We are preparing to leave for Asheville, North Carolina on June 2nd.
Please pray for team members Eliza, Roger, Annie, Sam, Katherine, Madeline, Allison, Chance, John, Todd, Julia, and Madison and their leaders, Mandy, Randy, Karen and Lesley.
We hope to have access to be able to update this site with photos and information about what we are doing.
Monday, June 4th
We started working today and actually got to take showers. Here is what Roger, Allison and Katherine had to say about the day.
This morning we woke up to a breakfast of bagels, cereal, and fruit, and were off to our worksite, the Manna Food Bank. Our job was to sort through boxes of cans and put together packs of about 3 meals each. Chance, John and I had a lot of fun looking through the wacky food items (7-Up steak marinade and a bottle of club soda were two examples of donations). After lunch, we transitioned to Homeward Bound, an organization that helps the homeless find places to live. We became amateur movers for the day, moving a heavy desk from the basement to the second floor, and moving chairs and a sofa into a home for one of the Homeward Bound clients. After our work, we all relaxed with much-needed showers. It was a fun, yet tiring first day.
The bus trip was long and boring, but it is nice to be in a lot cooler weather. Sometimes we have to wear a jacket. First we went to Manna food bank where we sort out cans and made boxes for people who don’t have food. Even though it wasn’t very interesting at some times, it felt good to know that we were going to help someone who needed it. After dinner we read a bible story about how a paralyzed woman needed Jesus’ help. Then we did an art project where we used oil pastel, colored pencils, water colors and markers. We created a psalm of the lament of hope. This was very fun for me because I could express myself through the art.
This morning we went to work at Homeward Bound, a day center for the homeless in Asheville that also works tomove people into houses. 9 out of 10 times, the housing fix is permanent, which I thought was amazing. We picked up trash and cleaned the storage area there, which while perhaps not the most fun chore ever is an important part of maintaining the area. After lunch, we went to Manna Food Bank, where we sorted donated goods into boxes for families. It was fun, but I still can’t fathom why anybody would need an economy-sized jar of jalapenos. Once we were done working, we stumbled our way to the showers. They were really nice and really difficult to turn on- until I figured out that I was turning the knob the wrong way. Oh well. I’m not sure what else to write about- Asheville has a lot of trees? Kale cherry ice cream is in fact a thing? Blargh.
Side note....sorry about the pictures. Haven't been able to manipulate them off my phone. Will try to get better photos up. Karen
Tuesday, June 5th
Today was probably my favorite day so far of the trip, because I feel like we actually accomplished something and helped people. Besides, that’s what we are here to do. In the morning, we worked on re-doing the pathway at the Steadfast Home for women. Though we did not get to see any of the women really, I had a good time working with John and Roger on our side of the pathway. They said there was going to be a gofer that lived there and that he would come out eventually, but he never did. Lunch was really great because we got to eat with the veterans at the Veterans Restoration Quarters. I met some nice people who loved the Lord and some who just enjoyed our presence. Afterwards, we stayed there and worked in the garden that they will eventually use to supply most of their vegetables and give back to the community. When we were all first looking for jobs, Annie and I volunteered to work with a man named John. We were digging holes with shovels that he would plant tomato plants in. He was extremely helpful and sweet. He was also engaging us in conversation. After digging seven holes and sweating a bit, we were done. Annie and me got to take a picture with him! John was so thankful for our help that he said whenever he waters those tomato plants, he will think of us. That really made my day today.
I loved today. Mainly the first half of it, we went out to the Steadfast Home for Women and Children. We didn’t see any women except for some smoking while watching us, and no children even though I thought we would see a bunch since school was out. Our assignment for that day was to tear up a earthy walk way and then place down a new fresher one. We set to work. I enjoyed feeling the brown moist soil in my hands as I pulled up grass. I found plenty of worms and saved their lives! I loved the earthy feel and the nature aroma, and I found that I love the garden in jade grass. This helped many people, and I hope I feel their praise.
I thought today was wonderful getting to help people less fortunate than me and really making a difference. It really made me feel good and also a little guilty. I realized just how lucky I am and how much I have compared to these people. Today was an eye opening experience for me that I will never forget.
Bob the builder (aka Chance)
Wednesday, June 6th
Today's posts are rather long. The high school youth had a very powerful experience today. I was with middle school so I do not have pictures at the moment of the high school day and they were not to take pictures because they were working with the homeless. Tonight we ended with some facts about the work we have done. Along with UPC we have logged 531 hours in our time here which is the equivalent of 13.2 weeks worth of work. We have saved the agencies here $6,026.85 through the work we have done which amounts to 18,080 meals that could be provided with the money saved by the local food bank. Pretty amazing stuff!
I somehow woke up this morning to get ready to go to a thrift store. We got to work dusting the front room of the store, which looked considerably better once we were done. We went upstairs afterwards to sweep the storage room. The floor was covered in an inch of sawdust that made it pretty hard to breathe.
For lunch we went back to the Nature Center. Allison brought a volleyball and we all tried to pretend like we actually knew how to play. Of course, volleyball turned into our signature game of newcomb. Instead of a water bottle though, we used the volleyball. I can say that it was a lot easier to catch than the water bottle, and my hands weren’t throbbing afterward.
Our final stop was the Veterans Restoration Quarters to play a couple rounds of Bingo. The veterans were pretty excited to play and choose from our wide selection of prizes when they won. I practiced my yelling voice when I read the numbers, but according to the adults I still need a lot of work.
