Well, our first mission trip is now in the books, and I can honestly say, it was successful! The last eight months have gone by so fast; seems like yesterday that Larry and Debby were in my office, pitching the idea of taking a group of teens to the island of St. Croix. I knew we were supposed to go on a trip in 2013, but wasn’t sure where to go…then St. Croix fell into our lap. It was a no brainer. After prayer and talking with my Pastor, “St. Croix 2013″ was born.
Then, this past week, all the blood, sweat and tears that went into the planning, became reality. Here’s a rundown of each day while on the mission trip. Each night I went to bed and listened to worship music until I fell asleep.
TUESDAY, JUNE 18 - Travel Day. Nothing like trying to get 16 people through the airport. We left Tulsa, OK around noon on Tuesday, and by 9pm that night, we were in our hotel in Miami, Florida. We definitely had favor with our hotel in Miami. When I made the reservation back in February, I called “Comfort Inn at Miami International Airport” near the airport. It wasn’t pretty or anything, but I knew we were only going to be there for a night, so it wouldn’t be too bad. When we landed in Miami, I called the hotel so that they could come pick us up. They did, but took us to a nicer hotel…a “Comfort Inn and Suites”. They had our reservation, but it wasn’t the same hotel I had seen when I booked our rooms. This hotel was NICE…and the price was the same as the one I reserved. God knew what He was doing….and it was very appreciated.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 19 - Left the hotel for the airport around 9am. We arrived in a rainy St. Croix around 2:30pm. Larry met us there, along with Enoch King, Franklin Weathered and Jesse Jackson. We loaded our luggage into vans, and headed to our “home” for the week…a church called The Way of the Cross in Catherine’s Rest, just outside of Christiansted. The team was welcomed with a luncheon, and then began to settle into our new home. The leaders (all five of the team leaders, along with the St. Croix leaders) sat down to hammer out all the final details for the next week. After a late night drama practice, the team turned in early that night, to prepare for the next week.
THURSDAY, JUNE 20 - Our actual first day of the mission trip. We got up early for breakfast and devotions, then afterwards, the team practiced outside in the sun (and heat) some of their dramas for the upcoming youth rally. After that, we went to a local shopping center, where the team passed out flyers and invited teens to the youth rally, which was to take place the next night. At the shopping center, Brett Drumm and I met an interesting man…”Mr. J”. Mr. J saw the team walking around in our green mission shirts, and began to ask Terri what we were doing here. He then said “I don’t believe in Jesus”, to which Brett replied “He believes in you”. Those words would begin a conversation that would last for over an hour and a half. Mr. J was a pimp, and when I looked into his eyes, it was the first time in my life that I could see evil. His eyes were weird-looking, I don’t know if he was possessed, but you could definitely see the evil in him. Unfortunately, we all had to agree to disagree with each other, and went on our way. He crossed my mind several times on the trip, and I will continue to pray for him. After that, Julie Drumm and I prepared for the first Youth Leaders Conference, while the team went back to our home, and worked on some of our dramas. The YLC went well, despite only having a handful of leaders there. Feedback was good on the conference though, and I was happy how it turned out.
FRIDAY, JUNE 21 - I woke up early this morning, with all kinds of thoughts going through my mind about the upcoming youth rally. I made me a pot of coffee and sat outside of our home, and watched the sunrise come up. St. Croix is the eastern most island of the United States, and therefore, I was one of the first few people in the country to see the sun come up….very humbling for me. After an afternoon of shopping in downtown Christiansted and walking along the beach, it was time to go back to the church, practice dramas and rest. After our rest, it was time for the youth rally. We traveled to YWAM (who was nice enough to host out youth rally and first youth leaders conference) where we met Larry and Debby, to eat pizza and prepare for the rally. The rally was AWESOME! We had around 70 youth there (due to there being two proms and one graduation that night). Our drama team KILLED their dramas, and I spoke the word to the teens (taught on who your friends are and that Jesus needs to be your best friend). The teens’ seemed unresponsive to the Word (which Debby has warned me about, due to me being the outsider). After I spoke, Pastor Enoch came and took the microphone, and GOT IN THEIR FACE! He challenged them and got in their face (something I couldn’t have done, or they would have FOR SURE tuned me out). They responded; we had 10 rededications and 3 salvations. Everyone of our youth team members prayed for those teens who came forward. They had asked for boldness before the trip, and got it! It was an awesome night. After the rally was over, Debby reminded me of an email she had sent me months back, about something God had told her. He had said that “we would come and till up the dirt and lay the foundation, but it would be one of their own who would build on it”. That would be a theme that would be in place for the entire trip.
