Typically, Mondays are chaotic and challenging on these trips as the various mission sites begin. One of the big questions at the start of the week is, “Will we have any children show up?” That was answered with a resounding YES! in 2012. We ministered to approximately 150 children on Monday at the following three sites: VBS @ Renovation Church, Kids Camp @ Buffalo Christian Center, and Mega Sports Camp @ The Well Church.
The students did a great job getting started with the projects, and the remainder of the week should go even more smoothly now that we have the first day behind us. Most of the children we are working with come from the inner-city with a lot of challenging and difficult family dynamics in their lives. They act and react with “older” and more “street-wise” responses than you expect from young kids, so you have to be strong and confident when dealing with them.
Our survey/canvassing team distributed flyers regarding the Buffalo Bash event on Wednesday, and had the opportunity to have extended conversations and prayer with two different people struggling with issues in their life. The team is gathering information on individuals who may be interested in beginning a church in the northwest section of Buffalo – a very diverse, economically depressed area of the city without enough strong, Bible-teaching churches. The names and information the team collects all week will be given to the Frontier Baptist Association in hopes of forming a core group to plant a new church.
Mission activities were all complete around 3:30 pm. All of us convened together at Renovation Church to share testimonies and to be encouraged. We heard from Toni Benjamin, the dynamic family minister at Renovation Church, who gave us strategies on how to engage the children quickly and maintain discipline throughout the day. She described discipline as truly loving the children by calling them to a higher standard. Pastor Brent spoke to the group about listening for God’s call in their lives this week. He reminded them that mission trips are a great time for God to work in our lives and clarify His will. Many of us in ministry today first heard the call of God to ministry on a trip like this.
The evening was a dynamic, spiritual experience as we led worship for the Celebrate Recovery gathering at The Well church. This service is an outreach to people working through addictions and claiming the promises of God and the power of God to overcome their sinful behaviors. The congregation enthusiastically received our music. Caleb, a young man in his 20’s, shared his testimony for all of us in the service. The son of a Southern Baptist pastor, Caleb suffered with learning disabilities as a child, but in his teen years became a star football player. As he entered college on a football scholarship, he fell into a self-destructive pattern of drug abuse, alcoholism, and irresponsible and immoral relationships. Eventually, he failed at three different colleges as his addictions consumed him, all the while trying to maintain the facade of normalcy with his family. Finally, he cried out to God after a family intervention that involved some tough love from them. He has been clean and sober for over a year and is, in his words, ” a new creation” in Christ.
The worship time, led by Living Proof following his testimony, was the highlight of our trip so far. It was so meaningful to sing these words from “The Stand” –
You stood before my failures
Carried the cross for my shame
My sin weighed upon Your shoulders
My soul, now, to stand
So what can I say?
And what can I do?
But offer this heart, O God, completely to You
Following the service, we had an extended question/answer time with Caleb (see photo below) where our students had the opportunity to talk with him about his journey, how to avoid his mistakes, and how they can prepare to face the temptations of college and young adult life. It was clear that they connected with him, and embraced the opportunity to learn and grow from his story.