Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Vermont Trip Day 6

Here's a little quiz:

What did we do today?
(A) Paint
(B) Eat some bizarre foods at even more bizarre places
(C) Do our best to encourage some brethren at a local church
(D) All of the above

If you guessed "D," then obviously you have been following along with the daily updates I've been posting.

Our day began with us meeting with Pastor Jim of Barre Baptist Fellowship, and having a brief breakfast at the local Dunkin Donuts. When Dunkin Donuts says "America Runs on Dunkin" that may be an overstatement; but this American definitely runs on Dunkin, and with my breakfast sandwich, maple frosted donut, and cinnamon coffee downed, we were ready to grab our paintbrushes!

Our painting today was at the Sexual Assault Center in Barre. We painted for about six hours in very hot sunshine, giving a spruced up appearance to the back porch of the Center. These hours we have spent painting (a total of about 16 hours) have been hard work, but it has been during these times that the Lord has blessed us with rich fellowship. During these hours, I am able to see how the Lord has put this team of three together in a unique and special way. We've solved many of the world's problems as we've scraped, sanded, brushed, and rolled.

For lunch, we decided to sample some local cuisine at the Snack Shack. It is not quite the 9th Wonder of the World (See Day 2 Update), but it comes close in accomodation. The Snack Shack is basically an old camper that serves up a wide variety of sandwiches, burgers, and fries. We'd been informed that the burgers were the specialty, but I was in the mood for something a little different. I ordered Roxanne's Hot Hoagie -- a 9-inch sub with fries on the sandwich, covered by chili, jalapenos, green peppers and onions. The name tells you that it is hot; the description on the menu says that it is hot; the waitress told me that it was hot; and the cook shouted from the window of the camper to warn me that it was hot. I was STILL unprepared for how hot this sandwich was. It was, quite possibly, the most horrific thing I have ever put in my mouth. With one bite, tears were streaming down my face, my nose was running, and I felt as if someone had grabbed me by the throat and slung me around the yard. I ate about four bites, and was encouraged by the staff that I ate more of it than anyone ever had. I asked if I won a T-shirt or something, but I didn't. I offered my teammates a sampling, but they wisely declined. We engaged in some creative thinking to come up with a nickname for the sandwich. The top finalists were "The Come-to-Jesus Burger" and "Satan's Enema." I asked the staff what makes it so violently hot, and I was told that it was "Mom's secret recipe." I told them that I hoped she would take that secret to her grave, as a matter of public safety.

With my tongue still swollen and my lips still feeling as if they'd been set ablaze by the very fire of Hades, we went back to our painting. We were pleased with the outcome and hope the folks at the Center are half as impressed as we were with our own handiwork. When quittin' time rolled around, we walked back to the church to get ready for Bible Study. Pastor Jim was kind enough to prepare some hot dogs for us and a small handful of church members, and then I led a brief study on Acts 1 in which I shared a bit of our journey to become an intentionally missional church, hoping to challenge the church to look beyond its own Jerusalem to the unreached areas of Vermont and the Nations.

We returned to the Calef House tonight deeply burdened by what we have seen and experienced this week (I was also deeply burdened by Roxanne's Hot Hoagie, but that is a different story). The town of Barre has a gritty, urban feel; a stark contrast from the idyllic setting of Northfield. Yet, both mission fields are challenging in their own ways. We are encouraged to see the faithfulness of the saints in both settings reaching out to their own communities, but the needs are so great, it causes us to wonder what God might be leading us to embrace for a long-term mission strategy in the region. We are also deeply burdened for the virtually untouched lostness in the part of Vermont known as "The Northeast Kingdom." If you draw horizontal lines across Vermont, dividing into thirds, the upper third seems to be the area with the greatest need of Gospel sowing. The Northeastern corner has very little evangelical presence. We have heard reports of struggling churches there, and the need for new churches there. It would not be an understatement to say that we are spiritually burdened to the point of confusion.

We have decided that tomorrow, after we serve lunch at the Soup Kitchen at Barre Baptist, we may (time permitting) do some door-to-door around the church to get a feel for the spiritual climate of Barre. But we are also feeling an undeniable prompting to get in the car and drive up the Northeast Kingdom. We don't really know where to go, what to see or do there, but we feel as if our vision trip will be incomplete without setting eyes on the region. So, Lord willing, our plan is to journey up there and see whatever it is the Lord wants us to see there.

It's another cool and clear night, and the stars put on another magnificent display of God's glory. We are grateful to the Lord, our families, and IBC for the opportunity to be here. We are growing increasingly ready to be back home, but still wanting to make the most of the time we have left here. 

All three of us are being sustained by your prayers and we ask you to continue praying, and especially to pray for us to have the opportunity, and to be led along by the Holy Spirit, to visit the Northeast Kingdom tomorrow afternoon. Pray as well for the opportunity we have to minister to the homeless in Barre tomorrow at the Soup Kitchen.

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