SATURDAY, JUNE 22 - We got up early after an awesome youth rally the night before, and headed to the other end of the island to do a workday at WIVH radio station, which is run by the Bowman’s out of their house. The Bowman’s are a sweet family, but have been plagued by sickness. Everyone in their family had recently suffered from Dengue Fever (a fever carried by certain kinds of mosquitos). All their funds go towards their radio station, so it was an honor to go and help them at their place. We mowed and weedeated their yard, built a shutter for one of their big windows for the upcoming hurricane season, ran electrical wire for an outlet we put in out in the yard, replaced the screen in the screen door to protect them from mosquitos and cleaned the inside of their house, from top to bottom. We were treated with a traditional meal from some women of the church (which was awesome and would love to take those ladies home with me so they could make that meal all the time). The team busted their tails and never complained. What was supposed to have been a few hour workday and then a trip to a swimming pool, turned into an all day event. However, the team never complained. We went back to our home, and crashed early that night, because everyone was exhausted.
Sunday School Teaching
SUNDAY, JUNE 23 - Our first church service of the trip. Brett Drumm was asked to teach Sunday School that morning, and just being asked to take part in the church service was a miracle in itself. Not very many people are allowed to take the pulpit while the pastor is gone, let alone here. Brett did an amazing job, teaching on obedience. pastor Harrington had a great message on being excited for God (which was fitting, since I felt that was why we were there, to get the people of St. Croix excited). After church, Larry and Debby took us swimming at a really nice pool (the place where we were supposed to have gone the day before). It was the first time we actually got to just let loose, and the team needed it (Although they enjoyed trying dunking me and holding me under the water a little too much). After the pool, we went back home and worked on a couple of dramas were going to perform that night at church. Pastor Harrington left on vacation after the morning service, so we (along with Pastor Enoch) had the service that night. Our team did AWESOME on the dramas….they really spoke to the crowd. Then, Whitney came up and gave her testimony (about the death of her mom), and then I came up and spoke a few minutes after her. Then, Enoch delivered a short and powerful message. It the end of an emotional day, but God was just amazing. It was an honor and a privilege to be at Pastor Harrington’s church, and to take his pulpit.
Day in the projects
MONDAY, JUNE 24 - Monday morning started EARLY! We woke up at 3;30am to drive to the East End. The east End has the most eastern point of the United States (since St. Croix is considered U.S. territory). So we all ventured to the East End, and watched the sun come up over the ocean. It was truly an awesome experience. We did our devotions out there, and then we all came back to our home and crashed till noon. After we woke up, Terri and I went and took the kids shopping at Sunny Isle shopping center (the biggest mall in St. Croix….has maybe 20 stores in it). After shopping, we all came back and went on a ministry outreach into the projects. This trip was very humbling and eye-opening for all of us. As soon as we got off the van, we heard a kid hollering “please mom, don’t kick me”. It was heartbreaking. Our team played outside, and every kid in the projects came outside and played with us. I was so proud of our youth. It was hard to tell who was having more fun….our team or the kids! We gave them chips and candy, as well as bracelets (a few of us even gave away our Edge bracelets). We played basketball, gave piggy-back rides, were dog-piled, and more. Some kids even took our water bottles and drank water. We let them drink all of it, after one kid said cried and said “we don’t have water to drink here”. My heart just melt! We had to be out of there by dark, due to it being a rough place. When we arrived back to our home, I sat outside in the grass and just cried! Good came out of it though. It opened the door for a local ministry to come on Mondays and bring bottled water to the projects. God is awesome! After that trip, we all hung out at our home and watched Enoch, Franklin, Jesse and others play dominos (dominos is HUGE on the island). As they played dominos, Enoch, Franklin and I went over to the church as I did the second youth leaders conference. The conference was AWESOME!! We had great communication, a great turnout, and just bounced ideas off each other. I know changes were made that night. After the conference, Enoch told me that THIS was the reason we had come to St. Croix….to inspire him and his leaders. I am pretty sure though, it was mutual….he inspired me as well!
