- The day before we left
- We arrive
- About our work in Jonesville
- That Kind of Week
- Our Last Day
An on-line journal of Troutville Baptist's mission trip to Jonesville, Va.
There is a small bell tower on the church, and the bell was still there, but there was no rope or way to ring it. Tim and Joe didn’t have the tools to get up to the tower and work safely, but they really wanted to fix the bell in the tower. Each night at supper it would come up. They would talk about what they had done, but the idea of that bell in the tower just nagged at them.
Yesterday, as Martha and I arrived at the church to bring lunch to our crew, I heard a bell ringing across the hollow. As I walked in the foyer, there was Ernie, the pastor at Darbyville, pulling the new rope, ringing the church bell. Somehow they had figured a way to do it. Everyone was smiling – Pastor Ernie, the kids, Tim and Joe and our own people.
There have been a lot of challenges here this week. A lot of plans we had to change as we went. A lot of preconceptions of why we were coming that had to change. Each day we found ourselves scrambling to adjust our resources and our food and our materials and our time to meet some new need that had come up through the day. For most of us, we lived outside our comfort zone much of the week.
You parents who sent your kids – be very proud. Your kids didn’t just show up – they put their heart into this week, into the kids here and into being a part of the work. They saw some very different things here than back home. I suspect they will come back changed, and more appreciative of the blessings they have at home. And I suspect they will want to do this again. Because they have seen first hand that while none of us can do everything, any of us can make a real, tangible difference. These kids certainly have, and they have done it with joy and enthusiasm. I can tell you that every one of us here have a deeper appreciation and love for your kids than we had before.
If you liked the pictures, they were taken by Pat Rhodes, Drewry and myself through the week. You’ll see more of them on August 20, when we have a special mission report during Sunday School.
You read and hear about how when you give, you get back tenfold. Too often, we think of that phrase in dollars and cents. But anyone who goes on a trip like this one can tell you that the payback is not in dollars, it’s in a coin of the heart that we are repaid, and that it’s worth far more than coin of the realm. We’ve been touched by the people we came to serve, by the people we came to serve with, and by the people who have supported and loved us through this week – you.Tom
Last night we went to the revival in Darbyville. It was very different from how we do church, with a far more Pentecostal feel to it than we are accustomed to. The praying and preaching was more intense, and there are many more people sharing their own personal testimony, sharing their trials and triumphs with each other, publicly. In fact, the service ended with all of us holding hands in a big circle that encompassed the whole sanctuary, while a half dozen or so church members shared something intensely personal. Some of the music was different too, but much of it you would recognize. The hymn we began with would be familiar to all of us at Troutville Baptist, as would the rousing version of “I’ll Fly Away” by a group of very young girls. No, I don’t think they know it is Carol’s favorite hymn, but as soon as they started, nearly all our people began smiling and singing softly along. We also recognized several of the songs that the older youth there sang – music you’ve heard the praise team sing.
The kids here love to sing, and it shows. At all ages, it seems, there is a love for old time gospel hymns, as well as some of the newer praise music. The pastor her not only pastors and preaches – he plays the guitar and has clearly worked with the kids. There is a clear affection of the kids for him.
The kids here seem to be almost starved for affection. Certainly our people feel as loved by the kids here as we do when we do bible school at our own church with our own kids. When we came into the sanctuary, several of the kids went up to their teachers, and hugged them and in a couple of cases, opted to sit with their teacher instead of a parent.
This afternoon (Thursday) the kids left VBS slowly. There was excitement at the new book bags full of school supplies we filled, and the bags of gifts we made up for each of the kids. But there was also a hint of sadness. These children found their way into our hearts all week, and some of them bonded with our teachers. David O’Dell said to me after lunch – “You know, we were probably only here for eight or ten hours total, and in that time those kids get so deep into your heart.” And it was Sarah who watching some of her kids get into the car to leave for the last time, “I think I am the one with separation anxiety today!”