I really enjoyed getting to know the other middle school kids and the veterans today. I’ve never really enjoyed Bingo very much, but playing with the veterans made it a lot of fun.
After the demanding, exhausting, hard labor that we endured through yesterday, today we went to the Haywood Street Ministries. It’s a place where homeless people can come on Wednesdays during the middle of the day and just have a place to hang out, since shelters kick people out at 7 AM and don’t let them back in until 4 PM. They emphasize community and encourage that you come as you are, so often there are people who are under the influence of something.
Beginning at 11 AM, homeless people can get a free lunch to eat around a round table with friends, get some clothes, and go to a church service if they choose to attend. Outside, under a big tree, they have games like huge jenga, corn hole (pretty much just throwing a bean bag in a hole) and bracelet making. They also give out ice pops and it’s just a place where people can come and kick back, play some games, feel safe, take a nap, and grow closer to God.
I thought the Haywood Street Ministries is such a great idea. Anyone can come and eat and go to the service. There is actually a multimillionaire who tries to come every Wednesday and just talks with the homeless people and goes to the worship service. Many of the people there know and are friends with each other and I thought it was great how strong of a community there was. I like how people are comfortable enough to just go take a nap in the church or under the tree. I saw a man when I came in to get lunch sleeping on one of the chairs near the food line and when I went back to the bathroom to towards the end of the service, he was still there sleeping.
Overall, these three days of working have been such a great experience. North Carolina is so beautiful and green, and everyone is really friendly and caring. I can’t wait for rafting and Montreat tomorrow, and am so happy I’m not riding back in the charter bus…
After several days of hard labor we got to interact with the community that we were serving. Today we got to interact with the Haywood Street ministries. This program takes a different spin on church services. Brian, the leader of the ministry, founded the program after talking with a homeless person. The person revealed that since people are kicked out of homeless shelters at the beginning of the day, the homeless have nothing to do. This leads to addictions taking hold and a bad environment. To combat this, Brian made a service in the middle of the week.
This service is unlike any that we have in Austin. Instead of simply listening to the preacher, the sermon is turned into a forum. People were allowed to share their opinions on what confused them about the passage, or what they thought God was saying through the text. The service helped give a feeling of community to the whole experience. Millionaires and the homeless knew and greeted each other as if they were the best of friends. There was a feeling of comfort in the air. No one was threatening to arrest the homeless so some even felt comfortable enough to go to sleep. The service really changed my view on how welcoming a church can be in contrast to tradition.
The service isn’t the only part of Haywood Street ministries. Before the service, there is a meal served. Brian explained to us that a lot of people come for the free meal and don’t stay for the service. While this may seem contradictory to the mission it really helps. The community grows stronger bonds and people begin to trust another. As people begin to feel safer, those who have been previously hurt by the church come back and let God into their hearts once again.
The last part that we experienced was the games. We set up a bunch of games outside such as checkers, sack toss, chess, and bracelet making. As soon as we were done we invited several of the people who walked by to play with us. Most of them turned down, but the ones that obliged we found were very nice people. Some people may have been high or intoxicated, but the safe environments made them peaceful and they had great stories to share. There was also the issue of choice. Many homeless people have decisions made for them during their lives and it helps them to give them free will. We helped this by offering different colors of possible, people who thought themselves to be invisible now found the attention on them. They were thrilled to be genuinely cared about and asked about their interests. I got to meet many great people like a couple from Phoenix and Austin that moved to Asheville for the music scene. You could tell how comfortable they were when the man who had been complaining about how hot he was in his sweater took off his shirt to put on a button down that a leader had given him.
Haywood Street Ministries has one of the most proactive programs I have ever seen attached to a Christian group. Everyone is so tight knit, but they are welcoming at the same time. I hope that this model could be used in other places such as Austin where the homeless population is looked down upon. These people do not need to be turned away, but to be embraced reminding them that they are children of God.
Thursday, June 7th
This mission trip has been a great opportunity for me. All the youth have made a strong bond over the last few days. We have done some physical labor of making paths and garden work but what has impacted me more was help at Haywood Street ministry. At Haywood Street we played games and ate lunch with some of the homeless community. Playing games and chatting made me see that the homeless aren’t scary but they are like all of us and just want to talk and play. We are all God’s children and deserve respect no matter what we are going through in our lives.
I’ve had so much fun on this mission trip for the past few days and it was definitely worth the 23 hour bus ride. Working with the homeless people has really changed my perception of what homeless people are really like. They’re not all some crazy hobos on the side of the street, but people just like us. Going to all the places where they stay really helps me appreciate what I have and makes me want to give more to the community back in Austin. No matter who we are God loves us and we should be given the same amount of love and respect.
I’ve had so much fun on my first mission trip! My favorite part of the trip was eating lunch and playing bingo with the veterans at VRQ (veteran restoration quarters) on Tuesday and Wednesday. I think that it is a great opportunity to show how much we appreciate them by giving back. I think that my faith has grown more over the week during evening bible study because we interacted in unique ways like art and walking through a labyrinth. On Wednesday for bible study we all wrote words and drew picture to describe what we felt and what we thought about this week on a piece of cloth. After we had all finished, we wove them all together on a hula hoop to make one big weaving. We all got a chance to reflect on each other’s part of the weaving and the finished weaving. I think that the weaving represent us leaping and jumping through all our fears and boundaries over the week and we all came out just fine (the weaving was over and under from start to end) overall I think that this was a life changing experience because we got to meet new people and help them with some of their situations and just make them feel loved and important. I am excited for next years mission trip and thank you all for the prayers and support!