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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Night of a Thousand Memories…

October 26, 2009

Last night was the yearly pastor appreciation service that my church holds for its pastors. Being that I have only been on staff here since February of this year, I have never experienced one of these services (or maybe I should say “roasts”) before. The theme of the night was, “Night of a Thousand Memories,” and it definitely did provide a thousand memories for me. Some were scary (as you will soon read) and some were encouraging, but they were all good!

The evening opened up with a dinner (soup and salad) and then moved into the sanctuary for the pastor appreciation service. The worship band opened with a song my senior pastor picked (God of This City) and one that I picked (Revelation Song). Then one of the MC’s for the night (the head elder) read through and spoke briefly about each pastor’s favorite Bible verse/passage. After the serious stuff was out of the way, the laughs began!

Two of my youth group leaders came out and said a few nice things about me and how they’ve enjoyed working with me for the last 8 months. After they were done with the nice compliments, they presented me with my gifts. I got two garbage cans, some hand towels for my bathroom, some hand towels for my kitchen, and some sponges. I received these “gifts” because I let the girls in my youth group and the female leaders use my apartment a few weeks ago for a “girls only dinner and a movie night!” Apparently, they were not too impressed with the cleanliness (or lack thereof) of my apartment. What did they expect? I’m a 24-year-old dude that lives alone!! It seemed clean to me! Everyone at the service got a good laugh out of my gifts and the stories behind them. After that, a parent of one of my students (also one of my leaders) introduced the next guest. She started out by saying that it was one of my favorite artists/movie stars and that I have been in the fan club for quite some time. She then announced that this artist/actor was a teenage girl named Hannah Montana. After that, our office manager came parading out dressed up as “Olga Oklahoma” (Hannah Montana’s made up cousin)!

Some background info:

I will admit (and am not ashamed to do so) that I went to see the Hannah Montana movie when it was in theaters. I took my friend (now girlfriend) to see it in exchange for her going to see a manlier movie with me sometime. I saw it as an opportunity to hang out with a potentially awesome girl, and to get two dates out of one!!! It was our first time hanging out and the movie wasn’t as bad as people make it out to be. There were a few different country stars that made a cameo appearance in the movie, one of which was one of my favorite groups (Rascal Flatts)! In the movie, Rascal Flatts performed their hit songs “Bless the Broken Road” and “Backwards,” which are very good songs! I really like movies with a down home, country feel to them, and this movie provided just that.

Now that the background info and mini movie review is out of the way, allow me to get back to the service recap from last night!

After Olga Oklahoma made her parade around the sanctuary, I got called to the front to receive a hug from “her.” She then said, “Pastor Paul, is it true that you need a little help with your Sunday wardrobe?” To which I answered, “hmmm…not that I know of!” “She” then went out of the room and came back with a brand new suit that the church purchased for me.

Side note: I do not need help dressing nicely for church. Olga Oklahoma was just doing ad lib and had nothing planned to say. I learned this today when the above mentioned parent/leader called me and made sure I wasn’t offended by Olga’s comment!

Regardless though, it is a very nice suit and I’m happy to have received it.

This was the last of my humiliation for the night. Oh wait, no…it definitely wasn’t!!!! After I got my suit and Olga thanked me for being a fan of her cousin Hannah, “she” put her hand on my shoulder, paused, and then gave me a kiss on the cheek! It was very sweet of “her!” How many other youth pastors can say that they got a kiss from their male office manager while they were dressed up as a female?

At the end of the service, the head elder had both of the pastors come up front and take our shoes off. He then asked those from the church who are willing to support us and go on the journey with us to bring their shoes up front as well. Everyone in the church was shoeless to show that they are along for the ride, no matter what! They showed that they are willing to follow their shepherds and walk with us on the journey. Then he had everyone gather around their pastors to pray for them! It was an excellent ending to an excellent service. It was awesome to see and experience the support that my church shows to its pastors!

I am extremely blessed to be a part of a church that loves its pastors so much. I’m glad to be here and I know that I am where God wants me to be! Thank you!

– paulg


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