Today I had the pleasure of visiting two of our seven Living Center sites hosting Junior High students all over our conference. My first stop was at FUMC, Killeen where I was happily greeted by every single student working on site! Typically our students work at various worksites around the community and beyond, but this morning they were all putting pieces of ramp together at the church so I was able to visit with all the students and adults without driving to any additional worksites.
While it was just Monday morning, I was struck with the fact at how smoothly things were running! A few small kinks in the lighting and air conditioning didn’t phase the students at all – they were out working hard in the overcast, drizzly, and MUCH cooler than Dallas weather. They were using circular saws, carrying around huge pieces of lumber, and drilling like pros. I assume most of these students have never done this type of physical labor before but because of their patient and compassionate adult leaders, were able to accomplish great things.
Junior High missions trips are always interesting because 13 year olds come with very little physical strength, construction experience, or tolerance for hard work – stereotypically at least. However, I am consistently surprised by the absolutely incredible amount of work these 7th and 8th graders can accomplish. Mostly because they are awesome, dedicated, and persistent, but also because they have some of the most patient leaders ever. I heard big strong men calmly walk these young people through the steps of using a circular saw, measuring for a frame, and using an electric drill. I saw women step aside to allow 7th graders to do the important task of using machines and looking over drawings to figure things out. Would it be easier and quicker for the adults to accomplish the tasks alone? Probably. But these young people are learning an incredible message this week – they can do so much good! They are capable, part of a bigger community, and can do amazing work together.
After leaving FUMC, Killeen, I headed over to FUMC, Belton – a short 30 minute drive away. In Belton I was able to visit a worksite where junior high students and their adult leaders had already taken out carpet and flooring and were measuring to lay plywood to secure the rotted floorboards in a home. The home was almost uninhabitable, I’ve not seen a home in such bad shape in a very long time. The adults were working incredibly hard both modeling servant leadership and teaching.
While I was visiting with these students I asked them how they felt about someone living in this home. I was fairly confident that each of them came from a nice, clean home with central air and warm beds. I was certain none of their homes smelled of urine or had wasps nests in the bedroom. How did they feel that one of our brothers was living like this? Did they understand the family of God to include the man who lived in this home? Absolutely. They expressed very poignantly that no one should have to live like this and that they were so thankful they could be here this week to make the home a little better for this man. They were not talking down about the situation but rather were so grateful that they could love this man this week.
These students will remember this house for a long time. They will leave knowing without a doubt that they made some remarkable changes. Because the home was in such disrepair, the work that they do will be palpable. They are changing this man’s life and I’m sure he’s changing theirs as well.
I am continually impressed with the students in our conference. They work hard, show compassion and love, and they are incredibly gracious. Today I was also overwhelmed by the adult leaders. The patience, strength, and dedication they showed today really touched me. I am so thankful for each of you serving this week! Tomorrow I have the pleasure of visiting three more Living Centers: Mineral Wells, St. Andrews, and St. Barnabas!