“i am not skilled to understand
what God has willed, what God has planned
i only know at His right hand
stands One who is my Savior 
i take Him at His word and deed
Christ died to save me, this i read
and in my heart i find a need
of Him to be my savior
that He would leave His place on high
and come for sinful man to die
you count it strange, so once did i
before i knew my Savior 

my Savior loves, my Savior lives
my Savior’s always there for me
my God – He was, my God – He is
my God is always gonna be

yes, living, dying, let me bring
my strength, my solace from this spring;
that He who lives to be my King
once died to be my Savior

that He would leave His place on high
and come for sinful man to die
you count it strange, so once did i
before i knew my Savior
my Savior loves, my Savior lives
my Savior loves, my Savior lives…”

~ “my Savior, my God”… by aaron shust

So life’s been crazy lately. The end of school and my job there, graduation, the end of our Awana year, and then VBS preparations. My graduation party was coming up on Saturday (June 9), and VBS is all this week (and since I am director of the verse-memorization area, I chose all the verses for the kids to learn… finally got that turned in on Monday the 4th!). So then in the middle of all this craziness, we stuck in a missions trip! It was only Tuesday through Thursday, but still.. what a week to schedule a missions trip! Right?…To be perfectly honest, during the days leading up to the trip, and even when we left, my heart was not in it. I wanted it to be, but I was very distracted by all the stress and chaos of my VBS prep work and getting everything ready for this graduation party on Saturday. I was really excited to go on the trip, but I had the thought more than once that it could not have happened at a worse time, as far as the busyness of everything goes.
Well… our trip was to Jackson, Kentucky. It is a really impoverished area, more so than pretty much any other place you will see in the United States. The people are so hopeless there, and it is so sad to see that. I had gone to this area three years ago, to the same church… This week I went on my first missions trip to a repeat location, and I have to say that it was amazing. 🙂
The trip started off somewhat weird. We were within like 5 miles of the church in Kentucky when our youth pastor pulled into a parking lot and let one of the other leaders drive, because he was afraid he might pass out. He’d been told that morning that he needed to go to the emergency room, but he’d come to church to go on the trip instead. It turned out he had kidney stones. We had been at the church where we were staying for thirty minutes or less when he and his wife and the pastor from the church there went to the emergency room. So.. our youth pastor ended up spending the entire trip in the hospital.
So.. the whole thing with Stewart and Bethany staying at the hospital for the whole trip just made this trip seem even more out of place to me. It was so odd. In listening to the pastor there, Mike Tabor, tell about the church and the neighborhood, and in hearing again (after three years) what their mission is, God began to speak to my heart. By Tuesday night I was so incredibly glad I was there. Even being the week that it was. I knew without a doubt that I was supposed to be there right then. I remember a specific moment when I was sitting there listening to him talk about this area of Kentucky and their church and thinking about how perfect it all was. Circumstances were not meeting the expectations we had set, but that’s okay. They were going exactly as God knew they needed to go.

Tuesday evening it somehow came up that I just graduated from Edison and that I got a certificate in web design and all that… so the pastor asked me if I would like to and be willing to look at the church’s website and see if I could do some editing for them. So through this conversation, I ended up going to the pastor’s home for several hours on Wednesday afternoon; I sat and played with their website files on Flash and Dreamweaver… mostly labeling stuff and finding my way around the template they had bought. (Hopefully I can make some more progress with it soon as I work with it more at home!)

 

Our team moved some piles of dirt and passed out a bunch of fliers in the trailer parks, inviting people to come to our service at the church that night. Then everybody came back to the church and we served a big spaghetti dinner for anybody who wanted to come. We had a pretty nice turnout, and I kept leaving my meal (we ate before everybody else came so we could serve them) to check on the bread in the oven or take it out or put more in. The service that night was great. Since Stew was supposed to give part of the message (one of the little “sermonettes,” as we were calling them) and he obviously could not do that from the hospital, his part was given to one of the students. The service as a whole was really great, although one of the girls and I felt so awful because we were laughing most of the time one of the guys was singing his solo — not laughing at him, but about these little girls (age 11 or so?) sitting directly behind us; this guy got up to sing, and throughout his entire song, they were saying “Oh he is hot! He’s so cute”… “Eeeeww, you like him?!”… and so the minute the service was over, we ran out to find him and explain that we were not laughing at him and felt awful about the whole thing.

