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


Texas Missions Trip: Day 6…

August 17, 2009

As I anticipated, I wouldn’t have any time to write for the remainder of our trip. We have now been home for two days and I am finally able to write these last few posts about our time in Texas.

Thursday (Day 6) was another long and tiring day. The cabin that both Jordan and I were in went from activity to activity, and broke up fight after fight. At this point in the week, the campers were tired and getting on each other’s nerves (worse than the day before). They were insulting each other, starting arguments with each other, hitting each other with whatever they could find, and various other things. The thing that set all of the chaos into motion was Mother Nature. Due to the thunderstorms that lasted all afternoon, our group was forced to stay inside at a place called “Grace House.” Grace House is a cabin type structure where games are played (board games, group games, etc.). The kids were so upset that we couldn’t go to the pool to swim. They couldn’t grasp the concept of why we can’t swim during a thunder and lightning storm for some reason!

What made this particular day interesting was that our girls (Abby, Katelyn, Kristen) were there running the games. So they got to experience the chaos of our group of campers. At first it started out as fun and games, but then it became an all-out brawl! The kids started wrestling with each other, and then it progressed to pushing, and eventually hitting. The counselors broke it up but it was still a bad situation with everyone mad at each other and still trying to fight. Some of the campers were playing games and having fun, but there were about 7 or so that were involved in the royal rumble! One of my counselors had to step out for an hour or so to try to calm down (that’s how stressful it was working with these kids at times). Some of the campers got upset to the point of crying and not talking to anyone. I had to call in back up (the main case worker lady who was there that week) to get through to one of the kids.

After the storms passed (weather storms…not the storms of the kids), we went to the sports pavilion where we played basketball, hockey, and rolled around on scooters! This activity was mostly a success. I say mostly because we had a few incidents here as well. One of our campers slashed another in the leg with a hockey stick. When the case worker from our cabin and I tried to find out what actually happened, we got conflicting stories from everyone who “saw” it happen. The kid who got hit said that the hitter did it on purpose. The kid who did the hitting said that it was an accident as he was going to hit the hockey puck. And another kid gave us two different stories of what he thought he saw happen. Long story short, we concluded that it was an accident and that others were blowing it out of proportion to try to get the hitter in trouble.

The rest of the day went well…until bedtime! I’m not sure how it first started, but at one point, when most of the cabin was asleep, one of our campers started flipping out. He was swearing at kids and leaders, hitting kids and leaders, trying to start fights, insulting everyone, making kids cry, and going nuts. The case worker said that it’s best to not give the kid an audience because it seemed like he just wanted attention. So we ignored his shenanigans for over an hour. During that hour, he still didn’t calm down. He was pounding on the wall, swearing, and yelling at people. My insult that he was calling me was “pork-chop head!” Tyler’s was “messed up nose.” And one of the other counselors was “nerd.” The funniest one though, was the name he gave Jordan. He was calling him “Jordan Head.” I guess he really couldn’t find an insulting thing to say to Jordan. Ha-ha.
During this whole situation, we had to have two other case workers come in to talk to the kid, and eventually, we had the person running the camp come to take him away for the night. After he was finally gone, our next task was to calm the kids down who he upset. The whole process from when he started flipping out until when we had the last kid calmed down was about 4 hours. It was a long ending to a long day. The kid that was causing the problems came back the next morning and was calmed down, but that was only temporary.

It was a chaotic experience for some of the counselors and campers. Although it was a bit much, I was glad that two of my students (from my youth group) were there to experience it and learn about what to do in situations like that. It was definitely shocking and a learning experience for them!

So, after reading all of this, I think you can see why I had no time to write about Day 6 on Day 6!

Until next time…

– paulg

Texas Missions Trip: Day 3…

August 11, 2009

We have now successfully completed day three of our Texas Missions Trip. We started doing actual work today and there was lots of sweating done by all. It was another hot one today, as are most days in Texas. We spent a few hours getting the camp ready for the campers to arrive tomorrow. We spent time getting their material and paperwork together. We spent time setting up the sports equipment and what-not. We spent some time setting up the cafeteria and main lesson area. And we got all of the cabins ready to be lived in by a bunch of crazy 7-12 year old boys!

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After we were done doing all the pre-camp preparations, we came back and got cleaned up and tried to put a stop to all of the sweating. Then we went out to a highly recommended Mexican restaurant called “Chuy’s” (pronounced – chewies). I’m not sure how you get “chewies” from “chuy’s” but I wasn’t going to ask questions, I was just there to eat some good food! This was no ordinary lunch though; my students and I (along with Betsy (Keith’s wife…for those of you who don’t know who I’m talking about) back home in Altoona) were secretly planning all morning how we were going to surprise Keith by taking him out to lunch for his birthday. We purposely neglected to tell him happy birthday the entire morning, in hopes of making him think we forgot. Then when we got to the restaurant, we all text messaged him at the same time a happy birthday message. Mine said “happy birthday brother man, your lunch is on me!” He was surprised and happy that we all wished him a very happy birthday. Also worth mentioning about our lunch trip was that Jordan, Tyler, Keith, and I got sweet t-shirts from the restaurant. They had a lot of cool ones to choose from!


Keith looking surprised the moment he got six texts at once wishing him a happy birthday...

Keith looking surprised the moment he got six texts at once wishing him a happy birthday...

After we got back from lunch, we all just hung out for the afternoon. The girls went for a run, the boys played video games and listened to music on their iPods, I attempted to nap (but was very unsuccessful), some of us played volleyball, and then we all went swimming. Some notable things worth mentioning about our swimming excursion was that Abby threw a ball and hit me in the back of the head, Katelyn and Tyler got attacked by fire ants, and we all went down this awesome blow-up water slide a bunch of times!

After we got back from swimming, the girls cooked us dinner (spaghetti and meatballs, salad, and garlic bread). The girls cooked while the guys sat around on the couches watching TV and hanging out. I felt bad so I helped a little bit (by cooking the meatballs in the microwave). So I was not entirely lazy, just a little bit! After dinner, Tyler, Jordan, and I went to put gas in the van, to rent a movie, and to buy candles for another birthday surprise we had for Keith. The girls baked brownies while we were out and when we put the candles in, they started to fall over from their bottoms melting. The brownies were still too hot! So if there is anything you are going to learn from this blog, it should be this: allow your brownies to cool down a lot before sticking thin, wax, candles in them! We then decided to put the candles in the ice cream and let Keith blow them out that way….and that was a successful plan! Now we are all relaxing and watching a movie.

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Tomorrow is our first full-day of ministry here in Porter, Texas. We have training all morning and part of the afternoon, and then the campers arrive at 3:00 pm! It will be non-stop busyness from that point on! I’ve done camp ministry before (as I mentioned in one of the previous blogs) and it is extremely tiring, but very worth it! Please pray for strength, knowledge, perseverance, stamina, and whatever else God leads you to pray for us. We will definitely need the prayers!

I have a strong feeling that God is going to use us to make a difference in these students lives, so pray that we are willing and open to be used by Him!

Until next time…

– paulg

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