Friday, July 15, 2016

Nashville Week of Hope 2016

Kyle and I are home after an amazing (yet with moments of high drama) week long mission trip in Nashville.  We were stretched this week by God in LOTS of ways and I am sitting here smiling thinking of the memories we have made, the service we were blessed to get to do, and the time to focus on our relationship with Jesus. There is nothing like traveling to a new place with our youth to experience the community and to serve.
Here is our group on the front steps of Trinity United Methodist Church in downtown Nashville.  The neighborhood we were in was ROUGH.  We did not let our youth go outside after dark, and we took their safety very seriously. We stayed in a historic church that was built in the 1800's.  It was pretty and brick but it was old which meant no central air, very few electrical sockets, and quirks.  We could not plug anything in on the floor we slept on because it would blow the electrical which meant the air condition window units would shut off, so the kids had to plug their phones in downstairs!  HA!
this youth leader/princess showered in this outdoor shower.  Yes, it was a garden hose shower outside. We took cold garden hose showers all week long.  Like I said, God stretched us all this week!  I was so far out of my comfort zone showering outdoors in a rough neighborhood at 6 a.m. each morning.
I love seeing our youth serve and here is Kyle serving breakfast with his crew.  We were put in crews with youth and adults we did not know and sent to service areas.  Kyle and his crew served at a nursing home.  Again God really stretched us this week!!!!
Pardon my no makeup mission trip crazy hair, but here I am with a beautiful girl from Syria.  I was blessed with the opportunity to volunteer all week at Nations Ministry Center which serves refugees in Nashville.  We were honored to read with them and to help them do Lexia on the computer to improve their English.  This experience opened my eyes to the plight of refugees and how we should respond as followers of Jesus.
This is a beautiful girl from Syria.  Because of ISIS and the Civil War, many are having to leave.  This beauty and her family have been in in a refugee camp in Jordan while they did the three year background check and vetting process to get refugee status to come to America.  I am not clear why people fear refugees families, because this girl and her family went through a long and tedious screening to get to come here.  Her parents are hard working and want to raise their children in a safe and amazing country like ours. She has only been here a few weeks and and speaks very little english.  We did a computer program called LexiaCore to help her learn english so she can start high school in a few weeks.  Refugees that have been in the refugee camps have had a year or several that they have been out of school due to wars and persecution.
My pictures are totally out of order, but one night at chapel/program, the youth were invited to visit different stations around the room to learn about Jesus.  It was a wonderful way to experience who God is.  It was very powerful and here was my favorite station.  We all have identity because of Jesus.  We all got to stamp our fingerprint on this piece of paper to remind us that we may be different but we all are welcome in the family of God.
I spent a lot of time at the refugee center learning about the crisis of refugees in our world.  It is heartbreaking to know that children are enduring death, war, persecution, all over the world yet seeing their smiles and hearing their laughter overwhelmed me.
Camp food was TERIBLE.  I am not a picky eater and I even thought it was terrible.  Food was bad and portions were small.  Tuesday evening was our free night and we went to Opry Mills and had real food.  I was sitting at a table with six others and this was our appetizer.  We ate it all and then our dinners!! HA!
Tuesday night at Opry Mills was such fun!!
We were so blessed because we were able to go to the movies with the children from Nations Ministry Refugee Center.  Movies are a great way to teach English and we saw Curious George at the $1 movie time.  Look how beautiful these children are!

So Nashville was not without its drama.  Apparently the first night we were asleep in the church and some local drunk started throwing beer bottles at the church vans! Ours was not bothered thank goodness, but it opened our eyes to the danger of the neighborhood and we were strict with our youth.  Then we had two students in our youth group that had to go to the ER via ambulance due to exposure and ingestion of Flash Bang which is a super dangerous hot pepper sauce.  It was scary and could have been way worse, but I never want to chase an ambulance with two of our youth in it again.  We all learned some lessons about making good decisions this week!

In the afternoons at the refugee center a large group of children from Burma came to the center.  These children have been in America for 1-3 years and they are mostly all christian families that are escaping religious persecution by the Burmese government in their country.  Here I am wth a little girl from Burma.  She reads on grade level now due to the AMAZING work Nations Ministry provides to these families in Nashville.
Apprently our youth jumped on the pokemon go bandwagon this week and this was my response when youth asked me to take them pokemon hunting.
These beautiful boys are from Burma and during book time they wanted to read their children's bibles.  I was reading with them and realized these kids know about Jesus and know his word so well.  Our children born and bred here in USA should take note!  What a blessing to sit with these beautiful children and hear them tell me about their favorite stores about Jesus with their gorgeous accents.  It blows my mind that people here in American are so resistant to refugees coming to their cities when 51 percent of refugees are beautiful children likes these boys?!
I spent the entire week at the refugee center with these great people.  At first I was freaked out to lead and supervise youth I do not know, but it was such a blessing! Again working with a crew of kids I did not know (except for Corbin) was a stretch for me!
Here is Kyle with his crew!  He did not love his placement at all but God put him where he needed him and Kyle was stretched to serve at a nursing home.
We all made great friendships with new friends and had a blast making memories with our own church friends.  Here is Kyle giving a hug or a handshake to one of his crew mates this morning as we were leaving.  My boy is growing up! 

This princess was stretched and a few times extremely stressed this week.  But at the end of the week, I am praising God for the memories we made, the laughs we shared until we were crying, the bible devotions we had, and the opportunity to serve in Nashville.  We had three youth committ their lives to Christ on this trip and that is why I will say Nashville Week of Hope 2016 was AMAZING!!!!  May we continue to remember that because of Jesus we are ordinary people able to do extraordinary things in His name.  

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