Monday, July 25, 2011

Claire Stack

I saw God on this trip in my brothers and sisters in Christ whom I had the pleasure of spending the week with. When they worshipped, served, prayed, encouraged, they did it with their whole heart. One night, we did an exercise as directed by the AIM staff where all the adult leaders got in a circle and the youth got in a circle around them and laid hands on them. Every one of us simultaneously, and out loud, prayed for the leader closest to us. It was amazing to hear the selfless, encouraging prayers coming from the mouths of every single youth. Then the leaders turned around and prayed for us. I have never been so moved by God as I was by the prayer that Steve said over me and the people near me. God showed me that night how much he loved me by surrounding me with 80 people who love the Lord fully and fearlessly.

I have been on several missions trips and FCWCs, but never have I experienced a group as close and as on fire for God as this one. Each person there blessed me more than they'll ever know.

Claire Stack

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Stephanie Boris

God taught us a lot during our week in New Orleans. Between the charismatic church service and Mama Jan’s rehab center, God showed us that he doesn’t fit into a box like we sometimes put him in here in the suburbs of Rochester. Through all their faith healings, slayings in the Spirit and prophecies we got to see more of God’s power. Though through this God also taught us to test everything (because some of it was for sure more theatrics than God).
While at the church service on Sunday, my spirit was struggling with confusion and even discomfort at some of the things happening around me, but at Mama Jan’s I felt more at peace. After we listened to her testimony we were standing in a circle worshipping and she started asking if we wanted to be “touched by Jesus.” I had never really seen something like this before. She would go up to someone and ask them this, have them say something like, “Jesus save me; I want to be touched by you,” and then she would lightly touch them with her finger and they would fall backward. (Someone would catch them so they didn’t get hurt.) Well, being me, I decided that I didn’t need her to touch me, so I said those words to Jesus in my heart. It felt like a glowing warmth in my chest and I started to fall backward. Only there wasn’t someone to catch me, so I stuck my foot out so I wouldn’t get hurt. Back to worshipping Jesus and it happened again, and I caught myself again. Then when Mama Jan came over I finally had someone to catch me, and I lay there laughing. I probably shouldn’t have been so worried, if Jesus was going to knock me over then he wouldn’t let me get hurt. I guess my faith is increasing little steps at a time.
On another day I was in a group with Megan and Eric at the Riverwalk. We had just started out when Megan said she really felt like we should go and talk to the man wearing green on a bench on the other side of the park. So we went over to him and got to hear his story. He kept saying he used to be a “bad man;” they called him the baseball bat man. He was married and had a family. Then he beat the man to death that molested his four-year-old son, and he spent 15 years in jail. During this time he came to Christ, stopped drinking and joined a Bible study. Despite his efforts at communication, his family stopped talking to him. He is now homeless and uses his food tickets to pass out water and soda to other homeless people in the park as well as to feed his seven dogs that have become his family. He talks to other homeless people about Jesus and tries to help them stop drinking. What’s more, he used to be 411 pounds and the doctor said if he didn’t lose weight his heart would fail. But he had a gland problem and couldn’t lose weight. The man in front of us was just a little overweight and we found out that he had gotten cancer, which had helped him drop the extra pounds. He had perfect faith that God had given him the cancer for that reason and that when he was back to a good weight, God would take it away again. He said that he used to be depressed but had never found a good enough reason to kill himself… This man, Sam, had such an inspirational faith, and I think I can say for the three of us that we were really blessed that God directed us to him to hear his story.
We had been told to be praying and listening to where God was telling us to go on Thursday, which had no set schedule. I had been praying, but I was not feeling led in any particular direction. Then on Wednesday night I got pretty sick. When it was still sick the next morning I found out that I would be staying at home base and sleeping. Well I was pretty disappointed obviously, but then I got really excited because I realized that’s where God wanted me. He wanted me praying for everyone else. I went from one minute barely being able to sit in a chair and on the verge of tears, to the next practically skipping around with joy. I managed to stay awake all morning in prayer for our teams. Which reminded me of the night before when we were doing this prayer exercise where we would go up to a random person with their eyes closed and they would pray for us. A person prayed for me to have strength and joy. Which were exactly what I needed and what God gave me. So, God did a lot of working in me, and I can only hope and pray that God used us to bless New Orleans as much as it blessed us.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Matt Leistra

