Sorry about the delay – I meant to post this last night and got caught up in everything else. Better late than never, though, so here we go with the final installment for this trip:
Part 1 – from Colin Huntley:
So it’s the last day of the FBCGT West, Texas mission trip. It has been an incredible week, and there’s nothing I would have rather spent my week doing. I’ve gotten toned abs from the shoveling, and freckled skin from the sun. That, however, is not the main reason this trip was such a success! The real reason that this trip has been so great is what God has done certainly in my life, and seems to have done in the lives of the other kids in the youth group. Although we didn’t meet many homeowners this week, due to the fact that they were all out and staying in motels because of their houses being destroyed, God was still able to show us a lot. For me, God revealed something enormous this week about service. He showed me that service isn’t about helping others to make ourselves feel good. Constantly I would think to myself “I have to finish this job. I’ll feel good about myself when I’m with it all cause I made somebody happy.” It hit me this week that that is not the purpose of service. The purpose is rather that we serve God’s children to honor God and because it is right! “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
We are called to be excellent because it glorifies God when his children are excellent at what they do. We aren’t called to be excellent so we are rewarded at a higher degree. God did a lot in my life this week, and seemed to do a lot in the lives of my friends, both old and new. I’m incredibly excited to get back to Georgetown and share what I’ve learned this week!
– Colin Huntley
Part 2 – from Lacie Jones
This entire week has been such a blessing to me and has really opened my eyes to how God works within me and our youth group. The day where I saw God working the most in me was yesterday. I was getting kind of frustrated because we had not work to do and we were just sort of sitting around waiting for a ride to dinner and we decided to go prayer walking and I didn’t really have a partner at first. Then Hailey asked if I wanted to be her partner and we started walking around and we would stop in front of houses and just start praying for the people inside. Their well-being, for the house to be okay, for God to work in their hearts and move them to do amazing things. Then we came upon a house that had a basketball goal in the driveway and we both looked at each other and said “I bet they have kids living here.” So I immediately started praying for the kids that possibly lived there. Prying that they would be each other’s keepers and take care of each other and just be Gods warriors next year in their schools when they get moved into a new district because the schools in West were destroyed and some have been scheduled to be demolished. While I was praying I felt such a connection with God and it was so cool to put ALL my faith and ALL of my confidence in God that even though I didn’t know who I was praying for and I couldn’t see them, God knew exactly who I was talking about and will watch after them. Short after that me and Hailey were talking about how much we LOVE the power of prayer. We both felt such a connection with God and with each other while we were praying and we got to talking about how awesome God is and all the prayers he had answered for us. We also talked about time where we didn’t even know how to pray for a person hurting and it felt like God was just moving and speaking through our bodies. It was such an incredible feeling not only sharing what God has done in our lives but the feeling that someone knows how I like to worship and we connect together through that. It was completely God’s will that me and Hailey were put together to pray. The last thing I learned was my Love language. I kind of knew my spiritual gift from God which would be serving but I wasn’t quite sure what my love language was. God confirmed in me that it is word of affirmation which basically means I feel most loved when people are giving me compliments and using encouraging and uplifting words. Over all this week God moved through all of us and this community and I loved every minute of serving God and serving his people.
“We love because GOD loved us first” 1John 4:19
My name is Baylee. Today is day 3. I was on mowing crew!! So all we did was mow yards and edge. It was very tiring, but Mr. Mike helped me use a weedeater! It was so cool. We were on our way to the last house and we just thought we were just going to mow and edge, but it turns out we were cleaning out a storage shed/garage. We met a woman there, her name was Linda. The house was her moms. Her dad passed away 13 years ago. The shed was her dad’s old workshop. We hauled off a lot of lumber and we went back to get our tools and Asher asked to pray for her. She has stage 4 cancer and her mom was injured during the explosion. As we were praying she started to cry and afterwards she gave us all hugs. I have never felt like I had made an impact on some one’s life until now.
This is Alyssa and today was a very emotional day for me. The past two days I haven’t really put 100% into the work we were doing and didn’t see a reason for half the stuff we were doing. This morning God spoke to me and gave me a new perspective and motivation for today’s work. I realized we weren’t serving for ourselves, but for God and for the people of West. We were helping them in ways not even we would ever fully realize and God was helping me understand that. Today I gave my all in working and found myself getting a lot more done than I gave myself credit for. The group of people who came to West are a special group of people who really have a heart for serving. We were getting a lot done and I know it is because we worked as a team and have formed a special bond with each other and a lot of that has to do with our love for God. This week has been a learning week for me and I am so thankful for what God did through us this week.
