Friday, June 29, 2012

Hello from Hot, Hot, Hot, Tennessee. :) The temperature hit 102 degrees with a real feel of 108 and so what did we do? Spend most of the day outside of course! Since it is currently 2 in the morning, and I am exhausted, I will just give you the highlights. We hiked in the Smokey Mountains up to Rainbow Falls, ate lunch at Corky's BBQ (yum!), did a little more shopping, and went to the Tennessee Smokies Baseball game. (They won, we sat in the equivalent of the Reds Diamond Seats, and it was Fireworks Friday...what more can you ask for? Oh yeah, a cooler night!) :) We got back to the dorms around 11 and everyone took a cool shower and got a bag to put their clothes/toiletries they would need for after rafting. I'll try to post pictures in the morning before we leave. (Like the ones of the bear we were eight feet away from! Yikes!) Remind me to tell you all about the Orca/Okra incident also. :) We watched the weather back home all day and are praying for all of those without power and/or storm damage to their homes. We hope you are all safe! Blessings on your night/morning!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hooray for another wonderful day! The alarm went off (a half hour later than normal because the leaders decided to take showers when we got back from working at lunch time to get the extra sleep) and everyone ate breakfast (pancakes and eggs today!) We loaded up the van, but didn’t take either cooler with us because Mamaw told us she would be offended if we didn’t use the water and ice she bought for us.

We arrived at her house, and Matt was waiting for us. He left early in the morning to go to Home Depot to get the last bit of wood we would need for her handicap ramp. The teens were excited to begin, and within two hours half of our group had finished building, sanding, and cleaning the ramp! The other half of the group filled a 30 foot trailer with all of the lawn debris and trash that was piled up in her back yard, trimmed the fence line, and took turns visiting with Mamaw. She loved bragging on her family, and showed us some of the awesome quilts she enjoys making. The teens did great and it was crazy how hard they worked!

While clearing away the yard waste, we found a couple of friends. ‘Antonio the Turtle’ was crawling out from under the waste (and he was seriously speedy!). Mamaw was so excited and she wanted us to keep him until her grandson showed up to see him. We used one of the old tires to keep him in the grass, and the girls gave him water and extra grass. (I’m not sure what turtles eat, but he would be back in the wild that afternoon, so we figured he was good until then.)

The other little ‘friend’ was a salamander, but according to the group who saw him, he was a ‘hissing meany’. Needless to say, we didn’t keep him around for the 3 year old grandson to meet. Haha

We worked all morning, and then it was time to leave. It was kind of sad saying goodbye to Mamaw. She wouldn’t let us leave until she gave each of us packs of gum, soda, and other treats. We took pictures with her, and she made us promise to stay in touch. (The teens have already decided to help me correlate the pictures of her home and our group so we can send her a photo memory book.)

After leaving her home, we came back to the dorm, took showers, and loaded back up in the vans to go explore Gatlinburg. The ride there was uneventful until we got into the Great Smokey Mountain Park. As we turned a corner, we saw a forest fire in the dry brush and Emily immediately called the fire department. She gave them the location of the fire, and the trucks were passing us on the road within 5 minutes! (Her Dad will be so proud! :)) We parked in a community lot (after being turned away from another lot because of the size of our van) and unloaded.

We agreed to meet back at the vans at 5pm, and (as long as they stayed in groups of three or more AND one of them had a cell phone with my number programmed in it), they could explore on their own. Emily, Christine, Megan and I headed off to explore the shops. During the course of the next few hours we ran into all of the teens and shared silly stories. (People watching is a must down here!) We bought some old fashioned candy, checked out a German Hofbrauhaus/Cheese Shop (what a great combination!), and ate some Kilwin’s ice cream. It was so yummy!

At 5 we left Gatlinburg and started our drive back, planning to stop for dinner along the way. We didn’t see the forest fire, and prayed for the firemen who worked so hard to get it contained and put out. (It was 101 today, and everything is so dry!) We stopped for dinner at a Restaurant called the “Mellow Mushroom”. It was a pizzeria, and was so good! They sat all 14 of us in the ‘lava’ room. Basically it was a large enclosed booth with lava lamps in the window cases built into the walls of the booth. It was really cute, and we played a lot of games at the table waiting for our hand-tossed pizza. (See earlier pictures to get a better idea of the booth.) The restaurant was a lot of fun and had a really ‘funky’ interior design.