During our trip to New Orleans, I saw God work in many ways, but one very tangible effect of his work showed itself on Wednesday while my team was at lunch. Earlier in the morning, we had gone on a prayer walk through a lower income neighborhood. After we finished that, my team decided to go out for lunch to a local restaurant. Soon after we arrived, it started to pour. Usually, during a rainstorm, it pours for about 1 or 2 minutes and then tapers off. This time however, it didn’t taper off but kept on pouring. In the afternoon we were scheduled to hand out bottles of water in a park down by the Mississippi river. When we had finished our lunch and were ready to go, it was unfortunately, still raining. Our adult leader called back to homebase to try to find out what we should do. The answer we received was so simple and obvious and yet made perfect sense. The answer we received was to pray, and that is exactly what we did. We then proceeded to sit on the sidewalk outside the restaurant and simply pray. We didn’t think about what the people walking by thought of us, we were only asking God what his will for us was. After we prayed, we realized that it was God’s will for us to do to the riverwalk regardless of the weather. No sooner had we left the restaurant, then the rain completely stopped, leaving a cloudless, sunny sky in its wake. We continued on to the riverwalk and ended up spending three hours simply talking to the people we met and handing out water. On ething that will really stay with me from this experience, is the simplicity of the answer we received to our problem: pray. We should always turn to prayer with whatever problem we have, no matter how insignificant we think it is. If we don’t pray, we may miss what God’s will for us is which is exactly what the devil wants.

Lisa Brice

On Monday, July 4th, our team was scheduled to go Under the Bridge in the morning and then do a Prayer Walk after lunch, the experience that stood out to me though was how God used our tired bodies to do great works. Before we set out to walk the streets we broke into two groups of seven and planned to meet back at the van at 3:30. My team decided to walk around aimlessly so that God would tell us where he wanted us to be and it worked. We ended up walking outside of the neighborhood of Treme and into the French Quarter where we happened upon a park under renovation. This was towards the end of our walk and we needed something to cool down but on our way to the fountain I met a woman named Sonya. At first she did not want to talk with me or pray with me at all but the Holy Spirit moved in her and allowed for me to talk and get to know her. I found out that she was a teacher in Japan just south of Tokyo, she was from Los Angeles and she wanted prayer for her students and the health of her loved ones. As a bit of backstory the people we had met thus far were uninterested in prayer or would not even talk to us, so to have her want to talk with us and at the end of the prayer hug us because we wanted to talk and listen meant a lot to me, and it really showed God's faithfulness in our trip and our lives.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Audrey Kelly

I want to tell you about every day, every moment, every answered prayer, but I won’t do that to you. If you will though, please allow me to tell you about my favorite day of the week, Thursday (day four). Our schedule that day read: ATL. Ask The Lord day. We were instructed to start that day with no preconceived ideas and just sit in prayer together for as long as it took asking God to lead us where to go/what to do. It’s a difficult thing to do, to ignore what YOU are planning and be still and listen to what GOD is planning.

In prayer I only saw these random images that made no sense, like this pattern of bricks, part of a sign with big circus-like light bulbs, and a graffiti face on a wall. I had no idea what/where they meant though. One kid, this little freshman boy, said He felt God wanted us to be a prayer-mobile, driving around and just praying or finding the other teams to pray for them. Others said they saw a hospital and a café. Two of the boys said they wanted to minister to kids with sports, and another boy said he saw a black shirt with white skull and crossbones on it. Hearing all this we really didn’t know how they all fit together or where we were headed, but I see now there was no need to worry about that.

As we got ready to head out for the day, we hung around our base for a extended amount of time to pray for the other groups until a group of young kids from a program ran into the gym where we were and started playing basketball. We all got chills when we noticed one of the girls was wearing a black shirt with white skulls and crossbones on it. We prayed for the girl and headed out into the city in search of the hospital or cafe, with a 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 attitude of praying continually.

We found the hospital and then the café and we prayed but we didn’t know exactly why we were there. One of the freshman girls spoke up while we sat in front of the café saying I feel like I need to pray for that man walking near us. So she and I got out of the van and approached the man asking if there was anything we could pray for him about, he was very receptive, and as I bowed my head to pray I noticed the sidewalk was the exact pattern of bricks I had seen in prayer. We left encouraged but still confused on where to go next.

We ended up in the neighborhood that we had done our prayer walk in and just got out of the car to pray for God’s direction and clarity. Without going into detail God really used that time to give us peace and unity. Josh, the freshman boy who had spoken up earlier, asked if we could still try and find the other groups to pray for them since that was strong on his heart. We weren’t even all back in the van to do that when another team drove by us! Excitingly screaming we stopped them and surrounded their van in prayer. Coincidence? We KNOW not!

From there we decided to head over by the homeless bridge area to pray, first stopping at a gas station to use the bathroom. As we pull in a girl says look Audrey, there’s a graffiti face on the wall, I said that’s not it but then, and I kid you not, a man walks out of the gas station who has the face of the man I saw in graffiti. His name was Josh and we got to pray for him! Coincidence? Not with our God!

Continuing to the under-highway area we’re about to park when ANOTHER team’s van drives up next to us on their way to a shelter. We make them pull over under the highway so we could pray for them. Just as we are about to start, little Josh sees a woman, Lisa, that he had sat with for hours our first day by the river (a whole different part of the city). He yells her name and together they run into each others' arms. Coincidence? Not a chance!