I had the opportunity during this trip to see several of the same people I had met three years ago. The pastor and his family, a lady and her daughter from the church whose home a bunch of us had gone to and taken showers (when the daughter mentioned that she remembered me coming to their home, I was like, “Yeah! We came there and took showers and you gave us strawberry shortcake!” 😉 ), and this sweet lady named Margaret and her daughter. Well, they are all so sweet, but Margaret was one who especially made an impact on my life when I was down there previously.

It was so amazing to see how the Happy Church has grown since we were there in 2004. Their new building is beautiful and just right for them. They are so focused on their ministry with children and teens. It is a very small church, but that’s okay. They are making a difference in the lives of the people around them, shining God’s love into their lives, and that is what matters. They are sharing hope with the hopeless. There is nobody too low for them to serve or too lost for them to love. Most of the people in this area have absolutely no hope at all; they are stuck in a rut, living on welfare. They do not really even want to get a job, because it pays them more to stay on welfare. The kids there who are slow learners get an extra check, so the parents actually want their children to be slow learners and have trouble in school. We were told about one family that got mad and called the teacher and school when their son got really interested in what he was learning and began to do better in school — they were mad because he was in danger of losing his extra check. I really cannot even imagine living like that. It is a whole different lifestyle, one that you would never really expect to run across in the United States of America. You know what I thought of? I think it was on the way home.. I was thinking about the people there and how hopeless they are.. and I thought of the Christy show with Kellie Martin. There are so many similarities between the people Christy ministered to and the people in the Jackson/Hazard area.

On Wednesday night, a man from the church took us to the National Weather Service in that area and showed us around. He showed us all the different kinds of radars and told us about how they work and what they do, then he took us inside. He showed us all kinds of maps on his computers, and it was really interesting. I have to say that after listening to him, I have much more respect for meteorologists and what they say, and knowing now how much they have to take into consideration for every prediction they make, it makes me appreciate it so much more and not be so hard on them when they are wrong.

Thursday we cleaned up the church and then left. We stopped at Natural Bridge and took the sky lift up the mountain, then hiked down and ate lunch. Since we had an odd number of people, somebody had to go alone on the ride up the mountain, and it ended up being me. But you know what? I didn’t care… in fact, I actually really loved it by myself. We were up so high, and I had absolutely no fear. Sometimes I get dizzy being that high up, but that honestly never crossed my mind. All I could think about was having that time to myself with God and how beautiful His creation is. I thought about how blessed I am and how I don’t deserve God’s goodness, and I just spent the time thinking and talking with Him. It was beautiful and so peaceful. I thought about how glad I was that the trip had been right then. Yes, in the middle of all the chaos… It was such an amazing trip. Short, but so amazing. It was exactly what I needed, and I love how God always shows me that. I think I need one thing, and I get all bent out of shape over it when it does not go as I plan. But God knows exactly what I need. He knows exactly when I need it. I thought about His faithfulness and blessings. The song at the beginning of this post was the one used during our service, and it came back to me in thinking about how perfect the trip actually was.

My Savior loves and lives. My God is always the same, never changing. There is something so peaceful and reassuring in knowing that.

So I ended up being really glad the trip was this past week. I was badly in need of that time away from all the distractions I have had around here with VBS preparations and all.. badly in need of time for just God and myself.. badly in need of time to just forget for a while everything I had to complete for this week and to focus instead on serving others — in whatever form that took on. I did not end up doing what I expected to do there. I had anticipated being involved with the outdoor work, but I ended up in front of the computer. But that is alright. I enjoyed it and am so glad to have found something that I could do for them and can continue to work on, even now that I am back home.

Anyway, God is good. Always. I am so grateful for the experience of this trip. So thanking God for it all, and for the timing of it too. He knows what I need and when I need it. I am not skilled to understand it, but I don’t need to be. I am so glad I can just trust God.

[A brief account of my original trip to Jackson — and my other missions trips — can be found here.]

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