Remember to search #GTXWest in social media for updates and pics!
Rikki Blue writes Part 1 today:
Today was our 2nd day in West, and it was another awesome day where God allowed us to love Him and the people of West. My group went to 3 different sites. The first 2 sites had the same type of work: cleaning up debris, sweeping, yard work, and other tasks. The work was somewhat tedious, but not hard, and I was thankful for the opportunity to show God’s love through our work. At times I was getting frustrated because we only have so much time here to help and people were not working very hard or standing around not working, but God reminded me to not worry. He let me realize that if I spent my time being frustrated while I worked, that my heart wasn’t in the right place. So ultimately during those times when I felt as if I was going to be frustrated, God taught me to have peace instead by either silently worshipping to myself, or stopping to pray and ask for patience. I’m very thankful for the opportunity given to help out here in West and even more grateful for the lessons I’m learning every day.
PS. SHOUT OUT TO MAGGIE
Macey Hampton writes Part 2 today:
Today was my first day in West due to a funeral I had to attend on Tuesday morning. One of my best friends was killed in a car accident Friday night in Oklahoma, so I came into this week with my heart not in a good place to serve others. Today started off pretty hard for me because all I could think about was how badly I wanted to be with my family during this hard time. While emptying out water bottles I felt as if my work was meaningless, but after lunch I was able to meet homeowners and see where the explosion took place. It was breathtaking to see how much damage was done. God really opened my eyes to why I was here while I was talking to the elderly man that patrolled the shower units. He brought up the subject of death, unaware of my situation, and opened up about how his grandson passed away recently. I knew right then that the reason I am here during this specific time is not an accident. God brought me here to show me that even in the times that I want to be the most selfish and focus on myself, I need to turn around and give to those who are hurting as well. The shower-man left his town and has volunteered his time to helping cities that have been hit by disasters. He is truly an inspiration because even though his heart is breaking for his grandson, he is pouring out love to strangers. I know my conversation with him was set up by God and that moment was meant to get my mind right about why I am here. I am so thankful for that and I am ready to tackle these next couple of days unselfishly and with a heart that wants to serve.
Please keep us in your prayers for the next few days, along with the city of West, and the Clifton family that lost their 17 year-old son Chance on Friday night.
Before I post the student’s blogs – I want to let you know that you can follow updates on Twitter and see pictures from this trip on Instagram by searching the hashtag #GTXWest
Today we were at a distribution warehouse that collected donated items for the victims of the explosion in West. When we arrived, the first thing that we noticed was that there was a TON of stuff donated, way more than what was needed for the city of West. After speaking to the volunteers, we learned that the items were also going to be donated to Eagle Pass, after the flooding. Just looking at the boxes and boxes of stuff was overwhelming.
Our first assignment was to organize and sort most of the clothing that was donated and trust us, there was a lot! We began by separating it into different larger boxes by size. As we were doing that, we noticed that a lot of the clothes were either stained, dirty, or had holes in them. We would not want to wear some of the stuff that was donated. We had a good discussion with Mrs. Downs and she made us realize that if we are going to donate our own clothes, they shouldn’t be something that we wouldn’t wear in public, but something that we like and just don’t need.
After lunch, we went back to the warehouse to find something else for us to help with. When we got there, we quickly realized that the volunteers were struggling to find us an organized project. After a few little projects, we returned to our boxes of clothes to take them out, put them in bags, and put them back into the boxes to be shipped out. It was a very tedious job, however during it we worked as a team and finished quickly.
All in all, we had a great day. We enjoyed being in the shade, talking to the volunteers, and making progress while growing closer as a group. Watching the volunteers really made us notice that we spend every day doing things for ourselves, while these people who weren’t even affected by the explosion wake up every day just to selflessly help others. It really made an impact on us, and we are going to work much harder to make a difference in our own communities.
~Hannah Newman and Hailey Hughes~
After a short and sweet drive to West, Texas Monday evening and a great night’s rest, the First Baptist youth were ready to begin a day of work. I was put in a group of fifteen that were sent to homes in West to clean up debris. While my dad and Vaughn (our site coordinator) figured out where we were going, we got the opportunity to pass many houses that were affected and even past the fertilizer plant that exploded. This experience was heartbreaking. When this happened in April, I remember watching youtube videos and reading articles about the town, but actually seeing the devastation and how broken the town is had a much bigger impact on me. We cleared three lots where houses used to be. Sweeping, moving wood, bricks and insulation were the main things we saw/did. After all of that was done, Vaughn brought us some sidewalk chalk to write encouraging bible verses on. I wrote one of my favorites – it has brought me so much hope when I am feeling fearful and anxious. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13. I am looking forward to spending my last mission trip with the FBCGT Youth in West and with such an amazing group of people.