After praying for the other group, a freshman girl timidly comes to me and says she feels like we need to go to the “living water” spot by the river, I say “then that’s where we will go!” As we pull into a parking lot space by the river, one of the boys, Hunter, spots the trumpet playing man, Buddy, walking home whom he had connected with on our first day. They excitedly greet each other and he shared with him something that God had put on his heart earlier that week regarding him. Minutes later, who drives by us in the parking lot but ANOTHER team! We of course pray for them and then start on a prayer walk.

On the prayer walk we found the homeless woman named Shirley that God had put on the trip's main leader, Kathy’s, heart. What a gift it was to sit and talk with this woman, as well as to see her face light up with the gifts of a pretty yellow dress, purple shirt, and shoes that Kathy and two of our girls had bought for her and her husband the day before. We will never forget her.

To end this long story (sorry guys) it should go almost without saying that God brought us to the other two teams to pray for them, as well as running into a man we had met on the trolley. All I could say was “either this is a tiny city, or we serve a REALLY BIG God!” Coincidence? Ha!

God showed our team especially how powerful prayer is and how reliable and trustworthy He is. I thought the truest sign of how life changing the trip was for the teens, as well as the leaders, was how on our fun day of shopping and riding a steamboat tour, the witnessing continued, unscheduled, with no leader prompting, just true Christ love shining!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Jackson Wheeler's Story

On the Thursday we were there my team and I decided to go a youth center for homeless teenagers and young adults. We arrived expecting and hoping to talk to the people who were staying there and to help out. The people that greeted us told us otherwise. They were very kind people and knew God's love, but they were firm in telling us that they wouldn't allow us to talk directly with those staying there-the building was called the Covenant Life Center or something simiar. They did however refer us to one of the men in charge of maintaining the building and the area that it encompassed. So we spoke with this man and he quickly had a job for us. We were put to work for seven hours in 95 degree weather painting a portion of wrought iron fence that surrounded the facility. The group handled it really well, I was really impressed.The work was really tedious and physically demanding but still we were happy to do it. I was content with the work we were doing but deep down I wished that there was something extra that I could've done to help. I was happy with the work we had done but I still felt a pang of emptiness that I really wanted fix. But then Matt-Matt Tice our leader-started talking to us. Apparently the fence we had just finished painting used to be routinely painted every two years in order to preserve it. After Katrina they didn't have the funds or manpower to get it done. That day completely unkown or precedented by anyone who worked there-12 kids and 3 adults showed up at their doors with nothing but Jesus' love in their hearts and a desire to serve. They didn't know what was going to happen that day and we definitely didn't know what was going to happen that day and we got to help restore something that meant a lot to them. That experience meant a lot to me and I know that I'll be telling the story to everyone I know.

Maggie Lockhart's Story

You know, I truly saw God working through everyone on this trip. It's difficult for me to choose one amazing moment when there were SO MANY awesome moments!
My favorite day was Wednesday. My team, TEAM BOMB-DIGGITY, was going to go on a prayer walk in the morning then go to the riverwalk in the afternoon. After a rough
start to the week, I was ready for God to really use me, but I didn't know how he was going to do that. Most people in youth group know that I have such a passion for music and that's when I feel closest to God. Well, I didn't have my mandolin or guitar with me... so I was a little bummed. I wasn't sure how God was going to use me to connect to these people but, God sure does work in crazy ways!

After the prayer walk, which was stellar, we stopped at Johnny's Po Boys for lunch! SO GOOD. However, during lunch it was raining cats and dogs outside! We weren't sure what we were going to do because our next ministry was outside. So, we sat outside the restaurant and prayed to God about what we should do, where we should go. As soon as we started to pray... the rain stopped. That was awesome thing number one. Awesome thing number two, was that everyone agreed that we should still go to the riverwalk! So, we did! We split into groups of three to go hand out water bottles. Me, Adam, and Donna after maybe 30 seconds of walking around came across a man named Chuck. He was sitting on a bench just hanging out and I looked down and saw that he had a guitar with him. Adam asked, "Hey man, you play guitar?" and Chuck answered, "Oh yeah, just a little." So I mentioned to him that I played a little bit myself and before I knew it, he handed over the guitar asking me to play him something. At first I was reluctant... I mean this wasn't my guitar and I didn't know what type of music he liked. So, I just started to play and he just talked and talked and talked. He told us about where he came from, what he was doing. He knew little facts about
everything. Then, he took over the music and boy, could he play that guitar! He played and played that guitar. Singing and everything. That was awesome thing number three. Number four was when a couple other teamates came over and started singing with us. Eventually our entire team was singing around a bench to christian music, in the middle of the park, not even caring that people were staring at us and judging us. Chuck and a few of his buddies seemed to be having a really good time. Everyone was so happy and God just felt so alive within our group. Through every smile, through every song, through every word, God was there. Chuck inspired me in so many ways to just sing and play from the heart. "...and that's where the true music comes from, from your heart and soul." I'll never forget him or that moment. God is so good.