David just left the
Thursday night we will be taking some R&R time. We’ll eat together as we have every night. Then the kids are going bowling, I think. Some of us will just hang around and relax. (I plan a long swim.). Then Friday we pack to leave. I’ll probably post one last entry when I get him Friday, telling about the events of later in the day (I generally write these entries just after lunch, when I have a few minutes, but they do not get posted until late in the evening, when I get back to the hotel and phone (internet) service.
I was talking to Shirley earlier today, and we both noticed that one of the joys of this week has been the new bonds of friendship inside our church family that we have grown. There has been, despite all the hard work of the week, the luxury of time together getting to know each other at a deeper level. We’ve lived and worked in close quarters, and all of us have seen each other in a new light. We’ve seen gifts in each other, and learned things about each other that we never suspected, and may well have never known were it not for an experience like this one. I have to tell you that everyone here has a depth to them, a rich fabric of experiences and thoughts of emotions that is far deeper than most of us realize. And it takes an experience like this week for us to look past the veneer to what lies beneath.
We’re going to miss this place and the spirit of the week. Yes, we will be glad to be going home to family and loved ones. We’ll be glad to sleep in our own beds again. But a special spirit has grown here all week, and we are, to a person I believe, glad we were privileged to be a part.
I’ll post one more post Friday night, after I arrive home. I plan to turn this blog into a small booklet in PDF format for those of us who came, or those of you who would like to have it. When I finish it, it will be available from the church website for download.More tomorrow,
She began with no resources, no big name backer, just the insistent call that God wanted her to do something for children here in
That sense of inspiration seems to have filled our day today so far. The group at Darbyville was smaller than before, but as the morning wore on there was a growing energy. You could see the connection between the kids there and our own church family growing. Projects started by Tim and Joe began to come together and you could see the progress of their work and the real improvement that they will leave behind. Martha and I finished the cross garden. And then, as the morning wore down, David O’Dell came in, even more enthusiastic than normal, announced that a boy in his class had come to the decision to give his life to Christ.
This afternoon will be a busy one. There is a sense of urgency because our week is running out and there is so much we want to do. One group, made up with (David O’Dell, Belinda, Drewry, Emily,
Like so often happens on mission trips, we are all finding that while we thought we were coming here to do for others, we’ve gotten as much from this trip as the people who we came to serve. New friendships. Having the opportunity to be part of the children’s lives, making a dozen small differences in the life of the church. One by one the blessings to US have been piling up. You can sense it in the smiles of people here. We’re tired, but there is a sense of joy among us. The teenagers arrived for lunch today singing, and before long, we were all singing with them. It’s been that kind of week.
One last thing before I close today. All week long Darbyville Baptist, besides our daytime bible school, is holding a revival each night.. All week we have heard some of the kids in VBS talk about the revival and tonight, we are planning to go and join them. None of us know what to expect, certainly a different worship experience than we are accustomed to, but it will be good to join our new new friends in worship. More on that tomorrow.
A lot of times, a church goes on a mission trip somewhere and plants seeds of love and faith, but the next year they go somewhere else, and never really get to see any of those seeds start to grow. But for the group from Troutville that went last year, they see real, concrete changes in people – their seeds of love from last year growing, making a difference.
Of course this year we not only were continuing the work at Jonesville, but also began to plant new seeds of love in Darbyville. This morning, after only a couple of days there, I could already see some of those seeds bear fruit. How could you miss the hugs the children, who met us only yesterday, were giving to our members?
They particularly love the teenagers. Shannon and Sarah. Drewry, Emily and Lacey are all touching hearts with their joy and caring and joyful attitudes.
And our adults too are touching people. For instance, yesterday one lone teenager showed up in Darbyville for bible school, but Pam, and others touched him enough that he called several of his friends, from school and from his high school ROTC unit and today we had five teenagers. You should see how the kids are responding to Shirley and Drewry’s crafts – they love them. This afternoon David O’Dell led a rousing game of kickball in the hundred degree heat and the kids all responded. Throughout the day I watched Carol talking to people there, encouraging them, lifting them up. Seeds of love at work.