Peace out homies,
I miss you shoogie.
Our final day was back at the same house and still working in the backyard. At this point of the week we were trying to clear as much stuff as possible before we had to leave. We took several trips to the salvage yard and the dump today. Our grand total of trips ended up being sixteen trailer loads.
The initial reason we got involved was that the city was concerned about mosquito control and at 2:30 on Thursday (initially we thought Tuesday) the inspector was coming. He arrived right on time and walked through the backyard and gave the thumbs up. The house passed the mosquito control test! During the final day we did tear down the shed/tarp and replaced the old tarp with a new one.
It took us about two hours to close out the trip. We had to wash the trailer out again, drop Mason at the airport, drive to the other side of New Orleans to drop the Camp Restore tools off and then we went back to the house to clean up. We walked to Fresco’s for some pizza and then came home to the final share time. After our share time, we cleaned the place we were staying and went to bed . . . we were starting the journey home at 7am!
Today was another full day back at Alicia’s house. I think we had unanimous agreement that today was much harder than yesterday. On the first day we could see great progress because the backyard looked remarkably different because of the greenery being taken down. Today we spent the day hauling trash out of a makeshift shed. We made one full haul of metal to the salvage yard and four more trips to the dump. That brings the grand total to ten full trailers of stuff hauled off. The hard thing is that there is at least ten to fifteen more loads of stuff that need to be taken away, but Alicia wants to keep the stuff. That has been hard for the group because they want to clear it all out. We talked a lot about loving people today and how loving people is more important than clearing stuff.
We did make a memory today. While loading trash on of our guys dropped a container and it spilled a black substance that had the most horrific smell imaginable to mankind. Nearly the entire team had to leave to go to the front yard to get away from the smell and it never went away. No one knows what it was, but I can assure you that I have smelled some rotten things before and this is the gold medalist. Things went from bad to worse when we found out that one of the team members had loaded the materials it was on into the trailer. By the time we found out it was too late. The “liquid death” had already been flung on four of the five sides of the trailer and was all over other bags and trash that was waiting to go to the dump. We ended up having to take the trailer to the car wash. We didn’t get anything in the van, but the smell that was attached to us also smelled the entire van. We have sense cleaned the interior of the van as well.
On a positive note, we got to eat at Hansen’s Sno-Bliz and we spent the evening taking a dinner cruise on the Steamboat Natchez down the Mississippi River. Another great thing that happened was a mini-reunion. Last year, we took several Leadership Track students to Super Summer at Howard Payne University. One of the adults that led our small groups was a young lady named Lacy. This morning we found out that Lacy was staying below us in the same building we are in. When we got back to the BCM building we had a great share time and then spent some time fixing up the place (repairing doors, working on the shower, and fixing some lights).
We left around 8am to head over to Alicia’s house to begin what was a day long project (and possibly the rest of the week). Alicia lives at home and is caring for both of her parents. Her father was a Lutheran minister who served at the same church in New Orleans for forty years, but now is suffering from dementia. Her mother has cancer and Alicia’s daughter, who is a college student, has or had (I don’t know the full story) cancer, too. Life has moved so fast that her property has been left unattended and now the city has gotten involved. Our goal was alleviate the pressure from the city.
The backyard could have been a scene out of Jurassic Park. There is no grass in the backyard, it is just leaves, ferns that run underneath your feet, ivy growing all around the fence, and elephant ears that were taller than we were. We immediately started taking all of that vegetation out. Mosquitoes had become a concern of the neighbors. After bagging the vegetation, we hauled it to the dump. That haul filled the entire trailer!
After clearing the greenery, we found a backyard full of items that had been placed out there, but had no purpose. We began separating things into three piles: Keep, Salvage Yard, and Dump. We don’t have bathroom facilities at the house available to us so we have to use some of the local stores. Each time we took a trip to the dump or the salvage yard, we would take two or three that needed a bathroom break. That would kill two birds with one stone! We ended up filling the trailer full of scrap metal for one haul and then returned to the dump three more times (total of four trips there). Each trip had the trailer packed to capacity.
After work we came home to clean up and then headed back to the French Quarter. We ate dinner at Bubba Gump’s and then took a Haunted History Tour through the area. Our team wanted to go back to Cafe Dumonde before we headed home for our share time.