Pslam 96: 1-2
" Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day."

-Maggie Lockhart

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Laura McNamara New Orleans Reflection

It was Tuesday, and after a long Monday with Mamajan, Team Armstrong needed some encouragement. As we traveled along the streets of Treme we worked on listening to God’s words. Following His plan led us to several great encounters with people who were bold and courageous in their faith. One of these people was Patrick, a teenager about our age, who was carrying a bible and notebook. All of us assumed that he was going to or from church or bible study so we were eager to approach him. After we all introduced ourselves and chatted for a while, we asked Patrick if there was anything he would like us to pray for. He told us that his brother was on a self-destructive path, but was at the moment trying to decide between the devil and God. We prayed that his brother would turn away from his old behavior, that he would turn to God, and that he would find friends to keep him accountable. I found it extremely inspiring that Patrick took part in our prayer and actually prayed for us!

Two days later on “Ask the Lord Day”, we were driving around downtown looking for a man named Rush. Rachel King had met him on the trolley the day before and she felt led to give him the bible that we all highlighted our favorite verses in. As she and several other of the group members were wandering the streets praying to God that they would find him, I sat with the rest of Team Armstrong in the parked van. We were all becoming slightly annoyed that they were taking so long to look for a man whose last name we didn’t know and who we didn’t know where he worked. While sitting there watching the group outside pray, however, I spotted a teenager with curly brown hair and a black shirt walking down the street with his bible in his hand. Without a moment of hesitation I and several other of my teammates jumped out of the van and sprinted towards Patrick until we finally got his attention and caught up with him. He was certainly surprised to see a group of 5 or 6 teenagers running up to him, but he was so grateful that we had spotted him. Right off the bat we asked how his brother was doing. We were all awestruck when Patrick told us that the very night we prayed with him his brother called him. During their conversation his brother confessed his sins and declared that he wanted to follow Jesus by no longer associating with his negative friends and negative lifestyle. Everyone there could see the joy and relief in Patrick’s face as he spoke about his brother with love and compassion. It was amazing to hear that our prayers were answered and that they helped to comfort this particular family!

I next asked Patrick if it was just coincidence that he was carrying his bible both times we saw him or if he always carried it with him. He then explained to us that he is never found without his bible because it helps keep him focused on God and His word in every situation. Everyone in our group was amazed by his strength in God and his willingness to step beyond his comfort zone.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Amy Keech

My favorite New Orleans story has to be from Thursday's "Ask the Lord" mission...

My team and I had spent hours in quiet, listening prayer during our restless nights, our debriefing team time, our team time on Thursday morning, etc. Personally, I was getting frustrated when the voice of God didn't boom down on me and I didn't feel any particular calling. It was a frustration that extended beyond the day that had been deemed "Ask the Lord Day" and into my daily spiritual life back home. God did, however, lay it on my heart to share my struggle with my teammates, knowing that I was not the only one feeling impatient. My team prayed over me-- an incredibly powerful experience-- and shared scripture from Psalms and Ephesians that talked about constantly and continuously seeking wisdom and direction from God. It wasn't a one-day opportunity!

Others on my team felt called to minister to teens our own age because we'd done a lot of conversing with adults so far. We drove to the Covenant House, a homeless shelter for 16 to 21 year olds. When we told the receptionist, "We're here because God led us here," she interrupted a board meeting without hesitation and asked the director where we could be put to work. We were directed to sand and paint an old, rusty, wrought iron fence, so that's what Team B did for hours in the sticky New Orleans sun. The fence hadn't been painted since Hurricane Katrina, and the paint job had continually fell through the gaps in the budget as the number of residents at the shelter was on the rise.

The sweaty, messy fence-painting ministry was the PERFECT contrast to our relational ministries from the previous days. God knew the Covenant House's exact needs, and He also knew my team's strong desire to "get down and dirty" in our ministry. He had a plan and a divine purpose the entire time, despite my feelings of loneliness and confusion in the beginning of the day! It was awesome!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Jessica McDowell

Hello everyone! We are finally home! Thank you for your thoughts and prayers this week. This trip has been a truly amazing experience for all of us. Through many new and unexpected circumstances, God was able to work not only in the hearts of the people of New Orleans, but also in our own hearts, to help us to grow in faith and unity. My team, upon coming together for the first time back in February, chose the named Unity. We felt that God had placed on our team many unique gifts and personalities which would lay the framework for building a team that would work together as the body of Christ. (1Corinthians 12-26) As we began to grow as a family, it became apparent that God was going to use our team in marvelous ways to bring His kingdom glory.