Joe and Tim spent yesterday scouring the area to get the supplies they needed to do their work. Today they were hard at that work, fixing rot in the flooring of the church, fixing flashing, and more. Unlike the rest of us, their work is solitary, and they are not mixing with as many people in the area, but they are making a visible difference in this small church, and stabilizing it in ways it needs, in a way that only they could do. In the morning, before we began to fix lunch and dinner, Martha Murray and I began to weed and reclaim a faith garden in the churchyard that was overgrown with weeds.
In short, there is work for everyone here. It was Lucy Miller who said this morning that there is just so much to do here, that you can never do it all. But she said, we can make a difference, and we have, each in our own way, using our own gifts. We can plant seeds, and we have.
Last night, at our worship service after dinner. Several people shared their experiences from the day. They also shared that, for many of us here, there were real, valid, heartfelt reasons for them to not have come. Illness, Illness of loved one. Family issues. Grief. So many of us here came within a hairbreadth of not coming. And yet in the end, each took the leap of faith and came despite their doubts or worry or cares. And each has given so much of themselves and made a real impact, each on their own, special, God-given way. It seems that God simply meant for THIS mix of people to be here at THIS time, and we all certainly come to think that way about each other, and about ourselves.
Again, thank you all who are home for your prayers and comments. Dana – your tomatoes are a hit. Juanita – your goodies made dinner special last night. Linda and Joy – Drewry wears your crosses each day. I’ve seen several people here reading the cards and notes their prayer partners have sent them. I could go on and on, but every small kindness, every small prayer, every little gift and card from our prayer partners, everything you have done for us has touched far more people than perhaps you realize, both here in Jonesville and in our own small group.
Two full days of work ahead, and we begin to tire, so keep praying for us. Continue your comments and notes – they are all precious to us and everything you do is what makes a mission like this not our mission, but the church’s mission, God’s mission.Tom
I am going to write mostly about the area we have come to, and over the next couple of days we’ll show more of what our own people are doing.
When you drive to this part of
You first hint is the Powel Valley Baptist Association building itself. Unlike our associational building in
Jonesville, where we are doing a backyard bible school, and a bible study at the nursing home, is an old town, founded in the 1760’s. Walk through the town and you’ll find about half of the buildings are vacant.
I parked at the church, where we are doing the VBS, and where Tim and Joe are working on the roof and other projects. A boy who had attended the bible school that morning and a young man who was his friend were there. We walked up the road and they told me about their neighbors. Nearly every third house had adults of working age sitting on the porch or standing outside, with nothing to do. “No Jobs.” the young man told me. “Nothing to do anywhere.”
A lot of times, when we think of missions, we think of going to non-christian places, but that is not always the case. There is a lot of faith here and people are not afraid to proclaim it. In the hotels, gas stations, restaurants, and everywhere you go, there are faith reminders. On our hotel tables, there are bibles, open, not hidden away in a drawer someplace, and a note asking for God’s blessings on the guests. At a store where I stopped to take a picture, there were hand written prayers framed on the walls.
Consider this, a week of VBS is like getting an entire quarter of Sunday School in just a few days. Many of the small churches do not have the people or the resources to provide a VBS for their kids and the kids in their neighborhood. And our coming here allows them to do that, providing not just good teaching for their own members, but an outreach.
Every one here is working hard. As I type this, the teens from our church are finishing up working with David O’Dell on the backyard bible school in the blistering heat of the day. Our adults have finished up teaching in the nursing home and are now packing bookbags and gifts for the kids in the local church. Tim and Joe are probably on a roof at the church. We’ll meet here again about 6 and eat, then worship together.
Thank you all for your encouragements. You comments here and to individual members hold us up and remind us that there are many who are praying for us. Each of you who pray; each of you who gave food or drinks, have made a profound difference for us, and for people here in