listen or follow rules, but overall it was a great experience for everyone involved. After we were done with sports camp each day, both I and Steve (the youth pastor from the church in Minnesota who was on the trip with us) drove the community kids back to the church. This was one of my favorite times of each day because as the kids were piling out of the van and we were waiting in the parking lot, I had the opportunity to sit and watch/take pictures of some of my other students loving on their group of community kids. It is great to see true ministry taking place and the love of Jesus being shown!

Each night, after we finished our work for the day, we got to do a fun, evening activity. On Monday night we got to go to Nahant Beach. It was a beautiful beach and provided for a great group photo.

If I could do one thing differently about this beach trip, I would make sure guitars do not get left at the beach. We had an incident where a guitar was left at the beach and no one told me it was missing until three days after the fact. By that point, kids had convinced themselves that it was brought back and was either stolen or hidden in the church somewhere. Long story short, the guitar was found and turned in to the police station and the student’s father will be picking it up during his already scheduled trip to Boston in August. On Tuesday night we got to ride the subway into to downtown Boston and spend an hour shopping and exploring the city. This was probably one of my favorite evening activities that we did. I got to walk around the city with 17 of my students and see all that that part of Boston had to offer. We also got a plethora of pictures and videos of a few of my students doing “The Bernie.”

For those of you that don’t know, “The Bernie” is based on the moves of the dead guy Bernie from a movie made in the 1980’s (Weekend at Bernie’s). Apparently it is a new dance craze that is sweeping the South…and apparently it has made its way to Doylestown, PA and now Boston, MA! Our group loves “The Bernie” so much that we got all of us together for a “Mass Bernie-ing” and recorded it with an intro tutorial! And yes, it will make an appearance in church whenever we talk about our trip!

On Wednesday night we got to go have dinner with people from the community at a soup kitchen called “My Brothers Table.” It was great to see my students and leaders sitting and eating with the people we were working with all week. And on Thursday we got to go to Gloucester, MA for a cookout/hangout time at the beach. We got to swim, play football, play volley ball, and climb rocks. It was a beautiful place and everyone had a blast. I treated everyone to ice cream in Gloucester and I think I won everyone’s heart because of it! haha

After we got back from the beach cookout, we had a worship service followed by a foot washing ceremony. This was one of the most powerful things from the entire week. YouthWorks washed the adult leaders’ feet and then we washed our students’ feet and prayed with each and every one of them. After some of the students’ got their feet washed, they went around the room and prayed with their friends. It was a very powerful and emotional evening and I was blown away by it.

A parent of two of the girls in my youth group asked me if I would have done anything differently. Now that I think back on it I realize that I wouldn’t change a thing. It was a great experience and a huge trip for me in terms of getting to know the students and building relationships with them. I am so thankful that God had His hands all over this trip!

A Special Thanks to Katie, Joel, Dan, Meredith, and Jenna!

Special thanks to Katie, Joel, Dan, Meredith, and Jenna for providing an amazing trip for us!

Now I have the Middle School Missions Trip to Charleston, WV to look forward to. We leave this Sunday. Woooohoooo!

–          paulg

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Fear of God: The Wrong Kind…

November 9, 2009

Occasionally I will have an idea in my mind that I let percolate for quite some time before I put the words onto paper, or in this case, onto the internet. This particular story took place around three months ago and I have been meaning to write about it ever since.

As most of you know, I took my youth group to Texas to work at a camp for foster children back in August. It was a very challenging week, to say the least. You can read about some of the chaos in this post Texas Missions Trip – Day 6… ! It was a life-changing week for my students and I. We saw the hurt that is present in most of the kids at that camp. They came from a wide variety of backgrounds (financial, ethnic, religious, etc…) but they all had one thing in common: they came from broken families. Some of them came from a background of drugs, alcohol, and abuse, while others just came from a background of parents that didn’t want them.

Those kids were not foster kids; they are kids who are forced to live in the foster care system. It wasn’t anything they did, it wasn’t their choice, and they shouldn’t be looked down upon because of it. I developed a heart for those kids that week and I will never forget the relationships built and impact that was made in their lives. There was one thing that deeply moved me, and that is what I will be writing about today…

After the speaker finished his message during one of the final services of the week, each kid was to write down what they were thankful for as well as what they were afraid of on separate post-it-notes. After they were done, they were to take the post-it-note with their fears and stick it to a giant wooden cross that was in the front of the room. This signified that they were surrendering their fears to Jesus and leaving them at the Cross. Since all of these kids were between the ages of 9 and 12, they weren’t very tall, so I went up to help my campers stick their post-it-notes up high on the cross. After I got done helping some of my campers stick their fears on the cross, I went back to see the progress that one particular camper was making (I am not legally allowed to say his name) on his thankfulness and fears. The camp nurse was also helping him. He was saying things like, “I ain’t afraid of nothin’!” To this, to get him laughing, I said, “what about me? I’m way bigger than you are…and I have tattoo’s…you should be afraid of me!” He then leaned over to the nurse and said, “Yeah, that’s true…but I still ain’t afraid of him!” After this, I walked around to a few of my other campers to see their progress and when I came back, the nurse told me she needed to talk to me about something and pulled me into the kitchen…

As soon as we got out of sight of the campers, she started bawling and told me that she got that little boy to tell her what he was really afraid of. He told her that he was afraid of God and that God was punishing him! I saw her heart break right there in front of me for that little boy, and mine broke too. My heart broke because of the unfairness that these kids face everyday due to the poor decisions of their biological parents. As I mentioned earlier, it is not their (the kids) fault that they are in this living situation, but it is the cards that they have been dealt and they have no choice in the matter. It’s just sad to hear that they blame God and think that He is punishing them.