And did He? Of course! I was overwhelmed and overjoyed with the work that God did through our team this week, and He could not have done it were we not unified. I believe that the unity on my team displays the unity that Christ intended for the church. The small things are an indication that we have discovered what it truly means to fellowship. Though each member of our team had strong relationships with others in our youth group, our team seemed to be inseparable. During free time you could always find our team eating dinner together, playing a game, worshipping, or just sitting on the floor and talking. It wasn’t anything like a normal group of friends; the relationships within our group were much stronger than that. They were built fast and grew fast, with a strength and trust that comes from the Father. We had no desire to be apart because God has blessed us with a group that fits together like a puzzle, consisting of many different personalities which compliment each other and provide a balance that allows us to support and rely on one another. It was amazing to be a part of this bond. The love that we shared was a pure reflection of the love of Christ. There was no judgment or exclusion, but just understanding and encouragement. I feel so blessed to be a part of this team. And not only team Unity, but also our whole youth group formed an inseparable bond this week. It filled me with joy to see everyone worshipping together, loving one another and investing in each other’s lives. Even those who have never spoken a word to eachother were joined this week in the love of God and the realization of His great gift to us, which is fellowship.

Does God ever disappoint? Absolutely not! In the weeks leading up to the trip, God prepared us both individually and as a group for the challenges that we would face while in New Orleans. Even as we stepped out of the airplane, we were ready and equipped to carry out His will. I believe that God used us in so many ways this week. Our eyes were opened as we dove into a new culture which brought circumstances that challenged us to step into a boldness and fearlessness that comes from faith alone. I’m so proud of my team and our entire mission family, not for our own work and accomplishments, but for our willingness to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us, surrendering our own wants and desires for His glory. This has been a life changing experience that I will never forget!

Peace and Love,
Jessica McDowell

Friday, July 8, 2011

A few Pictures

Hey everyone!

I tried uploading a few pictures for you all to see. The internet connection isn't too fast here. I hope this link works...

Also don't forget to read the Day 5 blog...What an amazing day!


New Orleans Day 5

Hey Everybody! This is Jessie and Rachel speaking! Today, July 7, 2011, was our “last day” of ministry with AIM. Today was ATL day, aka “ask the Lord” day. This meant that each team sought God’s plan for them today – no team had a set schedule, and everything was up to God’s leading. At first, the day was very challenging, but as the day unraveled, God’s plans were revealed to us in surprising ways. We all began our morning by seeking God through prayer. Though our teams seemed to leave the base site with little sense of direction, God guided our paths for the day, and the results were amazing.

Jessie: ATL day was so awesome today! My team (Josh, Andrea, Audrey, Josh, Nick, Kelley, Hunter, Stefanie, Matt, Sandra, Aaron, and Katie) all began the day in prayer together, asking God to be very clear and direct us throughout our day. Each of us suggested what we believed God wanted us to do; from visiting a hospital to playing basketball with kids. Honestly, we all had no idea what God had in mind for us today, but we went out to our van with a spirit of openness and a yearning to fulfill His will. As our team drove all around the city of New Orleans, we prayed and we sought what God would have us do. We visited several areas that we felt called to go to, but all together, we just all did not feel that our mission was being completed. At this point, our team was feeling somewhat discouraged, since we had been praying constantly and did not feel that we were really doing what God wanted us to do. Collectively, we decided that we wanted to visit two of our prayer walk leaders, Mark and Nikki, because we really felt that their prayers could be very encouraging to our team. When we got to their home, they were not there, but our team decided to get out of the van anyway and pray. After awhile, our team went from a place of confusion and discouragement to one of joy, and of purpose. Earlier, Josh Klatt brought up the idea that our van could be the “Prayer-a-van” and this idea really stood out to us at this time. Hardly any time had really passed before Jeff Roeters and his team, The Armstrongs, pulled up right next to us! It was so cool that they found us, and we all jumped out of the van to pray for them. After an awesome “Korean prayer” (when everyone prays out loud at the same time for what they feel led to pray for) we jumped back in the van, and just decided to drive straight, towards the bridge. On our way there, we saw Paul Miller (team Roots) drive up right next to us! Both of our teams pulled over under the bridge and we were able to pray for their team as well! Besides for meeting with the other team, we were also to meet up with certain individuals under the bridge whom we had met previously (Josh Klatt saw Lisa!). Once again, we hopped back in the van and were off. Our team felt led to go to the river, so that is where Josh took us, and once again we ran into another team! It was so cool how God was working through the “Prayer-a-van” and we spent the rest of the day meeting up with teams to pray for them, too. Our team grew so much, spiritually, and I think that we all learned that God really does reveal His plans for us in mysterious ways!

