Mission Trip Sunday Testimonies

New Hope Youth Mission Trip - Castle Rock Youth Group - Presbyterian

This is a transcript from the June 30, 2019 sermon, so it contains the character of live, spoken communication.

On this trip, this group has done a lot of great things. They've worked really hard. They've had a lot of hard projects. I think in the time that I've been at New Hope, this is probably one of the toughest physical jobs for the mission trip. We had roofing, clearing out of someone's yard, painting inside someone's house, putting a roof in their garage and drywalling a home. These were all homes that were affected by the hurricane last fall. As we drove into town, we saw all of the trees that were down. There's so much work yet to be done in that area.

The homes that are still broken, the businesses that are still broken, there's a lot to be done. At the beginning of the week, we did a devotion and the group that we went down there with was called Experienced Missions and they showed a video that I'm going to show you in a bit and I thought it was too important not to show. It was a way to help us set our sights on what we were doing that week and so I would want to show you that right now.

Click to watch the video

New Hope Presbyterian Church | Castle Rock Churches

{Video Transcription}

If you were a praying mantis, it would be socially acceptable to devour your mate.

If you're a honey badger, you'd have no regard for animals. You don't care.

If you're a panda with twins, it's normal to abandon one to take care of the other.

If humans do any of these things, we would call it wrong, unfair or unjust.

Why is that? Why do humans care so much about justice?

Well, the Bible has a fascinating response to that question. On page one, humans are set apart from all other creatures as the image of God.

Yes, God's representatives who rule the world by his definition of good and evil.

This identity it's the bedrock of the Bible's view of justice, all humans are equal before God and have the right to be treated with dignity and fairness no matter who you are.

That would be nice if we all did that, but we know how the world really works.

The Bible addresses that too. It shows how we are constantly redefining good and evil to our own advantage at the expense of others.

Self-preservation and the weaker someone is the easier it is to take advantage of them.

In the biblical story, we see this happening on a personal level but also in families and then in communities and in whole civilizations that create injustice especially towards the vulnerable, but the story doesn't end there. Out of this whole mess, God chose a man named Abraham to start a new kind of family. Specifically, Abraham was to teach his family to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice.

Yes, "doing righteousness" that's a Bible word I don't really use, but what comes to mind is being a good person.

What does that even mean "being good?" The biblical Hebrew word for righteousness is Sedaqah and it's more specific. It's an ethical standard that refers to right relationships between people. It's about treating others as the image of God.

With the God-given dignity they deserve.

This word justice, it's the Hebrew word mishpat. It can refer to retributive justice.

Like if I steal something, I'd pay the consequences.

Exactly. Yet, most often in the Bible, mishpat refers to restorative justice. It means going a step further, actually seeking out vulnerable people who are being taken advantage of and helping them.

Some people call this charity.

Mishpat involves way more. It means taking steps to advocate for the vulnerable and changing social structures to prevent injustice.

Justice and righteousness are about a radical selfless way of life.

You find this idea all over the Bible. Like here in the book of Proverbs, what does it mean to bring about just righteousness?

"Open your mouth for those who can't speak for themselves".

What do these words mean for the prophets like Jeremiah?

Rescue the disadvantaged and don't tolerate oppression or violence against the immigrant, the orphan, and the widow.

Like here, look in the Book of Psalms.

"The Lord God upholds justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry, and sets the prisoner free, but He thwarts the way of the wicked". Whoa, He thwarts the wicked?

Yes, in Hebrew, the word wicked is rasha. It means guilty or in the wrong. It refers to someone who mistreats another human, ignoring their dignity as an image of God.

Justice and righteousness is a big deal to God?

Yes, it's what Abraham's family, the Israelites were to be all about. They ended up as immigrant slaves being oppressed unjustly in Egypt and so God confronted Egypt's evil declaring them to be rasha, guilty of injustice. He rescued Israel, but the tragic irony of the Old Testament story is that these redeemed people went on to commit the same acts of injustice against the vulnerable. God sent prophets who declared Israel guilty.

They weren't the only ones. There's injustice everywhere.

Some people actively perpetrated injustice. Others receive benefits or privileges from unjust social structures they take for granted. Sadly, history has shown that when the oppressed gained power, they often become oppressors themselves so we all participate in injustice.

Actively or passively even unintentionally, we're all the guilty ones.

