Graffiti 2 just returned from a mission trip and our worship leader Denny Simon is writing to share his experiences.
Hey! I got to experience the joy of partaking in GSALT’s first Mission Trip, and would like to share it with y’all. To keep myself organized, and recognizing some people may want to know as much as they can while others just want the gist, I’ve organized the Mission Trip into Daily Recaps with major titles (for skimmers) and larger descriptions (for people who will wish they just skimmed). Let me say it now- God is doing big things in the lives of these young adults, and in the lives of the people they encounter.
Day 1: On the Road (NY to NC)- After loading up the vans and making sure we were all there, we started the first 12 hour stretch! The ride was thankfully uneventful; as a driver I had the pleasure of watching everyone else sleep. Upon arriving in NC, we had our first taste of real Southern cooking- so good! Afterwards we had Bible Study to prepare us for the coming week, and spent the night at an old Christian College which had been graciously set up to accommodate us all. It was a great way to see the body of Christ, as distant as they may be geographically, still welcome and serve each other. DONE
Day 2: On the Road Again (NC to MS)- WAKE UP! With another 12 hour trip to go, we piled everyone into the vans in their pajamas and were off. I can’t forget to offer a special thanks to the folks at the random Sonic that didn’t miss a beat serving lunch orders for 19 hungry New Yorkers. With traveling mercies, we arrived in Mississippi and were warmly welcomed to what would be home for the next few days. X3:5 led an excellent worship set, and Harley had our youth start contemplating the paradox that is to “Live Like Your Dying,” our theme for the week. After meeting the families that willingly opened up their homes to us, we broke off into our teams and tried to sleep though filled with nervous excitement for what God would have us do at the following day’s sports camps.
Day 3: First Day of Camp! We arrived at the basketball courts early in the morning and were happy to find a bus-full of kids come to participate. With 5 rotation leaders each teaching a specific skill, and 10 team leaders responsible for their grade, the GSALT youth were impressive to both us adults and to the kids they taught. We had our first skit, the Do Not Touch (SIN) skit; we used it as an opportunity to discuss in small groups the need we share for a savior. As the kids from the camp proceeded to leave, we were happy to see the great attitude they had, and their eagerness to return for the following day’s camp.
Day 4: Last Day of Camp! Hey Mom I’m on TV! Prayer Walking! – After an awesome first day of camp, we looked forward to getting started on the next day. We weren’t the only ones, as we were able to see more kids arrive for camp the next day, as well as the local news station! We stayed focused on the kids and what God was doing through us, using the basketballs we gave to each of the participants to teach them the Gospel. In case you’re interested, we had a ball with 6 colors, explaining white as the pure light of God and holiness of His presence, blue is us on Earth, separated by sin from God which is represented by gray. By Christ’s sacrifice denoted by red, we are free to experience a new life and grow with Him (green), and are promised eternal life forever with Him in heaven (gold). We pray the kids remember this every time they play with their new gift. We later prayer-walked the area, able to see and identify people and places in need of attention and care, and opening our hearts to the place we were serving in. You can look for the beautiful smiles and insights aired on the local news in the video portion of Graffiti 2’s website.
Day 5: Graffiti 2 Church @ Forest Baptist Church! 4 Wheelers!- Sunday morning was quite the experience for both Forest Baptist Church and for our own teens. We held Church service in Forest Baptist Church, Graffiti 2 Style. Thanks to the X3:5 members for loaning some great instruments, the worship team rocked the house and led an enjoyable time of worship. Andrew shared his thoughts in a sermon on being God’s hands and feet in this world, made all the more vivid by skits performed by our youth, depicting both the parable of the Good Samaritan and on the Centrality of Christ. Later in the day the youth got to ride 4 wheelers in a course that took over an hour to finish, complete with 4 foot mud pits, falling trees and did I mention mud pits? Don’t worry, we had 14 of the finest 4 wheel riders Forest, MS had to offer and our kids all came back in one piece!
