Reflections on our Youth Mission Trip – Colorado 2014

We are excited to share some of the stories, lessons learned, photos, reflections & MORE. See the details from each day of our mission trip below.

10352747_692934247453551_8497898608949838323_nMISSION TRIP DETAILS:
When: Friday, July 18 though Monday, July 28, 2014
Where: Lyons, Colorado
Why: They went to join other groups in Colorado and aided in the flood relief project.
Who: The group consist of 6 youth (ages 12-17) – Apsen, Bethany, Cassi, Madi, Morgan, Nora and 3 adults – Ashleigh, Charlotte, and Pastor Phil.

For more information about WHY we went on this trip, click here.

thankyou Special THANKS to Ashleigh Bruns for all her hard work coordinating this mission trip! She also sent out the information below in daily emails to keep everyone updated on what was going on.

Day 1: And We’re OFF!

Cracker Barrel PictureAs I reflect on the journey before us I think about Romans 12: 1-2a, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (NIV). As we begin this trip we are not only offering ourselves in service to others, but God is changing the lives of the six students and three adults going as well. It is a blessing to watch the students begin to become a cohesive group prepared to work together.

We left this morning from Whitewater, WI at 7:45am! We left earlier than we expected and had a great drive through Illinois, Iowa, and ending in Lincoln, NE. We watched movies, talked, and had a great time as we set off on an incredible trip to serve those in Longmont/Lyons. We thank you all for your contributions to helping make this trip a reality and are excited to share the journey with all of you over the next 10 days.

From Nora:
Thank you for the donations we are very happy we got to go on this adventure. Today we had are first journey all the way to Nebraska it was an amazing time all the way here. Tomorrow we are on are way to Colorado, and I really get to see and help very different people and I am very excited!!!!

Day 2: Colorado at last!

Outside Hotel gorilla pic“I lift my eyes to the hills, from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and Earth” (Psalms 121:1-2).

Today I reflect on the amazingness of God’s creation! Seeing Colorado and the few glimpses of mountains through my student’s eyes serve as a reminder of God’s awe and wondrous creation. The mountains were my Grandmother Hazel’s favorite (The family Farm that we are staying at is Ashleigh’s maternal grandparents). Today I remember her life and share her legacy (She passed away a year ago) with the 6 students and 2 other adults traveling with me. A year after her passing, her legacy of service, fellowship, mountains, and finding joy in walking the lane and playing in the ditch continue on into a new generation!

Travel today went well. We drove from Lincoln, NE to Eaton, CO. We watched movies, sang, talked, and the student’s slept. It was a fairly uneventful drive, which is the best kind.

Morgan- Today we drove all the way to Colorado. On the way we were eating the candy that we bought yesterday and watched lots of movies, including Frozen (classic), Narnia, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. When we got to Mrs. Ashleigh’s grandpa’s house we unloaded our stuff into the spare house. It was an air-conditioned, finished house that was filled up with our stuff in minutes. We were all having headaches by the time we got there, except Madi and Mrs. Ashleigh. We were all existed and still getting use to the time change with only some complications. We got a ride on Mrs. Ashleigh’s grandpa’s tractor and Aspen got to drive. We are having a lot of fun! Thank you for your support on our mission trip! Bye Morgan

Day 3: Longmont, CO

10403461_10152196233541262_5585133598782724918_n“Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” (Genesis 28:16).

Did you know that a kitchen, living room, and beside a lake could be holy ground. Today we praised God and celebrated communion in my family’s home and then drove to a lake and ate a picnic. Some of us enjoyed the warm temperatures. God is truly in this place and with theses students. I continue to feel blessed by their presence and by how God is already working through them. Last night the students already began to serve by weeding my Grandmother’s garden, cleaning up after themselves, and being kind to my Grandfather who delighted in the noise and laughter of six teenage girls running around his house. He pulled me aside this morning and told me how courteous, kind, and precious these students are and how he felt blessed to have them at the Farm. Our acts of service do not have to be expensive preplanned outings they can also be the kind gesture, the smile, and the helping hands.