Rachel: Trust me. Those words are so easy to hear but so difficult to just do. This morning as my team sat in a circle outside praying for God to provide us with a leading and direction God told me those words, trust me. To tell you the truth I was confused, I felt like a lost sheep. No one on my team heard any direct guidance from God either. So we decided that we would just get in our van, pray as we drove, and go to the only place we could think of Miss Val’s House. Miss Val was a wonderful woman that we met on a prayer walk in Treme who was selfless and humble. When we got there we found her but as the independent woman she was she didn’t need our help but sought for us to help others. A woman on the street where we were standing began talking to us and connected us with a local elementary down the street where we could help out. God led us to help clean tables and chairs with janitors. As I cleaned I thought about how grateful I was for all the janitors that had ever cleaned the tables I sat in over my thirteen years of school and prayed for the children that would be sitting in the rooms we cleaned next fall. I know for me it was definitely not what I had expected to be doing for part of the ATL day but God said trust me and I did. I must admit it was a lot of fun just to be working as a team. We left the school around noon searching for God’s next calling for my team. We decided together that we wanted to see the 9th ward, which was one of the hardest hit areas in New Orleans by hurricane Katrina. As we drove through those neighborhoods I could feel an overwhelming sadness in the car. There were plots of land with only concrete bases and driveways left, collapsing houses covered in vines, and not much feeling of life left in the neighborhoods. From there we decided that it was time to go get lunch, and we headed to Church’s Chicken. Quite delicious! After lunch Jeff Roeters just began driving our team toward the French Quarter. As we drove I shared with my team God’s leading for me to give a Bible to a man I had met on the Trolley yesterday named Rush who is a vagabond. All I knew was that he worked somewhere near the Trolley in the French Quarter and wore a black polo with a nametag for a uniform. So Michala, Ryan, Jeremy, Haley, and I jumped out of the van and began walking down the street looking in store windows to find a store that had black uniforms. After walking for a while we prayed and just stood there. All of sudden a man walked by and Michala thought she recognized him. Then the rest of our team came pouring out of the van, which was parked near us, and chased him down. His name was Patrick and we had met him on a prayer walk yesterday. He told us that his brother who we had prayed for had already turned from his evil ways and sought Christ. It was so awesome to be able to hear how God was already working! I believe that even though we did not find Rush God had us search for him so that we could find Patrick and hear about how great God is. So after that amazing encounter we left the French Quarter and headed to a nearby mattress store to buy Lynn, a woman Jeff had met a few days ago, a new mattress. Jeff had felt called to help Lynn after talking to her at the playground in front of the church we are staying at. It was awesome to be able to help someone in need. I know I have already shared so much with you all but to tell you the truth that is not even all of what happened today. God moved in amazing ways through every single team here today! Trusting in God really is the best thing we can do, it takes so much faith but God will never fail you he will always work in amazing and beautiful ways.

Thank you for listening and I hope you enjoyed the update! We Love you all!
-Jessie and Rachel

Thursday, July 7, 2011

New Orleans Day 4

I am on team Bomb-Diggity along with Eric and today we did our prayer walk in the morning. We broke up into two groups and devoted two hours to walk around the neighborhood to pray for the people and any houses we felt compelled to pray for. My group of six met this one lady named Miss Veil (or Mama Veil, which she preferred) as one of the first few people that we met. She was so full of joy and passion that it inspired us all in the beginning and gave us the mindset we needed in order to carry out what God wanted this morning. We encountered others with alcohol and various health problems and continued to pray over them. It was humbling to walk through a neighborhood and trying to imagine it under water from the devastation of Katrina. Although there were a few homes with the markings still on the doors from inspections right after the hurricane, it was amazing to see that the city is healing and God is doing his work even still.

After the prayer walk, we enjoyed an absolutely amazing lunch at Johnny’s Po-Boys where a downpour began. When it was time to move on to our next site, which was Living Water where we would go down to the river and hand out water bottles to people and engage in conversations. The rain made us hesitant about whether it would be worth it to go. After our leader Matt called one of the AIM staff, he made the call for all of us to sit on the curb and pray about what God wanted us to do next. We all were called to try out Living Water. So we walked over to a park along the river. I was partnered with Matt and we met Indio, a man who grew up in New Orleans. He is from Aztec decent and his background gave him the beliefs in Mother Nature who works along side of God, because God is “too busy” to take care of everything himself. Indio spent a lot of time talking continuously about this and made a point that it is a bad idea to test your faith because you will end up getting hurt in the end. As difficult as it was to hear that what is so crucial to my faith is a horrible idea, it only made me feel stronger because ironically, it was a test of my faith. As always. God held me and reminded me that he is only in control and reinforced everything that I stand for.

Thank you for your continued prayers- we all appreciate them. Pray that God’s plans will be carried out tomorrow as we get to pick our ministries.

-Carly Swieringa

I am on Team F, aka the Crawdaddy Crew! We have been blessed with some truly amazing experiences over the past couple of days. Our team is very willing to serve and it has been an honor to work with them.