This is the surprising message of the biblical story. God's response to humanity's legacy of injustice is to give us a gift, the life of Jesus. He did righteousness and justice and yet He died on behalf of the guilty. Then God declared Jesus to be the righteous one when He rose from the dead. Now, Jesus offers His life to the guilty so that they too can be declared righteous before God, not because of anything they've done, but because of what Jesus did for them.

The earliest followers of Jesus experienced this righteousness from God, not just as a new status, but as a power that changed their lives and compelled them to act in surprising new ways.

If God declared someone righteous when they didn't deserve it, the only reasonable response is to go and seek righteousness and justice for others.

This is a radical way of life and it's not always convenient or easy. It's courageously making other people's problems my problems.

This is what Jesus meant by loving your neighbor as yourself. It's about a lifetime commitment fueled by the words of the ancient prophet Micah. "God has told you, humans, what is good and what the Lord requires of you is to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God".

{End of transcription of Video}

That set the tone for the week, that the things we were doing this week was not just simply helping somebody out, but we were part of a bigger story of restoring the world to a way that God actively participates with us in doing that by giving people their dignity back, their compassion back, their wholeness back the way that God creates us. Sometimes we take that away as humans from each other and so we were practicing and giving that back this week.

Emma's going to come up and she's going to share her experience on the trip as she's up there with the man there his name is Ronnie and I'm sure she will mention him. He was the yard that we helped clean up.

Youth Mission Trip - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, Youth Group

Emma: Florida. Like Jordan said that is Ronnie in the picture. When my group first showed up, there were six of us because we needed another team to help with the roof and the garage. When we showed up, it was really hard to think positively because it was 98 degrees. This was the hottest day.

It was the first day that we were at the yard, but the first day, we only saw Ronnie about 10 minutes and that was at the beginning and he told us what he wanted us to do and then we did it, obviously. We wanted to have a connection with Ronnie because he didn't have a lot of people around in his life, which I'm really thankful for Bill and his neighbor and his nephew who is taking care of Ronnie. They bring him food and stuff that he needs because he is not able to do it himself and that is a reason why his yard got so bad. 

That was a blessing for all of us that they all took care of Ronnie in that way. For us, it wasn't about doing the yard work and being done because the yard work was a lot. We wanted to build that connection with Ronnie, like I said, because that's the main thing that we wanted to go there for, especially me. I like feeling connections with people. The first day, like I said, he was only out there for about 10 minutes and then the next day he came out for a little bit at the end and he started to open up to us a little bit more.

He told us a couple of stories about his life and that meant a lot to us because we didn't think that Ronnie was going to open up just like that. Then the third day, we went back obviously, the yard was done. It was amazing, we felt so good. Ronnie was outside and a big quote that he said- well, not quote, the thing that I heard him say was that he can finally see people and that they can finally see him. Somebody drove by right after that and waved to us.

He just smiled so big. It was so cute. He sat outside in the yard and I went up to Ronnie and I was like, "Hey, can you tell us a couple of stories about your life?" Because I feel like all that Ronnie wanted was somebody to talk to. He just really opened up to us like that. I feel like that was just God being there for us. He was really grateful about the yard. He had people that he connected with and talked to. I feel like that was more important to him, than having a clean yard.

It was really amazing getting to know Ronnie like that and to build that relationship with him, when we didn't think we were going to. At the end, he told AJ, he's like, "Are you guys going to come back on Monday?" because we loved him and he had people to communicate with. Then we also found out that one of his needs were to have people with him because I don't think that a lot of people noticed that he needed people to talk to and to be there with him. We made sure to get a group of people to be able to go back and have that relationship with him because I think that he is a very private person who wants to keep to himself.

Pastor Jordan: Just a little more back story on that was that we were told when we got there that Ronnie's house actually should be condemned. That it's unlivable. There's something that they worked out with the mayor of the town, that they would let Ronnie stay in his home as long as they cleaned up the yard. This was the last ditch effort to keep Ronnie at his home. He just got power restored back to his house the week before we got there, it's been out since the hurricane. This is a project that Experience Missions is working with all summer.

There will be a group that cleans up the yard more next week and we'll see what else they do to help Ronnie. His project was special to our team and to their hearts.

We have Beck and he's going to come up and share a little bit about his experience on the trip. Beck, don't have any embarrassing stories about me, please. All right, bye.

Youth Mission Trip - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, Youth Group

Beck: It got a little toasty in there at times. Like he said, it was like a 110 in there and a lot of it we had to do with garage door closed. Four sweaty dudes sitting in 110 degree room was not an ideal situation, especially when tensions are running high after we cut the board for the third time and the fourth time and the fifth time. We didn't work for very long, but we worked hard and you got home at night and it was rough. I think that's what made this such a cool mission trip, was coming here and going down there and seeing that the home itself had been mostly restored. Then there were still things that we take for granted, that they don't have in their own house.