Day 6: Water Park! Hailing in a Standard Jeep? So our youth (and our staff) earned a trip to Geyser Falls Water Park for the day (If anyone reading is opposed to this, I’m with you; the guy that has a fear of water AND heights definitely hoped we could just stay on land). We made a stop to a chicken farm on the way, and if you could only see the look on our faces when we walked into an edifice that housed 50,000 chicks. We rushed on to the park, all while enjoying our adult leader Katie Lily’s attempts at riding the standard Jeep(more to come on that). The park was great- my highlight was getting to the top of the line of the Backsplash (where you slide up a ridiculously tall wall, and then slide back down into a pool- both heights and water), and having lightning strike, shutting down the ride temporarily. The great day included a few fun laps with the whole group around the Lazy River, and down one terrifying slide, and a blast from the past as we indulged in Lunchables for lunch! The trip back to Forest was another thrill ride for Katie, Lesley and a couple of teens, as the hail came down and the top didn’t exactly stay put. God is good, all the time, especially when we needed Him on that ride back!
Day 7: On the Road Yet Again (MS to NC)- Our final morning in Mississippi was a sad one, and not a few of our host parents or youths had to practically be pried apart. We’ll definitely cherish those new friendships, and look forward to seeing a few of them return in a few weeks for sports camp! This leg was another made up of mostly sleepy people, but don’t worry, our drivers got us safely to North Carolina in time for dinner.
Day 8: Helping empty the house, arcade, youth worship, underground church- We were blessed with the opportunity to serve in local homes for teens and children, offering our services to empty out buildings of their furniture for further development. After a few hours of heavy lifting, we spent the afternoon in the arcade. We later joined local youth in a worship service, and got to see a very talented youth worship band lead a roomful of teens excited to meet with each other and be with God. We headed back to the abandoned Christian College, finding it pitch black and empty. After being split into three groups, we were informed that we were now separate underground churches, in an area where being a Christian was forbidden and hated. Each group was told to hide and fellowship together, praying and reading the few pages of the Bible that was available to them, all while avoiding persecution from those seeking them. This simulation, followed by videos of true accounts of believers from across the world who suffered from religious persecution, opened the eyes of our whole team to the value of the Gospel even in places it isn’t welcome. We prayed for the persecuted Church around the world, and hope you would join us as we continue to.
Day 9: On The Road Home- Our last leg of the trip included a much awaited pit stop in Chic-Fil-A! And though a large reason for the enthusiasm was the good food not found in NY, the real anticipation was for the flash mob we had planned for weeks but had not fully committed to. With a quick practice in the ride there, and after we had our fill of chicken goodness, we scattered ourselves around the room and performed the short piece. We were happy to finally make it home, and even happier to know we were back as a changed people- with new friends, memories and a new passion for God and His people.
SO- that’s what you’d see if you were there. What you feel if you were there… well that’s another story. I can only speak for myself, and maybe it translates similarly to some of the others’ experiences; I know God was very intentional with who came on this trip, who we encountered, and what took place. We were privileged with the opportunity to advance the Gospel and the reach of the same church that came to us and began our summer camps for us. We met kids of all ages that were looking for something fun to do for a few days, and were also able to leave with the Gospel in their hands, a knowledge that there is a church available to them, and that God’s love can be found in even the youngest of believers willing to serve. Through the ministry of Harley and X3:5, our youths left with a boldness to really follow God, considering the costs and excited for the gain- pray with us that these lessons remain within us. The families that housed us, as well as the many others who cared for us along the way, displayed for us just a small part of God’s grace in ways words could not express. And in the conversations and discussions that took place between our youth, between laughs and cries shared, we found that we are all broken people in need of a Savior, blessed with each other, and called to live a life of glorifying God by loving Him and those around us. We worked hard, and God blessed us with plenty of time and ways to appreciate life as well. We thank you for all your prayers and support, we thank God for making His love and grace just so amazing, infectious and transformative.