The nurse asked me to please talk to him and let him know that God is not punishing him and that He loves him! I gave her my word that I would and later that afternoon, I pulled the camper aside and did my best to talk to him. He wasn’t very willing to talk, but I know that Jesus’ words, spoken through me, got into his heart and his mind. I pray that they did and that he learns that God is the only person that can fill any void he has in his life!

The organization that we worked for (Arrow Child and Family Ministries) sent me a poster that contained some of the post-it-notes that the campers wrote. Some examples of what they wrote are as follows…

“Afraid of losing my brothers and sisters.”

“Hope to see you in next two months mom. I miss you! And hope you get better.”

“I want to go back home to my mom.”

“I want to go home with my real parents.”

“I want a new family who can love me more.”

“I want to be adopted.”

“My biological father abused my mom.”

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These are just a few of the things that these kids wrote. Please pray for the camper I wrote about, as well as the millions of other children who have concerns like the ones listed above! Thank you!

–          paulg


Texas Missions Trip: Day 1

August 8, 2009

It is now 6:46 AM and I am about 12,000 feet in the air going anywhere from 300-500 miles per hour. Some of my youth group and I are en route to Porter, Texas (near Houston) where we will be working at a week-long camp for foster children. We left Altoona, PA at 2:15 AM and drove 2 ½ hours to the Harrisburg Airport. Our plane took off at 6:00 AM and we are flying to Cincinnati and then to Houston. Everything has gone smoothly so far, well…except for the flight attendant yelling at me for trying to turn my computer off (which is what she asked everyone to do).

I attempted to get my computer out to write this (when it was ok to do so) but there wasn’t enough space in between me and the back of the seat in front of me to open it fully, so I resorted to pen and paper. Then my pen died and the guy next to me came to the rescue with a new one. Thank you, guy next to me!

I’m very excited about this trip for many reasons. The first being that this is the first missions trip I have ever been on…and I am leading it! It’s an awesome opportunity that forces me to rely fully on God! Another reason I’m excited is because of what we will actually be doing. We were originally supposed to go to Reynosa, Mexico but thanks to the extreme violence and swine flu, I had to pull the plug on that trip. So our plan B missions trip (this one) is actually something that I know all about (camp ministry). I worked at a summer camp in Massachusetts three summers ago and I believe God put me through that to prepare me for this. Isn’t it awesome how God does things? (The answer is yes!!!) Another reason I am excited is because I was born in Texas (24 years ago) and I have never been back since before my first birthday. I am nowhere near where I was born, but it’s still cool to be back in Texas! And the last reason, and probably the least significant reason I am excited to be here is because we are going to get authentic barbequing lessons from someone related to Keith (one of my leaders). If you know me, you know I love BBQ, I’ll write more tomorrow about how the BBQ lessons went!

We had some troubles finding the camp due to TomTom’s (my GPS) inadequacies (it didn’t know a lot of the new additions done to the roads around here. Oh well, we made it. Upon arrival at the camp, we had to sit in front of the gate for a good 20 minutes or so while I called around to find out who was going to come and unlock the gate for us. Eventually, we got in. The cabin/house/mansion thing we are staying in for the first three nights is AMAZING! It is extremely nice and well decorated, and the AC keeps it nice and cool in here! It definitely feels more like a vacation than a missions trip, but that will change once the campers arrive.

Here are a couple pictures of the kitchen (to illustrate how nice this place is:

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Our original plan for the day was to go to a sweet water park around here. But after we got unpacked and situated, I called the park to find out what time they close. The lady said they close at 7:00 PM. If I was a water park, I would definitely NOT close at 7 at night when the sun is still out and it is over 100 degrees outside. That doesn’t make much sense to me. Good thing I am not a water park. Anyway, I proceeded to ask the lady about pricing and if they gave a discount if you come later in the day. She said no, you still have to pay the full $32.99. So, our group made an executive decision to avoid paying $32.99 for only a few hours of water park fun! Instead we went to the swimming pool here and then hung out at our sweet cabin thing. The girls also went canoeing while the guys sat in the nice, cool air conditioning!

Next on the agenda: I am taking everyone out for dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. They don’t know that they don’t have to pay yet either. Surprise, surprise! Ok, I’m rambling on now and I should probably end this. But that’s what usually happens when you only got about 2 hours of sleep in the last 24 + hours.

Until next time…

– paulg


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