Notes From the Mission Field – July 20, 2014
Nearly one in five West Virginians lives in poverty. So, for the 33 students and 11 adults traveling to Wheeling last week as part of HOPE’s Middle School Mission Team, there was much to do.
Each morning, the team met at the House of the Carpenter, a mission project affiliated with the West Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Its purpose is to care for people in need throughout the area.
At this site overlooking the beautiful Ohio River, the students would begin their day outside in a few minutes of quiet solitude followed by breakfast and then head off to work. From 9am to 3pm, groups of team members worked on a total of five houses assigned to them. In addition to building wheelchair-accessible ramps, railings and steps, teams completed other construction projects including cement work and general cleaning. “We helped rehab a townhouse for a woman who had lost her home. It was left in terrible condition with broken pipes and animal urine throughout making it uninhabitable,” HOPE’s youth intern, Nolan Pierce said. “Two days of ripping up carpeting, painting and scrubbing made all the difference.”
At the end of the workday, the students would meet for dinner and then spend some time just hanging out. Later each evening, the team would gather for worship time in both large and small groups praying, sharing their day, encouraging one another and singing.
This was the 29th mission trip for HOPE’s Youth Pastor, Dave Falcone. “My goal is to put individuals in situations where they’ll see and experience God. I’m just a delivery boy. It blows me away how God shows up and impacts lives each and every time,” Dave said. One group of students rooming together even posted index cards on their door listing all the God sightings they experienced each day. “We had seven students on the mission team who had no prior connection to HOPE, or to God.” So, in a very real way, each mission team serves as an important outreach for its 6th- to 8th-grade participants. For the adult leaders traveling with the students, Dave says “We each came away with a deepening perspective and appreciation of the experience.”
Students were asked to give one encouragement bead each day to another team member. Green represented compassion; red, leadership; blue, risk-taking; yellow, putting others first; brown, sweat; gray, morale lifting and turquoise, patience. But the real reward came by way of the residents who expressed gratitude for all their hard work. “One woman didn’t want to admit that she was in need of the wheelchair ramp we built,” Dave said. “On the last day, she came out in tears and spoke with the students, thanking them.”
The theme of this trip was “God Is ___” and each team member discovered their own list of words that could fill the blank. God Is Strong. God Is Present. God Is Enough. God Is Hope. God Is Salvation.
We are thankful for their safe return and for the wonderful way God worked in each of them as they brought salt and light to the people of Wheeling.