We just arrived in Longmont!! So far today in the morning started out with a walk and a worship service. For lunch we ate at a little park and it was good we enjoyed having fun with each other. We are very excited to start working tomorrow it is going to be very HOT.

Day 4: Reflections

10502252_10152198469841262_8713301972011566642_n“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop” (Matthew 13:1-8a).

Today was spent clearing away sand, dirt, and rocks that had been carried through Lefthand Canyon into a yard choking out the trees and plants that had once been there. The meaning of good soil became more and more apparent as the depth of the sand and rocks became apparent. The meaning of good soil developed as we sought a place to make a garden and ourselves became good soil for the Word of God and the ministry to others.

Cassi’s Reflection10509527_10152198470086262_8792599347853841129_n
This day was really fun and I’m really, really excited that I’m going to lose all of my tummy weight because we are working so hard! It was really depressing seeing all the devastation that the flood caused, but it was cool seeing how the community came together.

Pastor Phil’s reflection
Water is an awesome thing. It was pointed out to us on our first day here in Longmont that the same which nurtured us in our mother’s womb, the same water that moistened our heads at baptism, the same water that sustains all life on this planet, is the very same water which caused so much devastation ten months ago here in Colorado. Water. It’s awesome, it’s life giving, but it can be destructive. I thought about this today (as we were moving rocks) and realized that humanity operates in much the same way. We can be destructive. But we can also be nurturing, life giving, and together we can be sustaining. The group that we have here are the latter. They are sustaining others with their service, they are building each other up and as a group we are coming to realize that the Still-Speaking God has something to say to us in this place and at this time. God is good! Amen!

Day 5: Going Strong!

10488090_10152200355911262_561072644514514866_n“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4).

While this passage is referring to our spiritual journey and our continuing in the good fight and in our faith, this passage also speaks of perseverance developing character. It has been my joy to see the students be the first to volunteer to help their teammates and develop their character away from the influence of technology. They have continued working long after they were hot, tired, had headaches, or felt ready to go. They have endured the two days of work at the home that we were helping and were able to see the joy of moving from cleanup to restoration by bringing in new good soil.

Tomorrow we move from the homes in Lefthand Canyon to help the city of Lyons, CO. We will be doing lots of debris cleanup and odd jobs. This also marks a transition for a couple days without Internet access. I will begin sending our reflections again when I can. Thank you again for all of your prayers and support as Phil, Charlotte, the students, and myself grow and experience God’s hand in our lives.

Let me end tonight with a blessing that I give Emilie (my 4 and a half year old daughter) and now give the students as we go to bed.

While making the sign of the cross on their heads:
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You are marked with the cross of Christ forever a Beloved Child of God. God loves You!

Nora Reflection: Today we have finished are first project we were so excited are we moved on and going to a different location. Tomorrow we are going to start another project and we are so VERY excited! We hope that we all stay SUNBURN free.

Day 6: Reflection Lyons Work Day

DSCN0544“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

Our verses for today reflected on the story of the good shepherd. We reflected on how we worked as the good shepherd in leaving to search for those that needed our help. We also talked about God’s sacrificial love for us. God so loves us that he notices when as individuals we are hurting or lost and are in need of help. We just need to ask.

On our trip today we packed up our belongings at First Lutheran and went to Lyons to work in the “debris pile.” This is a collection of miscellaneous items that have been left/trapped in the wooded areas where the flood waters dropped them off. It contains trees, soil, sand, rocks, and anything and everything that had been in garages or homes. In the time that we were there we food part of a croquet set, a hot tub, pictures, a cross, propane cylinder, and a cooler. We worked in our small groups on various sections of the pile. The group of Nora, Morgan, and Ashleigh fought long and hard to free a tree that had been covered and entangled up to 6 feet up its trunk. We cleared the entire gunk away including part of a chain link fence that was still attached the wood post. After doing this we found at the bottom a large tree that was cutting into the surviving trees. It was 10 feet long and became our “white whale.” We fought long and hard and after many hours freed it from it s entrapment. The girls were so proud of themselves and learned that girls are capable to doing hard things without being rescued by a man. They are strong and capable to accomplish tasks. It has been a delight seeing them come into their own and stand on their own feet confident to take on the world around them.

