Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Vermont Trip - Day 5

In yesterday's post, I subtly alluded to the fact that we had done a lot of painting. Maybe you picked up on that. Because we worked so hard yesterday, we decided to goof off a little this morning. Don't worry though, it is “missional goofing off,” as we are constantly evaluating our surroundings, our experiences, and our situations in light of the big picture of how God is using us here and now, and how He wants to use IBC here in Vermont in the future. In that sense, a little missional goofing-off is necessary, for it gets us exposed to various contexts of life here, which is essential for a team with a primary objective of “visioning.” Anyway, that's our story about the goofing-off and we are sticking to it!

So, we began the day by sleeping in a little later than usual and rolling out of the driveway somewhere around the crack of 10:00. We were in desperate need for a good breakfast, especially considering the near-famine conditions we've been enduring. Haven't you sensed in my previous posts the food crisis we are faced with here? Some have emailed with concerns. We are making it, barely. If we ever had a reason to be hungry, we made up for it today. One might say that we spent the day (if not the entire trip) “grazing.” Now, where was I? Oh yeah! Breakfast. We decided to check out some reviews of local restaurants, starting with one called “Soup N' Greens.” The first review we read said that it should probably be called “Poop N' Screams,” so we opted to avoid that one. We settled instead on one described as “the diner that time forgot,” The Wayside in Berlin (Vermont, not Germany). It could perhaps be compared to Tex N' Shirley's in Greensboro in terms of the atmosphere. The food was decent, highlighted by “Real Vermont Maple Syrup” and maple sausage. The maple sausage has definitely been the best maple “anything” that I have had since I have been here.

From the Wayside, we set out toward Stowe, figuring that between Point A and Point B, we would find plenty to occupy us. The stretch of road between I-89 and Stowe is home to every “tourist trap” in the state of Vermont, it seems. We chose the one that sounded most interesting, the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, and plugged it into the GPS and let “Emily” lead the way. We passed by the Ben & Jerry's facility, opting not to pay the $4 for a tour, but we stopped into a Cabot Cheese shop and did a little free sampling of various kinds of cheese and maple products. From there we proceeded on to the Cider Mill, only to walk in and find a big sign that said, “We've run out of cider FOR THE YEAR!” I felt like Clark Griswold when he punched Marty Moose in the nose! But, they had not run out of cider donuts (how do you run out of cider, but you can still make cider donuts? I'm saying there's a conspiracy here!), and we each enjoyed one. Had I known they were only 50 cents a piece when I ordered them, I might have enjoyed several dollars worth, but alas, I was still running a little heavy from breakfast and all that free cheese.

From the Cider Mill we drove up to the Trapp Family Lodge, a beautiful and scenic (and expensive) resort, where we merely jumped out to take a few pictures. The resort is not original, but the site is the location where the Von Trapp Family (think, “The hills are alive ...”) came to live in America. The place seemed popular with international travelers, mostly Europeans. I would liken it to places like Grove Park Inn, the Broadmoor, or other fancy joints that are way out of my league. But, if you have the means, enjoy! I, for one, do not have the means.

We came back down through “tourism alley” and made our way over to Camel Hump State Park. Here we enjoyed a very serene and lovely drive up, and back down, a high mountain on a gravel road that runs along side of a rocky stream. The park seems to be a favorite among hikers, and while I wished I could just park our rented Crown Victoria and hit the trail for a while (needing to walk off several days of over-indulgence), time did not permit, so we head over to Northfield to begin our late-day work, but not before swinging into the Pump N' Pantry for another Maple Creamie. Since I had to drive, and not knowing if I could lick and drive at the same time, I opted for a Maple Shake, and it was delish! On our way to the church in Northfield, we stopped to take a couple of pictures at what we are calling “Blalock Gap.” Every day we have passed by this beautiful vista, and yesterday Jim said, “Guys, ya'all could just bury me over there.” Hence our nickname for the spot.

At New Life, we began the task of cleaning up our mess from yesterday's Paint-A-Thon. Pastor Trey and his family came by and gave us some encouraging appreciation about the paint-job. While Eric and Jim prayerwalked around the town farmer's market in the town square, I sat on the sidewalk outside the door of the church and had a divine appointment with a young man who just moved in above the church a few days ago. I was able to introduce him to Trey, and I pray they are able to build a relationship with him in the coming days.

We set out to do some neighborhood evangelism on Water Street, one of the areas most severely affected by Hurricane Irene nearly one year ago. Houses along the river are almost all abandoned. Some recovery work had begun on many of them, but rumor of a FEMA buyout has prompted many owners to give up the effort and relocate elsewhere. Strips of duct tape on each house indicate the “high water mark” from the storm, and we were all shocked by the devastation that the area endured. In the homes where we found people still living, mostly across the street from the abandoned homes, we had some enjoyable conversations. One lady has recently begun attending the church and was there Sunday when I preached. I had a thorough gospel conversation with a man in a nearby home, but he seemed more interested in prognosticating about Mayan end-of-the-world theories. Several families commented positively about the relief work that Southern Baptists (and New Life Church in particular) have done in the area. Our most enjoyable interaction was with “John,” a middle-aged new believer who seems to be growing in his walk with the Lord. He invited us in and showed us his progress of rebuilding and restoring his home. These interactions gave us an encouraging glimpse of what God is doing in Vermont. Along this single street we saw the full range of personalities and spiritual climate here. There was a hard-hearted unbeliever, one who is nearly “ripe for the picking,” one who is only beginning to receive the seed of the word, and one who is a new believer taking baby steps in the faith. All of them were overwhelmingly friendly and hospitable to us. In spite of the heartbreaking devastation that they have endured, we were left with the impression that the harvest is ripe but the laborers are few. We are more alert to pray to the Lord of the harvest to thrust forth more laborers into the harvest field! Following our prayerwalking and visiting, we debriefed with Pastor Trey at his home and had a prayerful farewell with him and his family.

The air had grown cool and the evening late, so we began to search for a place to have dinner. Most of the restaurants in rural Vermont close-up relatively early, so we ended up at a “neighborhood place” in Berlin called Applebees (maybe it has something to do with the local apples, but I hear rumors that they are expanding). After eatin' good in the neighborhood, with full bellies and tired eyes, we have now returned to the Calef House to retire for the evening. It is another clear evening, and the stars are overwhelmingly beautiful, but we don't have the stamina to enjoy them tonight. We have a full day ahead of us tomorrow, so we need to rest up. Tomorrow, we shift our focus to the town of Barre.

Once again, I reiterate how grateful we are for your prayers. We have all given testimony to how the Lord has blessed and sustained us during this trip. We are all dealing with a healthy bit of homesickness, but we are rejoicing together in what the Lord is doing in and through us, and moreover what He has been doing and continues to do here in Vermont. I look forward to reporting to you tomorrow about the work we will do in Barre.

Good night!  

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