Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Back From Alaska

I just got back from a mission trip to Anchorage Alaska with my church and my family. It was a nice trip all my family except our oldest daughter was with us. It was a wonderful gift to see my children and husband serve. On the trip I struggled to find my purpose there. Why was I there and how could I make a difference? It was more of a simple mission trip with not a lot of hard hands on work to be done. The main focus was to help the church there with their park events. The first day we were there we rode on the bus routes to pick up kids from there homes and bring them to church. I rode on bus 2. We drove around a very poor neighborhood with not much luck as far as the kids deciding to get on the bus. In all about 12 kids got on. All but one child had no parent to come with them. Here these kids would get themselves ready for church and get on the bus by themselves. All the kids were so sweet even the more active ones. There was one girl that touched my heart, her name is Mary. She is only 5yrs old and she got on the bus by herself. Mary and I made an connection right away.

She was so sweet. For the rest of the day she followed me around and wouldn't leave my site for a minute. We drove back tot he church and played with the kids, went to service with the kids, (there VBS wrap up) and went on stage with them to sing "This Land is My Land" for their patriotic celebration. When it came time to drop her off she asked if I would be there next week. I said "no that I had to go back home." I told her that I was here on a mission trip and that I lived far away in Colorado. I told her I would miss her and keep her in my prayers. She cried and gave me a hug and said she wishes she could keep me forever and that I didn't have to leave. It was hard to say goodbye but I told her I would send her a picture and would write her. She slowly turned around as we approached her home and walked off the bus crying. I wish I could see her again and be there for her.

The next day we had some projects to do at the Bus Barn. That is where the store the buses they use to pick up children for their bus ministry. We washed the buses and did some touch up paint work to the garage.  A group went to go do some roofing.

                                                 Anchorage Baptist Temple Bus Center

                          My daughter Sarah painting   

                                                  My son J.J. and Katie painting

 My husband Joe driving the buses

Tuesday we had our first park event
My daugher Shannon helping make a craft with the kids
My daughter Sydney at her post on the bouncy house

As families gathered to spend time at the park I looked around and wondered how could I be a light of Christ. I made my rounds and said hi to a few people. I started talking to this lady and my husband joined in. He killed it with leading the conversation around salvation. I added to the conversation as we shared back and forth about marriage, family, and God. We introduced her to the pastor there and went our separate ways. Later at the park event I saw her again and handed her my email and asked her if it would be ok if I would keep her in my prayers. With tears in her eyes she said thank you and gave me a hug. It felt good to see her smile. The park event was coming to an end and I found myself thinking wait I haven't done anything big to make a difference. I was getting a little down. I am good at do the hard work and feel accomplished when we work hard on a project and see the end result. All it seemed I did was have a conversation here and there. I wanted to see results and make a difference.

On Weds was our free day. I was excited to be able to spend time with my family and go to an animal rescue and than on a cruise.

It was a good day. It was very cold and wet. I enjoyed the beauty and the smiles on my kids faces.

It was hard to believe that it was already Thursday. The week was going by fast. Today would be the last park event. To be honest I was hoping it would be canceled because the whole week had been cold and wet and I was feeling a little down. I wasn't feeling like I was making a difference. It seemed like I was busy just being a mom and taking care of my kids. I enjoyed spending time with everyone. I found myself having conversations with various people who was on the mission trip with me. I enjoyed those conversations. I would help out here and there when I would see something that needed to be done. Still I found myself asking why did I come.

It turned out that the park event wasn't canceled after all and the weather was nice. Again I walked around talking to various people, helped kids with different things, and enjoyed watching my family and the rest of the team interact with everyone.

My daughter Samantha making friends with the kids and their puppy

My nephew Jameson

My daughter Sarah at her post

As I was making my rounds saying hi to people I saw this family with smaller children playing on the smaller play ground. There was this little girl who was afraid to go down the slide because there were bugs on the slide so I took my hands and wiped them off. This happened over and over again. As I was helping these little kids down the slide the grandmother came over and watched. The mom came over and we started talking. I helped them earlier with getting food and giving them info about the church. It seemed like every where I went in the park I was helping one of the kids in that family. We had a good conversation. The mom had to go help one of the kids and the grandma came over. She wasn't very old so I was surprised that she was the grandma. Right away Carol started sharing her life with me. She shared that she was an alcoholic and wanted to stop drinking. She told me that she wanted to be closer to God but didn't know how. She was desperate for hope. I shared my story and about how my brother had died of alcohol. I shared how God still loved her and how He wants to have a relationship with her. I asked if I could pray for her and she said yes. I took her hand and started to pray. I poured out my heart for her in prayer. Tears came to her eyes. As I finished the prayer she thanked me. She took a couple of steps back and said "wow, when you held my hands I felt the power of God healing me." I was a little taken by that commit. All I did was pray. She continued to say that she was glad God arranged this mission trip so she could meet me. She said that I needed to be on this trip so I could pray for her and that she would be noticed. We continued to talk and she shared her life and I shared how God has a plan for her. Time stood still as we talked everything else around me disappeared. Before you knew it was time to go. The park was already cleaned up and the bouncy houses and everything was packed up. They were waiting on me. I had to close our conversation but I promised I would continue to pray for her. She asked for my email so she can stay in contact. So I gave her my email and had to run. On the bus God reminded me of my disappointment earlier in the week and reminded me that He had a plan. If I had to go on this mission trip to give love to Mary the 5yr old little girl and make her smile that alone would have been worth it. If I had to go and talk to the first lady at the park and offer prayer than that alone would have been worth it. If it was only Carol and praying with her than that alone would have been worth it. God reminded me of all the little things, all the little conversations I had through out the week, and the smiles of everyone I met. God is good. It is not always the big act of service that count the most but it is the small things, the smiles, the faces, the little sparks of hope that matter the most sometimes. God did have a plan for me to go on this trip. He did have a purpose and in small ways I did make a difference for Him. If that wasn't good enough God let me share it with my family. Thank you God for the lessons learned. Please forgive me for my doubt.

The last day in Alaska we took food to the local homeless shelter and spent the day in downtown Anchorage.  At the homeless shelter we took a tour and I met a number of people.  One gentleman I was talking with asked where we were from and who we are so i told him that we were on a mission trip and that we were from Colorado.  He said that's funny you would think there were homeless shelters in cColorado and with all the wild fires there you would thing they woud need more help.  What a different perpective.

                                                                                    A picture on the wall of the homeless shelter

All in al I learned that God has a plan and that each and everyone of us has a purpose.  I am glad that I had a chance to go to Alaska and serve with a group of wonderful people and my family.  Now to get my days and nights fixed.