Thursday, October 17, 2013

M is for Missions Trips

 Growing up in the church, I've been on a few missions trips over the years. I recall when in high school, our youth choir went on tour a couple of times. One time, up the coast to Northern California. We slept in churches or retreat centers. We sang, sometimes did a dramatic skit, and had a short sermon. Always, we had a Vacation Bible School type program for kids. I always loved that part!
Another memorable trip was to an Indian reservation in Arizona. We sang in their tiny church, and played with the kids. Some very special personal memories from those days!

When in the College Career class at another church, I went on a day trip to Mexico. I believe we went into Mexicali, and helped build tiny houses in the area known as" the dumps". What an eye opener! It was hard physical labor  and emotionally  draining. We toured the Christian run orphanage, and of course, fell in love with the kids!  (Unfortunately, I did not retain the photos taken during any of these times)

The last missions trip I took, was in 2000, and was also my most favorite of all. I was a short term missionary for a family retreat with the Joni Eareckson Tada ministry.
Joni and her husband, Ken, were at the retreat. They are the nicest people and Joni is as sweet in person as she is the radio. I even got to dine with them one time!

 Volunteers had to pay their way to this week-long camp, as well as work it. We arrived on a hot July Sunday, and had orientation and training. Each volunteer was assigned a family that had a special needs member. This camp is for the entire family, no matter the age. I was assigned an eleven year old boy who had cerebral palsy, a trache and had to use a wheelchair. I was matched with him because of my  career experience working with people who had disabilities.  The kids had planned activities while the adults and youth had their own life-renewing meetings and activities. Always, the Word of God was being shared.

William was a very outgoing young man with a smile that lit up the room. He soon became very popular with the other  Short term missionaries (STM) and camp participants.  He could not walk, but he was able to move on his knees, so he wanted out of his wheelchair as much as possible! He was non-verbal, but his facial expressions did all the communicating for him! He enjoyed everything! He especially loved riding the horse. I was constantly with William, and even had to suction his trache a few times, and deal with his other medical and physical needs. At meal times, I dined with him and his  family. It was a precious time. In the evenings, there was group meetings in the church building where we sang and learned more about God.

The campground  is a Calvary-Chapel owned Conference Center in Murrieta Hot Springs, California. There actually was a hot springs contained in a giant pool spa. The water was warm and after the church meeting, it was free time for STM's. We usually hung out in the spa. The families did too. The highlight of the retreat was near the end of the week when there was a time of baptism in the hot springs spa. A little talk was given explaining what baptism meant, then it was asked if anyone wanted to be baptized. Several folks did- participants, their families and even some STMs. Near the end of the evening, the offer went up again and William's hand shot up! The pastor spoke with him and asked if he really understood what it was about. William's face was aglow as his head bounced in understanding. Two men lifted his small body and baptized William. (I tear up just remembering that night!) WOW- what a finale! His mom and dad were watching; mom with tears, and dad still trying to get a grasp of what being a Christian is about.

These two photos are from a newsletter that was sent out to supporters of the ministry. I did not get a good pic of Joni and I feel that I should not post photos of William and his family without their permission.

That week was physically and mentally exhausting, and used a week of valuable vacation time, but so worth it. I kept in touch with William's family for a short while, but then we lost touch. I often wonder how they are doing. William would be a grown man now. I think I would like to serve again as a STM someday, when I'm not so physically handicapped myself, but for now, I  know God will use me where I'm at!

Have you experienced any memorable blessings as a result of a missions trip?

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  1. What treasured memories, and how awesome that you got to be part of William's special time. And you're so right, Barbara. We can shine our light for Him wherever we're planted. :)

    1. It was a very special time and I will always remember him.

  2. Thank you SO MUCH for being an STM! We've been to Joni and Friends Family Retreat twice. LOVED IT. I'd love to do it again but my husband would rather do other things. :-) I can't say enough about that program. It's such a much needed relief for families. Such a huge blessing!

    1. How cool- were you an STM, or did you go as a participant?


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