Back in March, Mike Hain, Director of Youth Leader Connection, led a team from Iowa to Lakeshore. He reports:
My heart is full as I reflect on the blessings of God as He worked in and through us on our Xtreme Relief trip to Mississippi. It’s hard to put this kind of a trip into words, especially because of the overwhelming devastation that we saw due to the hurricanes of 2005. As many of you know, after returning from a mission trip, you find yourself periodically saying, “You had to have been there”. But maybe through the following brief report of our trip, you will at least get a small glimpse of how God used our team of 14 teens and 5 adults in this relief effort at Lakeshore, MS.
Driving into the area of Lakeshore was a shock, to say the least. We just couldn’t believe the damage that we saw, and the stories that we heard of destruction. It seemed like a war zone, as if a bomb had been dropped. Now the people are re-building their homes and their lives.
We stayed at the Lakeshore Baptist Church, which was sort of the hub for the relief effort for that community. There were temporary housing and portable facilities that volunteer groups like ours used while helping out. One of the greatest blessings to us was to hear the vision of that church: to use their resources to help their community re-build before they re-built their own church. What a Christ-like example of sacrifice and giving! It is apparent that God is using this attitude to give them numerous opportunities to share Christ with the community, including times when neighbors come on their property to receive food and water donations.
We decided as a group that our role in the relief effort would be to help out in any way we could. Basically, we asked those leaders that were coordinating the projects on campus and in their community what needed to be done, and we made a task list from that for our group. We did a variety of things including: painting, hauling, cleaning, cooking, loading, sorting donations, carpeting, and some demolition. At the end of the week, the pastor said that he had been encouraged by our group’s flexibility and willingness to do whatever needed to be done. What an encouragement to know that we had blessed them!
Our group enjoyed time with each other! After a long day’s work, we would hurry to the beach and then re-cap the day with our Bible study in Nehemiah. We also enjoyed a day at New Orleans, which was only an hour away. The 2-day bus ride to MS from Des Moines, IA also provided plenty of opportunities for memorable moments!
What did we learn from this experience?
I am grateful to Pastor Don Elbourne for speaking to our group of volunteers on Wed. night and articulating what he saw was the purpose of our being there. I felt this was exactly what we needed to hear! He challenged us to think past our being there just to do work projects or team up with others in this relief effort. He wanted us to look at the lives of the Christians in that community, and see their example. He spoke from 2 Cor. 1:3-11, and shared with us that just as Paul received comfort from God in his trials and suffering, so the people of Lakeshore were also receiving comfort in their trials. But not only for their sakes…but for ours as well. Don communicated that it was his desire for us to see their dependence on Christ, and apply this truth to our lives as we face suffering and trials or our own. He shared that this tragedy was worth it if their lives could be an example to others. I feel that this reality radically impacted our group, and I pray that it will stay with us forever.