Sunday, June 24, 2012

Loving Istanbul in Under 48 Hours

Istanbul is one of the most beautiful cities I've ever visited.   We had a whirlwind visit earlier this year.  Of the ten of us, only Mom and I had been there before.  We loved everything just as much as we did the first time.

My Istanbul in under 48 hours:

Drinking apple tea with local shopkeepers
Puffing on a nargile
Getting my fortune told from Turkish coffee grounds
Topkapi Palace
Sultanhamet Mosque (Blue Mosque)
Hagia Sophia
Tulips (we were there during the annual Tulip Festival)
Grand Bazaar, brushing up on my bargaining skills
Underground Cistern with the famous Medusa
Learning about Turkish pottery
Catching filming for the new James Bond movie
Pastry (baklava and its cousins)
Turkish Delight
Egyptian Spice Market
Turkish Bath (hamman)
Sailing on the Bosphorus and seeing the dolphins
Rustem Pasha Mosque

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Joplin: Less Baggage, More Joy

Throughout the week we've had an evening Chapel service with all the Team Effort work groups in Joplin.  The theme for the week was baggage.  What are we carrying around that hinders our ability to focus on what's really important.   On Monday, the focus was on Materialism.  Tuesday it was Pride.  Wednesday it was Labels.

At Thursday night's Chapel we all went out into the night with our Team Effort staff members.   There was a cross lit by torches.   All of us had an opportunity to pray about the baggage that we carry that we'd like to give up.   Then we wrote it down on a baggage tag and nailed it to the cross.

A fitting end to a wonderful work week.

Friday was our day of play.    This is not my first mission trip (I think it's #12), but it was my first time playing laser tag.  Loved it!   Game one was not my best work, but game two was much improved...even if my player name was Sprinkles and I kept getting tagged by the likes of Chicken Strip and Butterfinger.

Afterwards we spent the afternoon at Shiffendecker Park for swimming, basketball, frisbee, football and sitting in the shade. 
Our last stop of the day was Granny Shaffer's Family Restaurant for a delicious southern style farewell dinner.  After a week of pizza, sandwiches and more Clif Bars than the average American eats in a month, Chicken Fried Chicken as big as your head IS the answer!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Joplin: Being a Blessing

It's an interesting paradox.   We serve to be a blessing to God and to others.   It's hard to take the compliment when Lorene, Jackie and Ray call us a blessing.   On a hot Missouri day, the gift of cold Dr. Pepper, is amazing.  

Yesterday when we discovered that we forgot one of our lunch coolers on the bus, Jackie had already gone into town to surprise us with pizza.  20 of them to be exact. 

Our last two days on the work site were filled with purpose.  Holes were dug.  Siding was installed.  Trusses were measured.  Cement was poured.   Posts for the barn were raised.  Bookshelves were sledgehammered.  Freezers were tossed.

We were dirty.  Hot.  Sore.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Joplin: Holes

Have you seen the movie Holes?  Pretty much every student on our work site has made a reference in the past two days.   We've been digging holes to rebuild the pole barn.  9 holes that are 2x2 and 4 ft deep.   The last foot is the hardest and yesterday we welcomed a select few into the "Four Foot Club."

We we also met Lorene, the owner of the house.   She wanted to come by and say thank you.  She's in her 80s and has lived there for the last 30 or so years.  She had lived in the area before and experienced a tornado in 1973, which is why they built a storm cellar in their current home.    When we said grace at lunch she added her own prayer.  It was beautiful.

After work (and thankfully showers) we hit up Braum's for our daily ice cream fix.  My flavor of the day?  Caramel Cookie Dough.   The congregation of 1st Pres made us enchiladas for dinner and then we walked and talked on our way to chapel. 

The theme of this week at Team Effort is baggage - what we carry with us that interferes in our relationship with God.   Last night the message was about pride.   Right on point.  Right on time.   Our culture puts a huge value on self.    How do we learn to let go of ourselves to focus on God and others?

It's a good question.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Joplin: Blown Away by Jesus

Blogging by smart phone en route to the worksites has a few limitations.   My group, the awesome group 2, is working in Diamond, MO.   We are working on Jackie's mom's house (JMH moving forward).    Jackie shared her story with us and I'll write more later.   When we arrived the sky was ominously dark and rain was imminent.   Jackie said, "You came here to serve didn't know you'd be blown away by Jesus."

You'll see in the pictures below their storm shelter.  Imagine 10 people and 3 dogs taking refuge in that small space.  Saving them from the tornado.  

Our projects yesterday included taking out and installing a window, putting up siding, clearing debris and digging holes for the new pole barn.  Add a little fire to the mix and you've got a winning first day of work.

Wildlife count:  Horses, crawdad, king snake, frog, and a host of creepy crawlies.  We have Rachael, biologist extraordinare, teaching us to love all of God's creation.  Even if it has 8 legs.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Joplin: Home Sweet Home

Hello Joplin!  After leaving Denver on Saturday night we rolled through eastern Colorado and Kansas en route to Missouri.   A special shout out to the McDonald's in Topeka -  we dropped in around 7:30 am, fed 50 people in short order and kept on going.   A midday Sonic / Subway stop and then we drove through Joplin to see some of the rebuilding ( Extreme Makeover homes, anyone?) and some of the destruction (a hospital near the new Cunningham Park). 

Our home this week is First Pres in Carthage, MO.  A group from the Chicago suburbs is also staying there with us.   Last night we had time for games in the park and an ice cream run to Braum's before Chapel.  

The Family Worship Center is the home base for all the work groups to eat breakfast and make lunch.  It's controlled chaos. 

What will day 1 bring?   We will find out!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Learning to Love Service

Maybe somewhere in a box at my mom's house is a picture of me, in all my awkwardness, in my brand new Banana Republic khaki shorts and t-shirt (with a map, of course), going on my first mission trip the summer I finished 6th grade.    It was a rite of passage at Rock Prairie Church, going on Caravan.   Along with my other nervous 6th grade friends we joined in the carpools as a part of God's Glenmhor Gang, going to Canada.   I remember that each car was stocked with a goodie bag full of snacks.   At each rest stop we had to switch cars to meet new kids and drivers. 

I don't know if that mission trip was my first time doing service work.  It's certainly possible.  My parents actively volunteered in the community and certainly encouraged me to take a week of my summer vacation to volunteer (or to get out of the house - it's a tough call).    I remember we spent most of our time on that trip reroofing the massive dining hall.   There I was, climbing up a ladder, onto a roof.   A roof!  A roof in another country, at that. 

Fast forward to today.   At 9pm tonight the youth mission trip at Wellshire Presbyterian departs for Joplin, MO.   I'll be on the bus.  Along with a whole bunch of excited youth whose Facebook posts today include, "so excited for this week!!!"

Mission trips are a wonderful experience for youth.  Going someplace new, working together, and serving others, is a gift.   It's time away from your phone.   Your family.   Your laptop.   You'll sweat.   You'll laugh.   You'll do a cannon ball into the pool.   It's a summer tradition in many churches around the country.  It also teaches kids - and adults - the importance of giving your time.

Learning to make service a priority starts early.   And then it becomes a part of a routine.  From the person who reads to others at the library, the classroom volunteer, the habitat builder to the soup kitchen cook.    Service can be big or small.   It's an important part of community.   Including mine.

Now I’m begging for forgiveness
I wanna make a difference even in the smallest way
I’m only one person, but I can feel it working
I believe in better days
That’s why I pray

-Big & Rich "That's Why I Pray"


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