We made it back to the dorms in plenty of time to get ready for our final chapel session. All week we have been learning a really fast song called, “I don’t Know Where I Am Going To Be Tomorrow” and tonight during the praise music, they wanted people to come up and attempt to sing the lyrics at a really fast pace. Caitlin had been practicing all day, so Matt and Will knew that she knew the words. They called her out in front of everybody to come up on stage and sing. She is such a trooper! She ran right up there (even though she was nervous) and did excellent. When it came time for the teens that were on stage to sing, they were allowed to sing with the groups that they came up with, but poor Caitlin was the only one from our group to go, so Olivia and Bekah took pity on her and joined her up there. They rocked it out and I was impressed! We have some mad skills in our group. :)

After the praise music, we listened to Matt give a witness talk on the power of God. He reiterated everything we had been hearing all week, and reminded us that all of the ‘baggage’ we carry around with us, is going to be hard to let go of, but that if we don’t ask God for help, it won’t ever go away. He did a great job, and when he was finished, the other staff members did a skit about letting go. It was really nice and set to popular Christian music. After the skit, Matt led our group quietly outside to a Tiki torch. We made a circle and Matt went back to playing his guitar by a large wooden cross. We each had a luggage tag, and wrote what ‘baggage’ we wanted to leave behind to be able to start again with God at our center. While the teens were thinking about what to write, I went around the circle and prayed over each one of them, asking God to continue to bless them and to let them see how beautiful, special, and unique each one of them are to God (and us!) I love that part of the experience, because it gives me the opportunity to ask God to Bless them publicly, and to remind them just how special they are. Once everyone was blessed, we shared what was on our tag and then they even blessed me. It was a very moving experience. After my blessing, we went and laid our baggage claim in a suitcase that was open in front of the wooden cross. As we laid our frustrations, hurt, pain, worries, etc in front of God, we took a new ‘luggage tag’ that had a bible verse from the week on it. There were a few tears, but I am chalking that up to the fact that God’s love was at work.
After everyone received their bible verse, we went back to our spot from last night and did our “Hey Gods, Yah Gods, and Mad Props.” It seemed like forever since we had worked that morning, but they still remembered to pray for everyone that asked us to pray for them. We ended by going to the cafeteria to eat a snack and get something to drink and headed back to the dorms. We have our free day tomorrow, so we are planning on going hiking and then going to the Tennessee Smokies Game at night. I’m really looking forward to quality free time with the teens. They worked really hard this week, and deserve this little break. Please keep praying for us, as we have been praying for you as well. (And if you are reading this back in Cincinnati, STAY COOL! Wow, the weather is hot!) Miss you!

We had such a great day. Here are some pictures for those following along at home. I'll try to summarize what is going on in them next. :)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Here are some 'action' shots of our work day, along with a picture of the teens modeling "Work shirt Wednesday" attire and the benches they made from scrap wood that was going to be thrown out.
(We ate lunch sitting on those benches! Great job gang!)

Here are some pictures of our 'Skyline Party' and the tree where we held our group time after. It was a fun night!
What a super productive day! We got up, ate our breakfast (eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy), loaded up our truck with the lunch and water cooler and set back off to our worksite. When we arrived, we split up and half the group cold-sealed a trailer roof while the other half of us touched up the trailer that the group before us painted. (I even got to walk around the corner and do a load of towels at the Laundromat for the group! Not having to re-use my towel=HEAVEN!)

We ate lunch (sans cheese….how do you forget cheese?!) and then organized the tools and supplies so that the contractor and Will could take them back to the camp in his truck. With half a day left, we asked to please go to another site to work, and they sent us to Ms. Jeannie’s house. When Ms. Jeannie got home, she walked right up to us and said, “I’m Mamaw, ya all.” It was too cute. We were building a wheel-chair ramp for her front door, and she was thrilled. She came over and talked to Christine and I for a while, and we learned that she has two sons, both terminally ill, living with her. One of her sons is on dialysis and has to leave the house every day at 4am in order to get to the clinic which is 45 minutes away. He is wheel-chair bound and the ramp will make getting him out of the house that much easier for her. She was so thrilled with all of the work the groups before us had done also. They cleared out her backyard of weeds, took a couple of trips to the landfill, and helped her get the ‘barn’ organized. She kept re-iterating how neglected her house was because she just didn’t have the time taking care of her kids to get to it. I was fine until she started crying and telling us how blessed she was because we were there. It chokes you up to realize that the little bit of work we were doing is going to change her life, literally, for the better. The teens loved her, and are excited about going back to finish up tomorrow. (It was an optional work day, and the teens unanimously said that they wanted to go back. Awesome!) We should be able to finish the ramp and cleaning out her back yard.

