Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fresh Coat Cleveland

Fresh Coat Cleveland
June 21 - June 27, 2008
Cleveland, OH
24-7 HFC Student Ministry
Parkway Place Baptist Church

I had the awesome opportunity to go along with our student ministry to Ohio. Our mission: to share the love of Christ in a tangible way, no strings attached. What an amazing group of teens we have! This was without a doubt the best mission trip I have been on.

We took our time getting to Cleveland over two days. I helped drive one of the vans that carried the 28 of us. The first day was a good 10 hour drive or so; the second was only 4 hours. We met with our coordinator, Laura, at the hotel. She had to give a spiel about lead paint and all that. The houses we were to work on were very old. One was built back in 1880! We split into two groups. Here's what the houses looked like when we arrived:




I was on the team that worked on the house built in 1880. A previous team had started painting, doing much of the lower portions. The whole first day, myself, Zak, and Joel perched on a steeply inclined roof to work on some high parts. The house had wood tiles for siding. We donned masked and started scraping away the old paint. This was followed by primer, then a coat of cream-yellow paint. We were up there for a good 5 hours. Our day was cut short by a rain shower in the early afternoon.



The next day we did some touch-ups up there. Zak was called off to help at a new job site. He, Allan, and Josh built a new stair case at a different house. Meanwhile, Joel and I climbed up on another section of roof--steeper than before--and continued the task of scraping, priming, and painting. I did some trim work as well. I only saw the owner of the house once. He bought us pizza on the 2nd day. He was an elderly, Hispanic gentleman. The whole process slowed down significantly as the lower portions of the house became finished. With only one extension ladder, most of the team ran out of area to paint. So by mid-afternoon our coordinator left three people to continue working on the high parts while the rest of us went to a new job site.



We moved to a one-story brick home. For the most part, nothing had been done here. This family was wonderful! They were so friendly! We were treated to an authentic Puerto Rican meal for lunch on our 2nd day there. Chicken, rice, beans, and flan. It was pretty much amazing...my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Anyway, back to the painting. My job was pretty much trim work. I painted the windows and doorways. While I was working on the front of the house with the interns, Sarah was moving the extension ladder when she called out to me to grab the ladder. So I picked it up, but her hand went with it. Turned out she only picked up part of the ladder and the rungs slid down, smashing her hand between them. I performed a little field first-aid, splinting her hand. I couldn't even touch it without her coming out of her skin. It was completely immobile. She refused to get an x-ray, so I had Greg get a finger splint and medical tape. We iced it a couple times and she continued to work.

We almost got that house done, but ran out of time. It was actually sad to leave there because that family was so nice. They welcomed us to come back and stay with them any time we were in the area. :) Zak, Allan, and Josh were building a 2nd staircase on the third day. We picked up them and the other painting team from their site. Here's how far they got. What a difference!



So that was about the work stuff. We also did some fun stuff, too. Monday night, we went to dinner and a movie. Impressively--and by God's great blessing--the owner of the restaurant we ate at paid for our entire meal. That was 28 people, mind you! We saw "The Incredible Hulk" at this rinky-dink theater. Entertaining movie, but I'm pretty sure my home theater is better than what they had. LOL.



Tuesday night we went to Progressive Stadium to watch the Cleveland Indians play the Giants. I like to keep score so I did that for the game. Many of the teens weren't too interested in watching...they were up and down out of their seats the whole game. It was a very quick, low-scoring game. It got pretty exciting toward the end, but the Indians lost. Parking was an experience. No one could take the van with the U-haul trailer. Finally we found a garage by a Catholic church. Took a while to actually park and they charge SO MUCH for it. Oh yeah, God blessed us again at dinner that night. A nun was at the restaurant and asked about our group. When told what we were doing she bought a gift card for us that covered part of our meal expense.

Driving straight from the job sites on Wednesday, we left for Sandusky, OH where the world-famous Cedar Point amusement park is located on a peninsula on Lake Erie. Driving into the park led to some pretty awed expressions and this picture:



The tall coaster on the left is their signature "Millenium Force." It is a little over 300 ft high. I ended up riding it three times. It was pretty amazing. They also had a newer coaster called "The Maverick" which boasted a 95 degree drop (more than vertical) and many unexpected corkscrews and turns. In the middle of the picture is a yellow, narrow horse-shoe shaped coaster called "Top Thrill Dragster." It accelerates you to 120 mph in a little under 3 seconds to a height of about 400 ft! I was pretty much scared out of my mind waiting for the light to turn green. And what a force it is when you go!

