On Monday morning June 22nd my wife, Kristin, and I arose around 4:45am in order to get to the bus and be loaded and help with packing and such by 5:30am. The students arrived between then and 6:00am and we loaded up the bus and van and headed out onto the road. I'm not one for long car rides or trips as my stomach gives me a hard time about it so I took 2 Dramamine and knocked out pretty early into the drive. We stopped once for a bathroom break and snack and then again for lunch but other than about an hour and a half at the end of the ride I slept pretty much the entire way there which was really nice. I needed the rest for what would become a very long, hard, and enjoyable week at MFUGE.
Upon arrival at Charleston Southern we went through the ins and outs of checking our students and leaders into their rooms and familiarized ourselves with a very open and beautiful campus. With spacious lawns and a reflection pool it provides a place for great meditation times and great fun with tennis & basketball courts and a pool. These amenities are not why we have gathered in sunny, and hot, South Carolina. We, along with many other church youth groups, have gathered to serve. We paid good money and drove from hundreds of miles away to love people with the love and message of Jesus.
Our students and leaders were broken up into serve tracks, similar to our Surv Teams, based on their 1st 2nd and 3rd choices. The tracks included: Creative, Games & Rec, PCY (painting construction and yard work), Social, and Children. Each of these tracks provides the students with a rough idea of how they will be serving. The PCY track works on mowing lawns construction sites and functions much like a Habitat for Humanity team. The Games & Rec, and Children teams work mainly with young children. They go to daycare centers or drop off points and plan out a day of fun for these young ones, all the while looking for opportunities to share with them the life changing gospel of Jesus. The Creative team works with children as well as homes for the elderly and they plan a program consisting of music and drama that points toward Christ. Social is basically a grab bag of all the other teams. They could be stoking food pantries, playing with children, visiting the sick and elderly, or doing some PCY.
Almost all of our students got the track they were hoping for. I was a van driver for the Social track in which I was put in. I really enjoyed my track group. None of my students from PowerSource were in my group so I got the opportunity to meet and learn a lot of new faces and make new friends. At first I was a bit nervous at the spiritual temperature of the students in my track. (I wrote about this in an earlier post you can read here.) However our track leader, a young woman by the name of Kara Barefoot, and I have a history. We group up together as friends in the same youth group at Raleigh Road Baptist Church. It was really cool to be able to serve with her and talk with her about the paths God has taken her on over the course of the past few months. It's a great thing to see God moving in the lives of my friends.
During the week, my track group worked with children at a downtown center (more on my time there in this blog post), helped spruce up a homeless shelter (in which I had a fight with some vines hanging from a tree and the vines won), and helped to harvest some squash at a farm that donates it's food to the homeless. All in all it was a great time of ministry and fellowship with other believers.
During the night time and morning worship sessions we experienced a very passionate hearts from our camp speaker Brian Jennings and our worship leaders The Rescued (nice name). Brian's actually an alumni of PowerSource middle school ministry and used to attend Thomas Road during his youth. He was very excited to see our youth there and was able to communicate to our students very well. He understand the struggles of being in a large church connected to a Christian school and the apathy that can sometimes cause in students.
Now I will say.... the group we took to MFUGE are mostly our core students. By that I mean they are student who dig deeper that we tell them to and ask the hard questions about what it means to follow Jesus in this great big Wild Goose Chase we're on to know Him and experience Him more fully. Not only do they ask questions they dive in head over feet. They live it.
There was true evidence of that this week. Collectively our students lead about 20 children and adults to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ while we were at MFUGE. It's a really exciting thing. Even more exciting to know that the MFUGE staff will be working with those individuals all summer to help disciple them and bring them along in their walk with Christ.
I loved sitting in our Church Group Devotion times every night after our worship sessions. God taught me a lot simply by listening about the stories of courage and bravery chronicling our students sharing the message and love of Christ and seeing lives changed. I got the opportunity to teach one of these sessions and I think I may have been more moved than some of the students. I was at the brink of tears thanking God for what He was doing in the lives of my students and those they connected with that week. (More on that night in this blog post. )
Overall God did some amazing things while we were in MFUGE. I'm thankful for opportunities like that. To love God by loving those He loves (all people). After the lives changed and time spent meeting other Christ-followers from around the nation we said our goodbyes and began to make our way back to good old Lynchburg, Virginia.
We made it about 15 miles.......... then our bus broke down.
We were in pretty heavy stop and go traffic and the brakes on the bus locked up and began to smoke excessively almost to the point of fire. Craziness. We assessed the damages and realized we would have to be towed in order to fix the problem. We shuttled students in the van to a Chic-Fil-A in Summerville, SC a few minutes down the road (I'm leading a worship evangelism conference there next weekend pray for me if you think about it.) It took us about an hour and a half to get all the students there. We then walked over to a shopping center with a PetsMart a Target and some other interesting stores. We passed the time waiting for the bus to arrive and arrive it did at about 9:00pm that evening. (We left camp at 10am). We loaded everyone up on the bus very tired and were ready to be on our way. Then another problem happened. The temperature gauge was reading close to a boiling point on the bus. We went back and examined it and had to call a repair man to come take a look. During this time a couple drove up next to our bus (which reads THOMAS ROAD BAPTIST CHURCH in the side in big letters) and asked us if we were from TRBC like "Liberty University TRBC) turns out they were both Alumni and let us know that if we needed a place to stay that we could sleep on the gym floor of their church, which had showers and AC. Considering how late it was and not knowing the extent of the problems we would be facing with the repair we stayed at the church.
We slept like rocks and a shower felt great after being in a sweating bus for a long time. Our students were great. Even though a few started feeling a little sick due to the heat, for the most part no one complained. It was awesome. The next morning TRBC had sent a new bus that drove through the night (THANKS SO MUCH Mr. Parra!!!!) to pick us up. We loaded up and headed home. With Rubik's Cubes in hand we made our trip home. I slept most of the way again but woke up and worked on some DLP Church History lessons that I ripped to my iPod.
I love long sweaty bus rides with break downs. I wouldn't trade them for anything because...
God moved in our hearts. God moved in the hearts of others.
Some will never be the same again because we made the trip.
I love this ministry.
I love it.
I wouldn't trade it for anything.