Today we went to Mama Jan’s for a bible study and worship. Afterwards we went to one of the homes that she runs for recovering addicts to assist with some maintenance. It was very Flower City Work Camp-esque: we scrubbed floors, cleared out trash, did gardening, cleaned bathrooms, etc. It was nice to get on our hands and knees and do some physical labor for the Lord! We met a man named Tommy who also had a house for people in need like Mama Jan. He was kind and had an awesome testimony. We got the chance to clean up his house too.

The AIM staff is somewhat unorthodox in the fact that they rarely give us sermons or talks. Instead they lift us up in prayer and encouragement with each other. Tonight we did two exercises with them. In the first one we all sat (about 100 people) in a big circle and took turns reading aloud verses that God had set on our hearts. It was awesome to lift each other up in scripture like that. The second exercise we did was one where we split the group into two and went on opposite sides of the gym. One side would close their eyes while the other walked over and put their hand on one person’s shoulder. The person with their eyes closed asked the Lord for the words to speak and then began to pray aloud for the person who was touching their shoulder. We found that even though the people with their eyes closed had no idea who they were praying for, God gave them the words that that person needed to hear. I have never been on a missions trip with so much commradery and love amongst the team. You would be so proud of your kids if you could have seen them in this room, wholeheartedly and lovingly lifting up their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Thank you for your prayers. We can definitely feel them.

-Claire Stack

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Day 3, Total count still 80 strong

Today my team, team B, A.K.A. Bomb-diggity, had the task of the “Urban Plunge”. In this ministry we rode the trolley into downtown New Orleans and while on it we needed to try and talk to the person who sat next to us. I talked to a custom shoe designer, Tom, he was very chill and told me a lot about the city and culture of New Orleans. Many of the other kids on my team had very similar conversations that allowed us to tell people about what we were doing and why a bunch of “white kids” were hanging on a trolley. This was very difficult for some people because most of us aren’t used to just striking us a conversation with a complete stranger. Everyone did an excellent job and I am very proud of my team (and the kids on the other teams too).

We also did “Under the Bridge”, which Abby talked about yesterday. I talked to about 3 guys and really got a good idea of what its like for them on a day-to-day basis. I was surprised that many of them had such a positive outlook on their lives even though they are living under a bridge, because I’m not sure I would be able to be as thankful as they are.

-Eric DeHond

Today team C, short for team Classy, visited a ministry run by Mama Jan. To our surprise she turned out to be a 65 year-old white woman with an incredible testimony. Some very interesting stories throughout her life led her to find Christ as her savior and has made her on fire for the Lord ever since. She grew up in a family of witchcraft and made it very clear to us that Satan is real and alive in those people’s lives. Her destructive childhood made her a runner, a runner from her problems, for the first half of her life. She said that she was a member of the original Hell’s Angels and a victim of sexual assault. At age 38 she came to find Christ while in jail while nearly on her deathbed. After accepting Christ she has been probably one of the most outgoing Christians anyone will ever meet. Although her tactics may seem strange, such as running around New Orleans with a super soaker full of oil and water anointing them, she has done many great things for the city. The thing that stood out most to me were the children living in her house. A 14 year old who ran away from home, that has already seen 13 of his friends killed, was accepted at her house and now has a suitable home and sturdy support group. I challenge you parents to think about that for a minute. If a 13 or 14 year old African-American boy showed up on your doorstep and asked you if they could live with you, how many of you would say “I’m very sorry but this really isn’t the right time” or “you know there is a Salvation Army down the road that does this sort of thing.” She had the chance to say those things and put the boy into a dangerous situation but instead she lived her life like Jesus and accepted the boy with no hesitation because that is the kind of servant she is. There are plenty of other stories just as powerful that were told but there is not enough time to write them all, you will have to ask your children about those stories because I am sure that they will be more than happy to share them with you like I am. She is wonderful living story of the power of God in the lives of people who follow his callings for them. I challenge all the people who read this to ask your self a very simple question, would you take in that boy and show him God’s love? Or would you say, “sorry God but this just is not for me, maybe someone else but not me.” Mission’s trips are not only for the students but the people the team members interact with everyday. If God is pulling on your heart in a specific direction I encourage you to follow through with what he is telling you and bless so many people through Him. Please keep us in your prayers the rest of the week. Thank you and we all look forward to seeing all of you soon.

-Hunter Beck

Monday, July 4, 2011

Video Blog is up!

Hey everyone!