We left Mamaw’s and came back to the dorms. After unloading everything, the girls waited patiently for the showers and the guys decided to look for the ‘traveling gnome’. Every day, the staff “hides” a gnome somewhere on the grounds, and the first person to find it and bring it to the “Riverhouse” (which is a fancy name for their store), wins a free work shirt. John and Brady found it first, and since Brady already had a TE work shirt, John won it. (Although, now we must all call him Manuel because the work shirts have other people’s names on them and that is his.) hehe!
Knowing that we would be working with weeds, I made yet another run to the store to get long gloves. (We will not be having a repeat of last year!) Some of the teens needed other essentials, so it wasn’t a wasted trip. I made it back in time for chapel, and as usual, the music and message were both very uplifting. Our staff member, Matt; plays the guitar in the praise band and does really well. The message was about how words can hurt and that a mouth that praises God shouldn’t be tearing people down at the same time. It was very well done and I think the teens got a lot out of it.

After chapel we headed to the cafeteria instead of our usual spot because we had all of the makings for Skyline Chili Dip. We made two large batches of it (in the microwave) and shared it with groups from all over the U.S. It was fun to watch some of their faces when they tried it for the first time. (Most people loved it, but we all know that it is an acquired taste and those that didn’t will come around. Haha!) After our snack, we headed outside and did our ‘Hey Gods, Yeah Gods, and Mad Props.’ It was a great night, and we are ready to do it all again tomorrow. Thanks for all of your thoughts and prayers. We miss our family and friends and are excited to share our stories with them when we get home. Please keep praying! We know He is listening!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Day Two on the Worksites, and we rocked the day! (Which is pretty amazing since everyone was up super late. . . .and I scared them when I was out in the hall putting up decorations for Jen’s birthday. (Honest, I thought they were asleep two and a half hours past lights out. . .what was I thinking?! :) ) We woke everyone up at 6:40 by singing Happy Birthday to Jen. She was so gracious about it. It made me laugh. . .she also bought my fib about why I was in the hall at one in the morning. (That is, until she saw the decorations when she got up.) After breakfast of egg casserole, biscuits, and grits (ewwww), we left for our worksite. We had set up a ‘code word’ of the day, so that every time someone said the word water, we all stopped what we were doing and yelled, “Happy Birthday, Jen!” It didn’t take us very long to get the first yell out. I asked who our ‘hydration officer’ was going to be for the day and Sara asked me what the officer had to do. I answered with, “They had to remind us to get WATER!” and everyone in the van yelled “Happy Birthday Jen!” It was very cute. (Although, by 3pm, I bet she was tired of it. :)) We finished the roof and the shed today. It was literally 10 degrees cooler and the work seemed to go a lot faster. We took a break for lunch, and played the ‘umbrella island’ game. It was fun since not everyone knew how to play. (Have the teens teach you. I don’t want to ruin their fun.) :) I promised the teens that I would never ask them to do something that I wasn’t willing to do myself, so I took a huge leap and climbed up on the roof to praise them for the excellent job they did. I stayed up there long enough to say, Good job, and high-tailed it right back down that ladder. :) It really did look great and I was so proud of each of them for all of their hard work. Matt keeps telling me that they are a ‘great group’ and that it is the first time all summer he hasn’t had to go behind his group to fix their mistakes. (I just laugh because I know how awesome they are! Why doesn’t anyone ever just believe me? Jk) After cleaning up our worksite, we came back to camp to shower and hang out together. We made a “Thank you” card for the 90 year old piano player that plays for us at breakfast after she serves us our meal. (She is sooo cute!) This morning she even played happy birthday for Jen! Caitlin came up with the idea, and after we all signed the card, she hid it in the piano bench so she would find it in the morning. (We really do have a great group of teens!) Pretty soon, some of them decided to go outside and play, so I stayed in and uploaded a few pictures to the blog. It was nice to have a little down time before dinner. Speaking of dinner, when we were waiting in line, Will (Christina's husband and co-director of the site) was talking to me and said, "Lori, back in 2010, after you all left, the staff and I went to a Catholic Mass to see what it was like. We really liked it and still go back occassionally." I thought that was a pretty neat compliment that he thought that highly of our group that he went and checked out a mass. (Of course, this is the same guy that called to tell us what we were going to do for the week and asked me if Erich and John were coming because they were such great workers the last time. . . .what were we? Chopped liver?! jk) I was just excited that he remembered us (in a good way!) After dinner was over, we snuck into the kitchen and Ken: the head chef, helped us get Jen’s birthday cake out of the refrigerator. We put a ‘one’ and a ‘seven’ candle in the cake, lit it, and walked back to our table with the entire group at TeamEffort singing to her. She was cracking up. I’m glad she is such a good sport! After dinner, we had a little bit of time to get our bibles and head to chapel. We started our time with announcements, and Christina (one of the directors) asked where Jen was. They made her get on stage and tell her name, age, and a story about a time when she threw up. (Yuck!) She went along with it, and later told us that when she was asked about a time when she threw up, she wanted to say, “In about 3 seconds from now.” Hehe. After chapel we had our own group meeting, and we spent time with our bibles and devotionals. It was a fun-spirited conversation after that about our day and I was once again amazed at how open and loving they are with each other. Multiple times this trip, I have heard them having theological discussions when no one else was around to tell them too. They are true examples of Christ to others, and our community has many reasons to be proud of them! I’m sure I am missing a ton of things that the teens will want to share with you, so I am going to sign off for now and let them share with you more when you see them. We have another big day (on another roof!) tomorrow. Thanks for praying for us! We have been praying for each of you also! Lots and lots of Blessings!
