Never the Same
Aug 4, 2019 | by Nancy Newbrough
I am a future 8th grader and have been a member of The Fellowship for five years. Since I give nearly a hundred hours every year to Fellowship Kids, VBX, and other events, I am no stranger to serving. And yet, when I was asked to attend this year’s student mission trip to help the under served, I almost did not want to go. Giving my time to the homeless people of Houston was a far cry from teaching kindergartners their memory verse. Maybe I did not feel mentally prepared to experience what real poverty is!
Nevertheless, a few weeks later, I found myself in a van with the mission directors on my way into Houston. My oldest sister and confidant for the trip had encouraged me to come. After all, I knew service is one of the best ways to connect with God. And I realized this mission event was being heavily covered in prayer!
Our first stop was a small donation center and charity called Crossroads. Homeless and impoverished people go there to pick up clothes, better shoes, and free meals. Most of us stayed in the bite-sized cafeteria and began conversations with the 30 or so people there.
Since I am not a conversationalist, I decided to hand out shoes to the homeless. The people who came surprised me! I had no idea what to expect from people in need, but in reality, the faces I saw were those of normal human beings who had suffered more than hopefully I ever will. It was a startling reminder that, no matter what anyone goes through, all are loved and looked after by God.
What surprised me more was that, after the donations were handed out, a talent show was being held! The homeless people of the Crossroads danced and sang for us volunteers. I cannot say it was perfect, but I can say I was touched. These people have been through so much, and yet they could still find delight in the little things.
After serving lunch and tidying up, we departed for Katy Christian Ministries. It, too, is a donation center, but run a lot more like a store. People can get cheap clothes and free food rations. More than 90% of KCM’s income goes to improving the lives of the less fortunate.
Most of our tasks centered around peanut butter. First, it was heaving boxes full of peanut butter jars across the storage area. Then, it was slicing the boxes open before stacking the jars onto a shelf.
Peanuts, peanuts, peanuts! I will never take PB&J for granted again!
It was back-breaking work that went on for what felt like days. However, while breaking a sweat in the storage room, we could see the shoppers making their selections. The scene like any grocery store setting: parents looked for the healthiest choices while their children fooled around and rode in the shopping carts. It shook me when I remembered the conditions they must be living in. There they were, finding hope and support in dark times while I complained about peanut butter. To be honest, it made me feel a little whiny.
After finishing up, we went straight back to The Fellowship. Our leaders got us working on care packages. They are essentially plastic baggies filled with necessities like tissues, toothbrushes, and snacks that members of the church will take and hand out to people on the streets.
With each package is a note handwritten by members of our youth group. Everyone wrote phrases like, “God loves you!” in big, bubbly letters, but I took it a step further. Instead of just jotting a few words, I decided to write an encouraging letter on each of those itty-bitty index cards and ended with the words, “YOU ARE LOVED!” in all caps.
Once all 160 packages were done, we traveled to our host home for the night. The host home is simply the house of a church member lent to ten or so students for all nights of the mission. Just before we went to sleep, our youth leaders asked us what we had seen God do in us and others that day. My friends took the words right out of my mouth: the homeless are God’s creation, too. They have emotions, talents, dreams, and personalities, just like us.
For the longest time, I wanted to pretend homelessness was just a myth. That day was the reality check I needed. Poverty is very real, and as tempting as it is to ignore, it does not erase the problem.
That was just day one of the mission trip! In the days that followed, we cleaned up a children’s home called Boys & Girls Country, sorted clothes at a different KCM site, heard the testimony of a former homeless man, and painted a barn for Katy Cares! I know God sent me on the Houston Mission Trip to learn what it really means to serve, and boy, did I learn a lot!
God graciously answered the prayers of so many who were praying that our lives would be impacted! No prayer ever falls on deaf ears because God is always listening. My life will never be the same!
But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.
1 Samuel 12:24