The paint is peeling off in that same house. They don't have a roof on their own garage. The garage door stops working occasionally because the wiring is a little bit faulty. You see all these things going on and you notice what you take for granted in your own life. That's not just at these people's houses, that's just driving around, you could see entire roofs completely caved in. You could see businesses that have obviously been out of business for a long time because they don't have the front of the store there anymore. There's no people there to do anything because there's nothing there to buy anymore. It's so crazy that you can drive 30 miles away from there and all the houses are restored.

All the businesses are restored and it's fine. Yet, 30 miles away, you have people still who don't have working AC. People who don't have roofs. That was part of what they talked about in that video about injustice is that, we got called out there to do the work that no one else was there to do. No one wanted to do it for that community apparently. For us to go out there was beyond a blessing that we could ever imagine. We got some of that gratitude back one morning. The home owner of the home that we were working on was named Sharon, she bought us bagels one morning. Which went a lot further than she knew. Waking up at 5:30, our time to go to the work-site everyday.

You're not always in the mood to eat breakfast right away. Then you get there and you realize, "Wow, I'm hungry and tired". To show up there and have 40 or 50 bagels just lying on the table for us, just a small thing to her but to us it was a huge thing. It's really incredible to see that. I'm sure it's the same thing for us. It may not have been a really big deal for us to just put up that roof in her garage, but I'm sure that she'll be looking over it for weeks and weeks and just say, "Wow, I'm so glad I have a roof now". Despite all the times that we messed up and despite the times that we had to fix problems that we created by accident. We ended up doing a lot of good for the community in just a week. I'm so glad that I got to be a part of it.

Pastor Jordan: I believe there is five cuts on that board, Beck, not three. As Beck said, this community there is a lot of people that ended up just moving away or closing their businesses and moving away because there was just nothing else left to salvage. It was going to cost them more to salvage all of it than to just move on. The community that hurts the broader community and the economy and everything. There's still homes waiting to be fixed. Still homes waiting to get power. Still homes waiting to get all the needs that we take for granted. Aly is going to come up and she's going give our last student testimony of this week. Aly was on the roofing team. That wasn't hot at all.

Youth Mission Trip - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, Youth Group

Aly: I don't know what he's talking about. Good morning. I'm Aly. I go to Legend High School. I'll be a sophomore this year. I went on the Panama City Mission trip this year because I went on the Costa Rica one last year and absolutely fell in love. Fell in love with helping out other communities. All the while doing it with the people I love. Throughout the week, we made lots of memories and found lots of God's sightings. I was put on the roofing crew and, man, was it a lot of hard work on a very hot roof. Even though it was slightly miserable working in a 135 degree heat, we had lots of moments where the Lord was working through all of us.

Such as Jeff, bringing us ice cream and ice cream bars and ice on the first day, to meeting the home owner David and hearing about his story. On the last day, after we finished the roof, David came by to say hi. He climbed up on the ladder and said I said it's not perfect but you have a roof now. Then he said that it was perfect. Even though it was a bunch of 10 teenagers and two adults who weren't exactly qualified to build a roof.

He still loved it and was still very happy. Even though it was 43 of us doing a few projects and a few houses, we made a difference on the community. That's one thing I really took away from this trip. Focus on the little things because they add up. Throughout the week, we heard people's experiences and stories through Hurricane Michael. How absolutely devastating it was, but how grateful they were to have us there walking in God's footsteps and showing all people in that community love. I got chosen to go volunteer at a place called Mercy Chef. This organization makes hot meals for everyone in the community who doesn't have access to a good meal.

The first thing we were told when we got there was to just love on the people. Show them even though, they may not have a house that they have people and a community. What impacted me the most this past week, was the relationships I was able to build with the people around me. From my amazing crew leaders, who took on parental roles and made it fun but also forcing us to drink unbelievable amounts of water and also having my best friend on the trip with me. Not sticking to each other, but instead making more friends, close friends and even best friends.

From the beginning of the trip to the end of the trip, I learned a couple of things. Forever be grateful for the things you receive. Be kind to everyone and just simply love. We're going to quote Mathew 11:28, Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. After this service, I encourage you to focus on the little things. Thank you.

Click to watch video slideshow from mission trip.

Youth Mission Trip - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, Youth Group