After clearing this area we went for ice cream and dinner and then drove up to Sky Ranch camp where we will spend several days without Internet access camping together.

Bethany’s Reflection
Yesterday we did debris pick up and got really far on that and we also went out for ice cream after we worked hard and that was great. We also went up in to the mountains to a camp called Sky Ranch. I learned that I can do something good for them and that I can do better than I did on past mission trips.

Day 7: Sky Ranch Day Camp

DSCN0697Parable of the Mustard Seed
“He also said, ‘ This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain- first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, hew puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come’” (Mark 4:26-29).

We reflected on what the mustard seed in this parable can mean. We came up with our faith starting out small and growing into a larger and larger faith than accomplish incredible things. We also talked about hope and the hope that the residents now have as a result of our work with them. We talked to several members of the Lyons community and they talked about the dashed hope at the beginning and that they’ve seen more and more people come to their aid and as they have seen God’s hands at work the hope has grown. This is incredible considering their annual budget for caring for the community is 1 million dollars and the amount of damage done totaled over 60 million dollars. Our contribution made an incredible difference.

As our day went on we had another application of this parable to internal personal courage. Our students had the opportunity to face their internal fears by participating in a high ropes course. It was amazing to see them come together and support each other in this task. The most memorable member was Nora who in spite of her fear climbed the pole and stood at the edge of the zip line. She looked to her teammates, but internally to herself and learning to trust God and us that she is strong and capable. After several minutes she took the leap and the courage that she had that began as a small seed within her grew a little bit more as she realized she can accomplish great things in the face of fear.

We had a fun day of climbing to the waterfall, doing low ropes/teambuilding, high ropes, community store, games, and worship together.

Nora’s Reflection
Today we started off with a hike up to a beautiful waterfall and then did low ropes, which is team building activity. After lunch we did high ropes and what we did in high ropes was zip-lining it was amazing!!!!

Day 8: Leaving Sky Ranch

DSCN0755This was our final day at camp. Our theme for the week was Gifted to Grow and I feel like we have embodied this phrase in every sense of the word. Our students have reflected on their gifts and have used them to serve those that we came to serve. They have each gone of their own personal journeys and encountered each other and Christ in new ways.

Sunday’s theme: In the Beginning
Monday’s theme: It was Good
Tuesday: Full of Promise10561604_687262494687393_5296807548998783659_n
Wednesday: Broken and Scattered
Thursday: Promised Renewed
Friday: Fullness of Creation

Aspen Cook’s Reflection:
We began the week with donuts, when we arrived in Colorado, we had a lot of fun hanging out. After the first days, we began to work on flood relief. Most of us now hate rocks due to the amount of shoveling we did. We worked in the hot sun and had a great time knowing that we were making a difference, getting to know each other, and working together. I especially enjoyed talking to Charlotte, neither of us knew the other when the trip began but now I can say that we have a friendship. On the second work day, we felt triumphant when we were able to put the dirt down so that the patch of rocks and sand could later become a garden. Throughout this time we had worship every day and night and discussed what we were learning. Worship was very inspiring and helped us bond and renewed our faith in Christ. Throughout the rest of the week, we worked, camped, laughed, bonded, praised God, and had a unique and wonderful time. Today, we will be on our way back towards Wisconsin. We hope to take what we have learned down the mountain and share our faith with others.

Day 9: Rocky Mountain National Park

10455390_10152208441696262_6029873047876453360_n“He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, he who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the Earth- The Lord God Almighty is his name” (Amos 4:13).