We surprised Jen with a rainbow cake and the entire group sang Happy Birthday to her! We sure hope she loved her Big 17! :)
Here is the shed we have been is almost done! John and Matt taking a break from the roof! Here is Laura and John sitting on the swings in the tree outside the trailer we are working at. I will be honest the swings make me a little nervous and I am kind of expecting that tree branch to fall! Here is the gang on the roof! Emily E. and Nina are pointing to the area of the roof that they have been working on. Olivia and Bekah giving themselves mustaches, to cute! Emily J. and Brady playing Fire hydrant, dog, car during Chapel time! Here is Jen's Happy Brithday door!! Happy 17 Jen!! Here is the Birthday banner we hung for her too!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Day One on the worksites, and it was a HOT one! The high was supposed to be 89, but as of 11:30 in the morning, it was already 89 degrees with a real feel of 102. I am willing to bet that the teens on the roof re-shingling Mr. Mark’s roof thought it was hotter than that! We woke up the teens between 6:30 and 7, depending on how many times we had to play ‘snooze alarm’ for them, and everyone was in the breakfast line in time to eat at our slotted 7:20 time. Breakfast wasn’t bad (scrambled eggs, cereal, sausage, and a biscuit with gravy) and we were ready to leave for our site by 7:45. We loaded up the vans with our lunch and water coolers and headed off for Mr. Mark’s house. We arrived at his trailer to find the roof had been framed in and ready for us to shingle. Brady hauled all of the heavy bags of shingles up onto the roof for us, and most of the teens hopped right up onto the roof to get started. (I stayed down and was the ladder holder, gofer, and painter extraordinaire. Not so keen on being on the roof. . .but would have done it if they needed me too. Thank goodness for Christine and Emily!) As most of the teens worked on both sides of the roof (and were introduced to ‘chalk lines’); Jen, Megan, Caitlin and I started to scrub the shed and get it ready for priming. After we washed it down, we taped it off and primed it for painting tomorrow. It was a large, most of the day job, but it was nice to have something to do.  The lady who lives in the trailer next to Mr. Mark was diagnosed with cancer over a year ago. She was given four months to live at that time, and as of last month, TeamEffort was able to meet with her and restore the roof of her trailer also. She fell last week, and they called hospice in yesterday. This was obviously a very devastating moment for their community and one of the ladies was physically upset as she was talking to Matt. When she went back to her home, he asked Christine to walk over and check on her to see if she wanted to talk. Christine did as she was asked, and the neighbor really appreciated it. (She talked to her for over an hour and even offered to let all of us use her restroom instead of going over to the Laundromat.) It was nice that Christine was able to be Christ-like in her time of need. We broke for our lunch around 11:45, and ate sandwiches under the trees on a blanket. We had chips, animal crackers, and Bekah even cut up tons of oranges for us. It was nice to sit in the cool for a little bit and get to laugh and cut up. After lunch, we went back onto the roof and worked until 2:30. At that point, we started to clean up so we could get back to camp a little early. Matt told the leaders that when he found out he was getting our group he was concerned because we only had two boys and the job was roofing. Will (who knows us from the last mission trip we went on) told him that he ‘better hope we are good workers then’.  I think Matt was still a little leery. At lunch, he walked up to Christine and told her that we had a really good group, and that he was very impressed. He said that by now he would have to run all over the place re-doing what other groups had done, and he had nothing to re-do with our group. It was a really nice compliment and one we all want to live up too. After leaving the work-site, we dropped Matt and the teens off at the dorms and ‘took the vans to get gas’. While we really did stop at the gas station, it was a conveinant excuse to go pick up decorations and a birthday cake for Jen. Tomorrow is her big 17th birthday and we wanted to surprise her with a decorated dorm and cake. (As I type this, I am patiently waiting for them to finally fall asleep so I can decorate her door and go to bed! I can’t believe they aren’t exhausted from all of that heat!) While I was waiting in line at wal-mart, a gentleman walked past me and I moved out of his way and said excuse me. He replied, “What?” I said excuse me again, and he said that I wasn’t in his way, but I could keep talking. I was a little taken aback and asked what he meant, and he said. . . .get this. . . .”I like your accent. I could listen to you talk all day.” I busted out laughing (and think I might have hurt his feelings unintentionally) before telling him that I wasn’t the one with the accent down here. The rest of the people do. We had dinner (it wasn’t as great as breakfast. . .chicken and rice with green beans) and then ran the rest of the teens down to the store so that they could get snacks (read lots of junk food) for later in the evenings. We made it back for club time and then broke off to our personal ‘group spot’. I asked the teens to find us a good place to meet, and they found a deck right near the baseball field. (I am in heaven!) We talked about our day, did Hey Gods, Yeah Gods, Mad-props, and prayed. It was a great ending to our day. The teens went to get ready for bed, and Christine and I went back to the store to get the makings for Skyline Dip so we could have it tomorrow night with the teens. (That’s what they decided to use Mrs. Dunigan’s donation for. . .I think they want to introduce Matt to it. . .should be interesting!) I think they finally fell asleep, so I am going to log off here and decorate a door. Thanks so much for all of the prayers. We are doing great work, and are happy that we can share our stories with you! Blessings on your day too! 
Getting ready for the Day! Group pic on the roof! Working Hard! Painting, Shingling. . We do it all! Johhhhnnnn!! It's a "TeamEffort" ! Party on the Rooftop. . .

