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!

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