Tuesday, January 09, 2007

And now ... a testimony from a volunteer ...

This is how Joyce spent nearly all her week of volunteering. She was grouting the tile flooring in Barbara's house --- on her hands and knees MUCH longer than she had planned.

Her testimony follows. I pray it touches your heart as it did ours!

"Finding My Comfort Zone Through Jesus Christ

A few months back I wrote a story for my son, Steven. It was about how sometimes the way he was during birth he is in life. He likes to be comfortable. The story started out with how the OB needed to use forceps to bring Steven, reluctantly, into this world. I am pushing and saying, "come on, let's go" and he is hiding in the upper right quesrand of my womb and won't come out. And who could blame him; nobody wants to leave where they feel comfortable.

I thought about that story alot on my trip. In fact, within the first 5 hours of the trip I test messaged my best friend "I am so out of my comfort zone". I sent that message because I was traveling with 10 people who I did not know to a place I have never been.

Last year when the Bayshore Christian Fellowship went to Russia I was moved and inspired by the presentation they showed. I knew I was going this year and it did not matter where the mission would take place. I just needed to go.

Pastor Mike (who was a great spiritual leader) reminded us that this was a spiritual mission, not just a humanitarian effort. We were also give rules (or let's say commandments) ; no complaining, be on time, no drinking, be humble, etc. I focused on those in particular because I struggle with all of them from time to time. For the most part I successfully followed the commandments without much difficulty, which surprised me.

The week before we left the BCF came to our service and all the mission participants came up front. Jack, the mission leader, asked the congregation to pray for us -- he challenged our members, "if you are willing to pray for someone on this team, please stand". I was overwhelmed that everyone, every single person at the service, without hesitation, stood up. At the BCF service Pastor Mike asked us to talk about what we hoped to get from this mission. I said, "for me it is a mission of love and grace and what I had hoped for was a closer relationship with Jesus Christ".

My "email away" message at work said I would be out from August 7 and returning ??? I even told people that I was not coming back. And I was not sure why I made those statements.

I understand now why I made those statements. I received everything I wanted out of this mission. I am forever changed in my heart and mind from this trip. I am not the same person who left here on August 5th.

We were a group of 11 and were joined by Stephen, a 21 year old from Mississippi. Convoy of Hope helped to rebuild his home. He was so grateful that he devoted 3 days a week throughout the summer for mission work. Now, together we were a team of 12 working for Christ. 12 --- that number rings a bell somewhere. Everyone on this trip was there for a reason. many overcame obstacles to be there and that, in and of itself, is significant. A few had shut down their businesses in order to go on this mission. Some of us overcame the fear of motion sickness and flying, others gave up (for the most part) smoking. Some overcame great pain. (When you see someone with scars up and down their body, on their kneew for several hours a day, just to complete a task -- that is truly inspirational). We all have our God given gifts. I was humbled and amazed to see how the Lord worked through all of us for those 7 days.

This trip could have gone bad in so many ways. Up until a month or so before we left we didn't even know where we were going, we only knew it would be to the Gulf Coast. The reality of traveling with 10 strangers was weighing on my mind. As well as the thought of working in the Mississippi heat in August. I had to put these things out of my mind and keep faith. After all, I was called to serve.

We were blessed in so many ways on the trip. The group attended Sunday morning service at The Refuge church. At first i was a little uncomfortable. This is not my style of worship. There was a full band playing and a femal singer with 3 back up singers. People were clapping, jumping with joy and totally caught up in the Spirit. I just opened my heart and mind and I found much inspiration in the service that was really, truly moving. I felt myself being pulled closer the Christ with how jubilant the congregation was over an outreach program they ran the day before.

So, now I was really psyched for the mission work to begin. We met with Susan and Monty, the mission leaders, officially on Monday morning. (This couple left their Indiana home months ago to head up this mission for Convoy of Hope --- talk about faith). We were told for our mission we were going to work on a house that, back in May, was down to the studs. The owner, Barbara, was an elderly woman whose husband passed away a year before Katrina. This woman watched as the water rushed into her home and just kept rising. (there was no 2nd floor) She did not think she would live through the storm. She grabbed what few possessions she could, only saving the things that meant the most to her. Those items included 3 family Bibles. She rode out the storm on the highest thing she could find, her barstools. The water rose 4 feet high and then stopped rising. When it receded it took most of Barbara's possessions, things that took a lifetime to acquire. Picture it, you are in your mid 60s and everything you own is gone in a matter of hours. The home you lived in for most of your life is destroyed. There was no flood insurance (she did not live in a flood zone, she could not buy flood insurance)

We wer the 9th mission group to work on Barbara's house. We learned that we would be working in air conditioning. (it was installed the week before) There was much to do at the house and the main task was grouting the floating ceramic tile floor. The grout was extremely "user un-friendly" and there were no alternatives. We wound up grouting the entire house with this silicone based grout that squirted out of a can. We came to thing of it as "cheese whizzing" the floor. The grout was so hard to work with that it needed to be reapplied the next day.

A day or so into the mission Susan said that she felt our team was "the" team that was going to complete Barbara's house. And that is just what we did --- finish her house. We were so blessed to be able to watch this woman, who lost so much, cut the ribbon and open the door to her renovated home. A home she never thought she would live in again. She had no furniture in the house except a bedroom set. At the last minute sheets were being put on the bed and the sight of her seeing her bedroom furniture intact was overwhelming to Barbara. She had decided then and there that she was going to sleep in her home that night! This was a beautiful and awesome thing.

I met many dedicated Christians on this trip. Starting with my new found friends at BCF. 10 strangers became 10 friends. Then there was Diane, from Wisconsin, our mission work leader. She had been down in Mississippi right after Katrina hit as a first responder. When Diane went home a month before she paced the floor and decided she needed to go back. She has been there for over 6 months. I met another woman, Patricia who was in her 60s and ministers to prisoners. "Wow, how long have you been doing that?" I asked. She said around 31 years! I asked her "how's that working out for you?" She went on to tell me her services are packed to the rafters. She told me her home was completely destroyed by the storm. She also told me it was prisoners, who were grateful to her for bringing the Lord into their lives, that both raised money and rebuilt her home.

On this trip I surrendered to God. I was successful in remembering that it's now about me, it is about other who need help. I opened my heart, mind and soul to what it really means to be a Christian. Not by using power over people but by using power under people, people who need you, as Jesus did. And evangelical minister in the Midwest pointed that out in his sermons. I have come to realize that when you use your power under people --- you lift them up. You lift them up with love and grace and in turn you become closer to Christ. Closer to how Christ lived His life.

I am humbled and grateful that I found my "comfort in life" through my "uncomfortable mission." I think about how I ended my son's story. I ended with this statement: Sometimes, Steven, it is the "uncomfortable" that makes this life wonderful."

I hope all of you were touched by Joyce's testimony! Thank you, Joyce, for sharing with all of us! We love you and pray God's blessing on you and your family!

Until tomorrow ..... Susan and Monty


Anonymous said...

hey monte and susan,
glad you guys are still providing service down on the gulf. you guys keep up the good work. i have tried to contact you but haven't much time as my schedule won't allow for it. i am thinking of you and hoping that you get to come home soon. sorry i missed you at christmas but my schedule is so busy. maybe i can get some free time and the family and i can come visit. please keep in touch.
tony newton

Joyce Mancine said...

I am once again humbled that you chose to run my essay.

I was reminded by my family about how happy I was when I returned from the mission. Work like this adds so much perspective to your life.

God Bless.