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Guys Dorm! Girls Dorm! Guess whose bed is in the middle? :)
The gang's all here. . .even the monkey's in the tree. hehe! jk!

Arrival Day

We made it to Tennessee safely and with very little drama.  (Just the way we like it! J)  The day started with mass at Saint Michaels and a Blessing/Sending Forth with Father Cy.  He promised to pray for us every day we were gone and Father Norm even stopped us before mass to wish us the best!  (It’s pretty nice knowing that our wonderful parish community and priests of the Archdiocese are praying for us!)

          As we were driving south on 75, we made it all the way to Tennessee before we hit a little snag.  Apparently, they had a land slide back in early spring and it washed out most of the expressway.  I75 is down to one lane and the nice lady at the Welcome Center just inside the Tenn. State line gave us handwritten directions to the detour.  We saw some wonderful scenery, missed the 2 hour delay, and got to laugh at the slooowwwww driver in front of us.  (Well, ok, we complained about the driver in front of us, but then found it fun to legally pass him on the country roads. J) 

          We arrived at the dorms of Kings Academy and unloaded our gear.  We met Matt, who would be our TeamEffort staffer for the week, and then promptly left to get Zaxby’s for dinner.  (Zaxby’s is a chicken restaurant that we got acquainted with the last time we went on mission in Tennessee and the teens wanted to eat there for ‘old times’ sake’.  They seemed to like it….I’ll stick with Chik-fil-A. hehe!)

          We arrived back in time for our ‘Club Time’ where we sang some worship songs, heard the message of the day, and ended with prayer.  The theme of the week is “Baggage” and our scripture is Hebrews 12:1-3.  It’s always fascinating to me to listen to the Word and then look up the same scripture in my ‘Catholic’ bible to see the differences.  This one was closer than most!  “So then let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us.  Let’s throw off any extra baggage (lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely), get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter.  He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the Joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne.”

          It was a good message to hear and hopefully we will get to unpack it as the week goes on.  We are here with 9 different church groups, and was surprised to see other Ohio vans in the parking lot!  (The UMC from Montgomery & Kenwood Rd is here with their junior high students!  Talk about close to home!)  We are excited to get started in the morning, and I hope to have lots more to share.  In the meantime, please keep us in your prayers, and enjoy some pics from earlier in the day. . .if they post for me. J 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Welcome 2012 Mission Trip Attendees, Followers, and Friends!  :)  Looking over the past few posts from our last mission trip to Tennessee is getting me so excited to leave this Sunday!  I can't wait to go spread some of our Saint Michael love to the people of the Appalachian Mountain region!  Don't forget that we will be meeting at the 9:30 mass for a special blessing and 'sending off'.  Can't wait to see you!