So much gratitude…. 2015 Rockford Mission Trip

IMG_20150717_192326978Kathy, one of the adults on our multi-generational, multi-church mission trip made me laugh out loud when she gave me these “where is my personal assistant” napkins mid-trip. It is true, much of the time, it appeared I was the go-to person for questions about food, supplies, scheduling activities, time, etc.  But honestly, I was just the coordinator; many, many people did the work. You see, it takes a village church to create a mission trip. Together, we had the perfect combination of gifts, talents and skills to accomplish good work for those in need, following Christ’s example.

Next week, I hope to write a post that details how this collaborative model of mission worked. But, while everything is still fresh in my mind, I would like to thank numerous people, without whom, bringing 5 churches and 50 people together for a Spirit-filled work trip with Rockford Urban Ministries, would not have been possible. This collaborative effort grew from a meeting, one year ago, with area UMC youth leaders. We found a common desire to do a bigger trip with smaller churches, that had lasting local impact, with people we trusted.

IMG_20150715_191338958So first, thank you to our wonderful group of youth leaders. Andrew (First UMC Park Ridge) and Shannon (Northbrook UMC) created the worship and devotional components. Luke (Kingswood UMC) worked on t-shirts and worship. Hope (Irving Park UMC) used her leadership skills to coordinate an ever changing dynamic of people, work and supplies. I (Grace UMC) coordinated logistics and food. Although our core group of leaders is changing as people transition to new jobs, I am extremely grateful for the shared vision, mutual accountability, faith and fun we have shared over these last few years. I hope this model of collaborative ministry and shared gifts will be an inspiration to each of us and to others.

For the youth from other churches, thank you, too. Although I didn’t get to know each of you, I appreciated your warmth and welcome. It was joyful to watch you all include each other, as Christ would do, in your endless games of GROG, fussball and Tips. You are a wonderful, hard-working, faithful group of young leaders.

IMG_20150715_120217455I’d also like to thank the eight youth from my group, three of whom did not really know anyone before the trip. It warmed this leader’s heart to see a van full of awkwardness transform into a team of young people who shared their gifts and talents. Never were so many inside jokes and new hashtags created! We laughed, a lot. We worked, a lot. We encouraged and inspired each other in the face of heat, poison ivy, lack of sleep and lack of tools. We also had great discussions on the neighborhoods we served in. What pieces of healthy neighborhoods seemed to be missing (businesses, food stores, parks, etc.)? Why did there seem to be a dividing line between wealthier and poorer areas?  How does our faith call us to create healthy, sustainable communities, answering God’s call to “do justice”? I am inspired by your ability to ponder these questions as you grow in faith.

IMG_20150716_180652064_TOPI have heartfelt and gracious thanks for our “camp kitchen” coordinators. I could almost see beams of joy shining from the kitchen as Stephanie and her daughter Julia worked to feed 50. I am so thankful that they shared their gifts of hospitality and tastiness with us. Seriously, how many mission trips get fresh whipped cream with dessert?  Without their shopping, chopping, set-up and clean up, the week would not have been a success.

Each of our adults from Grace brought their own unique gifts to share as well:

Len, you are a meticulous worker. I was especially thankful for the memories you shared of how downtown areas, like Rockford’s, used to be vibrant and full. Your insights added much to the youth’s understanding of neighborhoods.

Andy, you are the teenage boy whisperer. You have the tools and knowledge to do construction work as well as the teaching skills and patience allow others to learn and participate. You have a quiet, deep faith, evidenced in the way you worked late to install that last handrail to make sure the homeowner wouldn’t fall again.

Don and Kathy, you continue to joyfully welcome youth into our church life, year after year. I hesitate to ask how many nights you have slept in church basements. The youth look up to you both, learn from you both, love you both and are encouraged by you both. Thank you for your example of Christ-like leadership.

IMG_20150714_125214557Lynne, I will work on finding a data entry mission trip for you sometime soon!  However, you are always willing to jump in and lead youth in any task, even painting endless fences in the heat. Thank you for your supply runs, attention to detail, friendship and your amazing smile!

Tim, we are sorry you couldn’t share more of the week with us, your handy skills and positive attitude always strengthen our group.

Pastor Kim, thank you for joining us just 10 days into your new appointment at Grace. I look forward to working with you on more mission work.

Finally, thank you to Pam, an adventurer who was very much looking forward to serving with us. Thank you for your financial contribution, which was put to good use purchasing supplies. You are greatly missed on this earth, but your spirit, good works and suggestions will continue to inspire us and lead us toward Christ.IMG_20150716_115446819_TOP

With gratitude, joy and hope as we continue on this journey of faith together,


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