We rode every single coaster that was open ("Magnum" was not). I'd have to say that in order, my favorites were: Maverick, Millenium Force, Top Thrill Dragster, and The Raptor. The latter was one of those where your feet dangle as you loop and twist around. There were a few other good ones like "Wicked Twister" which spirals straight up as you go backward and forward. "The Mantis" is one where you stand, but the worker pushed the restraints so far up that I really felt like I was sitting on a bicycle. The wooden coasters were okay but incredibly jerky. I rode most coasters in the back for the extra pull.


The hotel we stayed at was "Hotel Breakers Resort," which is actually a part of the park, is located on the beach, and is about 100 years old. We got to go in before the park opened to the public, but that didn't prove to be anything special. The park was still testing most of the coasters. We averaged about one ride an hour for the first three hours, but then we started hopping. We could not have asked for a better day--the crowd was lower, the rides had small lines, and the afternoon clouded up to provide some relief from the unseasonable heat. I believe God really blessed our day for our hard work that week. It was an unforgettable day.

A little side note I almost forgot. Greg wanted us to wear 24-7 shirts so we could identify each other and provide an opportunity to witness in case someone should ask about our shirt. I will admit, I was extremely skeptical about this. I didn't think anyone would care about our shirts. I was completely wrong! I've never seen so many people interested or curious about our shirts. I wore our summer-themed shirt which just says "It's a Scream" and "24-7 HFC". People asked what HFC stood for quite regularly. Other teens wore the DiscipleNow shirt, with the theme "Fearless" and a Bible verse. It was interesting to see the reactions to those shirts, too. A couple times, strangers' friends who were scared of a ride would point to our shirts and say "be fearless like that shirt says." I felt completely put in my place by God, as if He was saying, don't doubt what I can do with even a simple-messaged shirt.

I got about 6 hours of toss-and-turn sleep a night. Each morning was harder to wake up. I pretty much had to jump out of bed as soon as the alarm rang by sheer force of will. I'd get dressed and find the nearest coffee pot. That third day of work, I was really dragging, especially after that amazing lunch. Cedar Point day was different because I was awake with anticipation.

Well, the return trip was something I completely dreaded. Greg decided he wanted to come back in one day. After spending all day at an amusement park, I didn't know how I would maintain consciousness to help drive. When I woke up, I was almost completely unable to lift my feet. LOL. Everyone's shins and feet hurt so bad from walking all day on the concrete. I was planning to sleep first thing while Greg drove first, but he needed me to keep him awake. Then it was my turn to drive. I napped after lunch, then drove us in to Little Rock. It was a 15 hour, 26 minute trip. Not to say it was fast, but it was faster than I thought it would be. And we made it without any problem.

I tell you, our church has the best group of teens there can be. There was no conflict, they worked hard from start of finish, and they completely remembered who they were representing at hotels and in public. I'm reminded of the verse that tells us that our love for each other will show the world we belong to Christ. If ever there was a model of this verse, it was on the trip. It reinforces in my mind again of why I am here in Little Rock, and that is to be a part of their lives as they grow and mature into Christ-centered adults. It's a privilege and a blessing that I can do this.

We truly do have a student ministry and not a youth group. I'm in complete agreement with Greg on this--youth groups are places where parents can drop off teens, where crazy and gross games are played, and the church helps keep them out of trouble. People sometimes hesitate to get involved because of the rap the words "youth group" have gotten. And yes, we do crazy and sometimes gross things, but a student ministry is a place where teens are learning to worship, serve, connect, grow, and share their love. That is what I am a part of in every sense.

If you want to see more pictures, head to my Flickr feed. I'll be posting more pictures as I get them from some others. I'd like to know who has read this and what you thought....please leave a comment.

3 comments:

tpope said...

great testimony of your willingness to serve as well and "tell" about it -- thanks for leading in this area and following . . . tp

Greg said...

Ben, I just finished reading this and this is great! Well put words and great insight. Thank you for helping to make that week what it was, a great trip, and for you continued leadership to out students. I appreciate you bro!

My name is Stacie... said...

Ben, I'm so glad you went on this trip. You're investment in our students is precious and eternal. I loved seeing the pictures too!