TUESDAY, JUNE 25 - The day started with a treat for Brett and I, from our fellow host/youth pastor Enoch. Enoch wanted to take us spear fishing in the morning, while the team toured the Rainforest on their way to Frederiksted (the second town on the island) for shopping. Although we didn’t see any fish, the trip was exciting. Brett nearly killed himself by touching a Lion Fish, then he launched his spear 100 yards out into the ocean, in a classic move. After we had snorkeled around the ocean, hunting for fish, we wrapped it up and headed to the shore, only to find that Enoch’s church van had been broken into (the window was busted out by a cinderblock). Nothing was taken, Praise God. Needless to say, it kind of put a damper on the fishing trip. We then went to a bluff where sharks hang out. After that, we met up with the team in Frederiksted for shopping and lunch, although it rained on us the whole time in Frederiksted. After lunch, we treated the team to some local ice cream, and then went back to the church to prepare for our last ministry outreach, a children’s camp at YWAM. The folks there had seen us at the youth rally a few days before. and asked if we would be interested in doing a night of their weeklong camp. The team performed their two clown dramas, played games with the children, and Julie taught an awesome message. It was so cool to be asked to take part of this camp, and quite the honor for our youth to do this.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 26 - After depriving the team of some beach time, we made up for it on Wednesday. We got up, did devotions and ate breakfast, then headed to a beach that Larry and Debby often go to. The beach was a resort, and was very nice. We ate lunch under a tent on the beach, and although it was cloudy the whole time we were there, the team had a blast. Most of the kids hung out in the water and snorkeled the whole time, while myself, Enoch, Franklin and a few others, played some mean games of beach volleyball. Although Enoch and I got beat by Brett and Franklin (still can’t figure out how we let them back in it). After the fun day at the beach, we went back to the church to rest for a few hours, then headed to another beach called Halfpenny Beach, where we swam, had a bonfire on the ocean, roasted some hotdogs and made s’mores. We then all reflected on what the mission trip did for each of us. It was the perfect ending to our trip.
THURSDAY, JUNE 27 - Saying goodbye is always hard, but it is harder when you really make a connection with people. After breakfast, we cleaned our home for the last time and packed up everything. Enoch, Jesse and Franklin drove us to the airport (after a stop at Wendy’s for lunch) while Larry and Debby met us at Wendy’s. We took our photos and gave our hugs. After a long day of three airplane rides (St. Croix to Miami, to Dallas, to Tulsa), we arrived back at the Edge around midnight. It was the end of a great week. My thoughts and prayers are that we (as a team) ignited a fire on the island and gave these leaders the passion to reach the youth of St. Croix. I know they have ignited a fire in me again, one that needs reminded every so often. The mission trip may have been in St. Croix, but it ministered to us as a team and to me as a youth pastor, just as much as it ministered to the people there.
Some people may look at this trip as a “vacation” or that “we didn’t do enough” or that “not very many got saved”. You can say all or any of that if you want…that’s fine. Each mission trip has its own theme and agenda, and this theme was geared more for the youth leaders. Pastor Enoch and his team, as well as all the other youth leaders represented, needed a good foundation put in place, and that’s what God did through us. Pastor Enoch told me after the Monday night Youth Leader’s Conference, that “that was the reason we came 3,000 miles away…to help them as leaders.” We layed the foundation in St. Croix this past week….now it’s time for us to watch what God does through th great people on that island.
It’s amazing how God can use a small group of teens and adults, from a tiny town in Chouteau, Oklahoma (who’s known for Amish and their cooking) can go some 3,000 miles away to a small island that has 50,000 people living on it, and begin to set that island on fire! There is a change coming to the island of St. Croix. You may say only 10 rededications and 3 salvations happened….but let’s see what happens in a year, two years, five years, when that island is on FIRE for God.
I’d say….2013 St. Croix Mission Trip: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED