A few weeks ago we took our second high school mission trip to Memphis, TN for SOS! What a great week it was! It had a different feel to it since we had such a large group this time, but it was just as meaningful.
I went back to the same house I went to in June. In June, we mainly worked on the outside of the house with the roof and Ms. Flora’s fence. This time, when we showed up to the worksite on Monday, it was raining, which meant that we worked inside Ms. Flora’s house. In June, the only room I had been into in her house was her living room. As we walked in the damp, dark, cool house to assess the situation with her ceilings that had fallen through in her kitchen, bathroom, and living room, my eyes were unveiled, and I felt just simply paralyzed.
Of all the mission trips I have been on in Jamaica, Honduras, Los Angelus, Katrina relief in NOLA, Nashville work camp, Montana…. I have never, and I do mean never, encountered a house that full of bugs. It literally broke my heart. This 78 year old woman who had obviously tried to keep her tables clean, floors swept, walls decorated, and house cool was living in utter filth….and I am pretty sure she had no idea. It was heartbreaking. I was mad that nobody had helped her. She has 4 children. This is the age when children typically start to help care for their parents. I was sad that she probably didn’t even notice all the bugs that engulfed her walls and behind her decorated wall hangings. When we went in the bathroom, the bathtub was full of bugs. I was wondering, does she bathe in here? I was simply paralyzed, disturbed, and upset.
As I talked with Ms. Flora on the front porch one day, I found out a little bit more about her…her 4 children are simply unable to care for her with their own issues. Ms. Flora spends every single day caring for one of her children who had a stroke (her house was worked on this summer by SOS as well). Another child, she explained to me, is in and out of rehab. Another passed away. Still another, is apparently nursing her husband who has cancer. I realized that week what a reflection of Christ Ms. Flora was… sacrificing her own living situation, time, and energy. I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving for the new roof and ceilings.
During the week, it was also wonderful to bond with my team. Two of the girls on my team I have had good relationships with, and they leave for college…this weekend. It was good to have some last little moments with them. Also, it was neat in that we had three guys on our team who will be freshman this year. They may be young…but their leadership skills and initiative show great promise to their leadership in the student ministry and their school. Also, my co-leader was a girl who is in college, but I was her youth minister when she was in youth…and she has decided to go into youth ministry! It was cool to be able to share that experience with her as she learns to embrace her calling!
Ben, our old student who was on summer staff at SOS, he had us share our testimonies during devotional time. Each day a couple people would share. It was a truly meaningful experience for our group and really opened up some doors for accountability, healing, and freedom! We discussed how many times when you finally decide to bite the bullet and share those “secrets” of your testimony, suddenly they don’t seem so silly and embarrassing…it is actually freeing and you can receive grace, encouragement, and joy in overcoming!
All that to say…even though the trip was to the same place, with the same age group, and I worked on the same house…it was not the same experience!