I just wanted to remind you that we are working hard to put up a video blog. We will try to update you on what is happening at the different ministry sites each day as well as other events. The following link will bring you to our youtube channel:

God Bless,

New Orleans Day 2

Today was our first day of ministry work. Each of the 6 teams went two places, one in the morning before lunch and one in the afternoon after lunch. My team had the opportunity to spend some time under a bridge that is known for sheltering homeless people this morning. We arrived with a cooler of bottled water, set out in groups, and simply handed out water and made conversation with the people beneath the bridge. I was privileged to talk with a man named Walter. He lost everything he had in Hurricane Katrina and had been turned down from relief housing agencies numerous times. Soon after introducing ourselves, Walter began to speak about his faith and what he had seen in New Orleans in relation to it. But what was really surprising to learn was how well he knew the Bible. He borrowed a Bible one of us had with us and pointed out many passages to support what he was sharing with us. Many of my teammates shared similar experiences: most of the people that were willing to talk under the bridge (and many of them were) knew Christ. We left the site with mixed feelings though. While we were encouraged that many knew Christ, we felt discouraged by their stories of how they have been taken advantage of and seemingly abandoned. We have faith, though, that God used what little time and bottles of water we had to make a difference.

Our second ministry experience today was prayer-walking in a New Orleans neighborhood named Treme. For those of you familiar with Flower City Work Camp, you are familiar with prayer walks, but for those of you who aren’t, a prayer walk is simply a walk in which we intentionally set out to prayerfully address the needs of the community and people we see. It was very encouraging that many people were willing to pray with us and that they seemed so open and friendly. Some did respectfully decline, but we prayed for them anyways. We prayed with one man who as texting on his porch when we walked up. The man Darrel, was very receptive to us and we prayed with him for family troubles he was having. Another man we spoke with spoke only Spanish, and one of the people I was serving with and stepped up and asked the man if he would like prayer in Spanish. It was incredible to see how the Holy Spirit was working all around and in us. It was also neat to be able to see a little bit of New Orleans along the way. The people here are so unique and unlike any other place I have been. They are welcoming and take a lot of pride in their community and city. Also for our evening meals we will be experiencing a variety of cultural food such as the sausage, beans, and rice dish we had this evening. In all, God had thoroughly blessed us today, and will continue to do so over the rest of the week.

Thank you for your faithful prayers!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

New Orleans Day 1

Hi Ya’ll…we arrived in New Orleans after cruising through check-in and security. We were blessed to be prayed over not only once by Mike Swank but twice by Pastor Rob who they allowed through security to pray for us before departure. After arriving in ATL, we were pleasantly surprised to see that our next gate was directly across from where we arrived! Phew! That sure made it easier and the kids were happy that they could then run down the terminal for a refreshment and bathroom break. Once we boarded we were informed that T-storms would delay us briefly. We sat on the tarmac for about a half hour…there were only 29 planes ahead of us for take-off but no one seemed too concern as they were enjoying spending time together. Upon arriving in NOLA, I received three compliments from exiting passengers about what wonderful students they are…one lady said that Martha and Alissa were definitely “God’s girls!” YAY! A great way to start a week of ministry. Everyone’s luggage arrived safely and our 15 passenger vans were ready for us. The mountain of luggage was unbelievable. Within an hour we were on our way to Gentilly Baptist Church.

Our home for the next week is wonderful. Bunkbeds and showers with AC! What more could we ask for? We were asleep around 1:30 am and up at 7 this morning. Our team worshipped at a charismatic Baptist Church with absolutely wonderful, vibrant singing and blessing of the Lord! Lots of smiles ☺ A visiting bishop from Atlanta gave the message and even busted a few dance moves. His message was good but it became quickly apparent that we were about to be exposed to things that most have never seen before. That being a “healing” service. This was not planned nor expected by the pastor of the church nor our Adventures in Mission coordinator. Needless to say, we were able to have some great conversation about what the Scriptures teach on this subject. I am sure the discussion is not over. In my opinion, I am happy for this experience because it challenges them to think about what they do believe and to investigate what God’s Word says. The church members were beautiful and gracious, welcoming us as family. This particular church had been severely damaged by Katrina and has since been rebuilt.

This afternoon we were blessed to visit each of the various ministry sites that we will be serving on this week. Along the way we were able to see much of New Orleans, including Jackson Square, the French Quarter, Superdome & the infamous bridges that were highly televised post-hurricane. Briefly, we will be involved in serving meals to the homeless, light work projects, prayer walks, visiting with homeless in order to hear their “stories” and share ours as well. We will also be participating in Bible Studies and prayer meetings that go on at various community ministries.

Your children are spectacular! I love them so much. Other than some minor grumbling about not enough food, they are doing great. Everyone seems to be in great spirits and super psyched for what God has planned for us this week. As I write this, I am listening to the sounds of rambunctious card games, kan jam in the gym, one team preparing to serve dinner and great conversation. Tonight we look forward to worship, teaching and a proper orientation from the AIM staff, and of course, a good nights sleep (please pray for this!)

Time willing, our hope is to have a different student blog each day from here on out. Please pray for servant hearts, humbleness, sensitivity to God and fruitful ministry. We are grateful for your prayers and support. Feel free to leave comments for the students and we will try to share them at night before bed. It will be like you are tucking them in ;) CHECK BACK FOR PICTURES LATER!

All for Jesus!