This morning we began our day with a little prayer walking. We are living about 100 yards from two different universities, Tulane and Loyola. We are staying in the Baptist Collegiate Ministry building that houses ministry for both campuses. We prayed for the ministry here and for people along the way.
We arrived at the New Orleans Mission at 10:00am and got to work. Our team was split into a few different groups. We worked in the garden pulling weeds and ripe vegetables. We painted the administration building. A large group of us worked in the clothes closet. We were schedule to work until 1pm, but we were finished with all of that right at lunch. Once again, the students of FBC worked harder and faster than anyone anticipated. We ate lunch at the mission and then headed back to our house to pick up the trailer.
Our next job was to start working in the backyard of a house who is getting pressure from the city to clear it out. As we were headed there the rain began. It rained steady for about an hour and the radar showed a lot more coming. With lightning in the sky, we decided to postpone that house until tomorrow, but we got to get our eyes on it to see what we need to start early in the morning. Our contact with Camp Restore is a lady named Kathy and she is phenomenal. Within minutes she had us redirected to another work project.
We went to AXIS which is an after school ministry for children and teenagers that live downtown. Several years ago, a young man was murdered in the street. One of the ladies in the neighborhood felt like she had to start doing something about the violence so she invited the kids in the neighborhood to her house to provide a safe alternative for them to hang out. That ministry quickly outgrew he house and they started meeting in a church. This week they were able to move into their own space in a brand new building. We reshelved books in their library, deep cleaned window sills, doors, floors, and bathrooms. We did some other minor thing around the building as well.
Since we ate lunch at the mission, we decided to save money and eat our typical sandwich lunch for dinner. We had nothing planned for the night and since the girls were still winning the Battle of the Sexes (they’ve led 62 of the 64 hours) they chose to go to a movie and then come back for our share time.
After a full day of travel we intentionally moved our share time that we would have had on Saturday night to this morning. We talked about the past year and what is coming up. One question we asked the seniors is, “What helped you connect to the youth ministry?” They were in 100% agreement that it was involvement in mission trips. The ability to serve together and build relationships during the down time is irreplaceable.
After our share time we drove over to FBC New Orleans for worship. The pastor, David Crosby, is a great communicator and the church is working really hard to make the Sunday morning experience a great one. It was one of the friendliest churches that I’ve ever seen. David Crosby was in Houston for the Southern Baptist Convention and the guest speaker was Dr. Allen Jackson who is the youth ministry professor at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He is great communicator as well and we heard a great sermon on Philippians 1:6-11.
The ministries we are working with take Sunday off, so today was our fun day (even though we’ll do some other fun things while we are here, this was a full day of it). The girls were in control of Battle of the Sexes (as they have been the entire trip), but they were so indecisive about where to eat lunch we almost had to settle for chips and candy bars where we were headed. We ended up at Wendy’s for lunch and then we were off to Cajun Encounters for a swamp tour.
On the Swamp Tour we saw several different animals, but the highlight was the alligators. It was a relaxing trip and pretty informative as well. During one part of the trip we travel through a pretty dense area of trees and the guide told us what to do if a snake fell out of a branch and into the boat. I’ve heard that speech on other swamp tours, but I’ve never had a boat captain toss a rubber snake into the girls laps and yell, “Snake on the boat” afterwards! That was funny! On the way out of the swamp, Cole Elliott even got to drive the boat.
We headed to the French Quarter and the girls shopped while the guys worked on claiming a lead in the Battle of the Sexes. To their credit they finally took over the lead with some photos from the “Instagram Challenge.” We ate at Cafe Masperos and then had beignets at Cafe Dumonde. Shortly after that the guys lost control of the Battle of the Sexes again. So far they have had the lead for 2 of the 38 hours on the trip.
We concluded the night with our share time.
Our day started at 6:45am as we loaded the van and headed east towards Louisiana. Most of the day was spent driving so it was somewhat uneventful. The highlights came from the Battle of the Sexes which is a Senior Trip tradition. The guys and girls compete in a variety of games to gain points. The gender with the most points at any given time gets to make all of the decisions.
The girls took a commanding lead while most of the guy slept. When it came time for lunch they chose to decide via Urban Spoon and we ended up at Checker’s. Outside of Baton Rouge we stopped to stretch our legs at another senior trip traditional stop that has a live tiger for everyone to take pictures with.
We got to New Orleans around 5pm and moved into the Baptist Collegiate Ministry building. After dropping our bags we went on our shopping trip and then to the airport to pick up Jenna. The girls won the Battle of the Sexes again and got choose dinner, too. We had a late dinner at Randazzo’s (thanks to Urban Spoon).