We woke up at the YMCA of the Rockies and met my mom, Linda Heesch, to begin our trek through the park. She donated her time to serve the mission team with Colorado knowledge, stories, and history. We drove up Trail Ridge Road to the Alpine Visitor Center, which is at 11,796 feet above sea level. We crossed over the highest point on the road, which is at 12,183 feet above sea level. The students stared in wonder at the heights of the peaks and the beauty of the valley lakes. We walked up to the Alluvial Fan Falls and around Sprague Lake. All agree that this has been a trip of a lifetime and one in which they will reflect on for years to come. The time serving those affected by the flood, the time on the mountaintop, and the bonding that has occurred in the team members will stay with those that attended this mission trip for years to come.

We were blessed to spend the day in Rocky Mountain National Park. Through our adventures in the park, God’s love and His hand in creation came into focus. It truly was a mountain top experience. The delight, wonder, and joy on the faces of the students served as the perfect concluding activity to our service time in Colorado. They were able to meet more of the people we are helping, see the places, and bring the reality of why we are working so hard to preserve the land into concrete terms.

Morgan’s Reflection
Today we started our day at a buffet like breakfast. We then we turned in our keys for the YMCA and started to Mrs. Ashleigh’s moms place to get her and her jeep. Once we got them we went site seeing all around the mountains. It was one of the best views that all of us has every seen! We went to the highest point of our trip on the way to the Rocky Mountain National park. Everyone was tired so we went to a waterfall and a lake and walked around it. It started to rain so we hoped back into the car and started on to the shopping. After the hour of shopping we drove to Red Robin to eat dinner. Then My Aunt and Uncle came to get me and I don’t know what they did the rest of the trip but it must be fun, because the whole trip before was amazing! We had lots of fun!
By- Morgan Radaj

Day 10: Leaving Colorado

10547434_10152208442076262_4001456775967731009_n“but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint”
(Isaiah 40:31).

Ashleigh’s Reflection
Today we left Colorado and began our drive to Lincoln, NE. We drove up I-76 to I-8- East to Lincoln, NE. Everyone is enjoying the quiet and peace of the cars and some time to relax and rest. It is interesting to reflect that on the drive out the cars were full of excitement and life and now as we begin our drive back there is a sense of a mission completed and a job well done. They have worked hard and played hard for many days and the time has come to rest. The drive has gone well and we all feel blessed to have been part of this mission team. I know that I will always remember the laughs and the stories from this trip for years to come.

Charlotte’s Day 10 Reflection
This morning, Ashleigh returned to each of us a letter we wrote back on July 3 at a meeting to prepare for our Mission Trip. We wrote about what we hoped to learn or do on the trip and anything we were afraid of or concerned about. We sealed up our letters-they were just between each of us and God. I had completely forgotten about them-but God hadn’t!! Each of my concerns/worries was totally taken care of and I am thankful for that. I had a lot of good experiences on this trip and feel like both my spiritual and physical selves were challenged and strengthened. I will be thinking about the things I learned and figuring out how God would have me “bring them down the mountain” and put them into practice in my real everyday life in Whitewater!

Day 11: Final Day and arrival in Whitewater

_10446678_10152209213706262_3187290673057743167_nThanksgiving and Prayer

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:3-11).

What I will take away from this trip is the incredible strength and courage of these students. They have accomplished great things and discovered themselves outside of their comfort zones. God has met them where they are and walked this long and at times challenging journey with them. God has gifted each and every one of them to be uniquely who they are. I feel blessed to be able to hear their stories and see some of the ways that God will call them into ministry. We have laughed and cried together and ultimately became a cohesive group of ministers.

Pastor Phil’s Reflection
Jesus tells us time and again (and in many different ways) to give our love away. This is the thought that has been in the back of my mind over the course of these past ten days. All of you who have supported us, the people we met along the way, and the mission team itself have both given and received love. Of this I have no doubt. Now, that being said, I have no way of knowing what long term effects this “love in action” experience will have on these six girls (or on the three leaders for that matter) I am sure however, that the seeds sown throughout this mission trip will bear fruit in the weeks, months, and years to come. And I am also sure that the ministry of Jesus Christ will be lived out in many different ways and for many years to come through these girls. Thank you for supporting us and for loving us. The Light of Jesus Christ shines a little more brightly because of you! -Pastor Phil