Monday, September 23, 2013

Vermont Update - 9/19 (Final Post)

I want to thank all of you who have been praying for us during our Vermont trip. We left Vermont on 9/20 and returned home on 9/21. Thankfully, those were pretty uneventful days that consisted primarily of driving, driving, and more driving. On 9/19, we took a day off to have some fun in Vermont, and here is a post I wrote that night when we returned back to our lodge.


Today we had a day off to play the role of tourist ... And by
"tourist", I mean "people who eat a lot." We rolled out at the crack
of 10 this morning and went to Wayside Restaurant in Berlin for
brunch, which everyone seemed to enjoy. From here we went to Morse
Farm, a large Maple Syrup production farm north of Montpelier. They
even make maple creamies, so, you know, it's obligatory.

 From Morse Farm, we went to the Cabot Cheese store in Waterbury, and
the Brave Coffee Shop, and some other shops there at this site. After
sampling various cheeses and maple products, we moved on to the Cider
Mill where we watched cider being made, drank it straight from the
vat, and had cider donuts.

We opted to proceed to somewhere that did not have food, so we went to
the Trapp Family Lodge. Some of us even had a close encounter with a
real live Von Trapp grandchild there. After a stroll around the lovely
grounds, we we departed to the quaint downtown area of Stowe. After a
brief jaunt through a couple of shops, we made our way down the
mountain. One team member requested another stop at the Pump & Pantry -
not for a maple creamie, but for maple syrup. The same syrup that sold
for $45 in some of the  tourist shops is sold to locals at the gas
station for $22. But you know, since we were at the Pump & Pantry
anyway, some decided to go ahead and have a maple creamie. Not me. No
sir. I have already one today, and I have willpower. So I didn't have
one. Instead I had a maple sundae! I might have found something that
tops a maple creamie.

Completely overwhelmed with our own gluttony, we went over to
Northfield to say goodbye to Pastor Trey and his family. After some
hugs and farwells we made our way back to the house to pack and
prepare to depart in the morning. We have been truly blessed during
this trip. Hard to believe it's almost over. Always hard to leave a
place where the needs are so noticeably great, but we are eager to get
home -- and perhaps reawakened to the needs around us there.

When I plan mission trips, there are several "underlying" objectives.
(1) that the team would have such an experience that all would be
eager to go again in the future. (2) that the team would go home eager
to sere the Lord there with as much intentionality and focus as here.
I am praying that both of these will be so. We are already talking
about next year's trip. Hope you'll come along!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Vermont Update 9/18

Howdy folks, we are all doing well and for the most part EXHAUSTED! The kitchen counter and sink at the church are done. We have put framing for the drop ceiling up completely in two rooms and partially in a third. I have spent the better part of three days on a ladder, and I am feeling the pain now. We're all moving a little slower, but there is a sense of satisfaction in having completed the work we came to do. Today, the "non-construction" portion of the team went over to Barre and worked for a while in a pregnancy center and helped a church member with some personal needs. They shared that it was a positive experience.

Every person on this team has made a unique contribution and had a unique impact. It has been a joy to get to know each one a little better and to see the Lord use each one in special ways.

Having completed our work, we have earned a day off and tomorrow we are going out sightseeing and doing touristy things on Thursday.

Thanks so much for praying for us. The Lord has given us strength for our tasks, safety and good health, good fellowship. It has been a great journey thus far. Also pray for a good final day in Vermont, and for safe travel as we return home on Friday. Now that we've passed the half way point, I think we are all eager to get back home where the beds are more familiar and cozy, the shower is better than a flesh-piercing mist, and there are familiar faces of loved ones who could not come along for this adventure.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

9/17 Vermont Update

Tuesday is drawing to a close, and here's a quick update on the day we've just experienced. All in all it was a spectacular day! Part of the team went prayerwalking at scenic Norwich University, one of the oldest and most prestigious military colleges in America. It is an anchor in the town of Northfield. The team was blessed as they interacted with students and viewed this campus from a Kingdom perspective. Please pray for the military and civilian students here, as well as the faculty and support staff. Pray for the Gospel to impact the campus in a mighty way.

Another part of the team worked diligently at the church on several projects -- continuing the deep cleaning, furthering progress on the kitchen remodel, and hanging the framework for a drop-ceiling. All have been thanked and complimented on their hard work. Upon walking in, several members have commented about the cleanliness and "clean smell" of the facility. The kitchen looks great, with the new tile countertop almost completed, and the sink ready to be installed tomorrow. Garland and I have been working on the ceiling project, and let me just tell you -- if you ever need a drop ceiling installed, CALL SOMEONE ELSE! My goodness, this is a frustrating job. It is like playing Jenga! One wrong move and the whole thing comes toppling down. How do I know? Because I have toppled it several times! But as we work we gain more ability with it, and near the end of the day, in the words of Jim K., we were "walkin' the dog." We got framing up in two rooms, finished the unfinished ceiling in the bathroom (after which I removed Eric Howard's masking tape that he left in place when he painted the bathroom last year!), and got things prepared to frame out another room tomorrow.

During our lunch break, folks ate at several of the local spots in Northfield. Several of us went to O'Maddi's Deli, and it was as good as promised. We had a great chat with the owner. We also discovered that amid the many changing plans, we would be responsible for conducting the youth group meeting tonight. The church's youth leader had surgery today to remove a suspicious mass. Two of her daughters are in the youth group and shared that the surgery had gone well and that there were no further concerns at this point. My family and Kristin stayed at the church to do this while everyone else returned to the house. This time with the church's young people was a great blessing for us all. We let Kristin take the lead on most of the activities -- she did some ice breaker games, asked some Bible Study questions, and shared her testimony of how she came to know the Lord. We prayed together with the young people about their needs that they shared. This is a really special group of teens and God is doing amazing things in their lives. We fed them pizza and loved on them for a little while, and it was a really great time of ministry and fellowship.

We came back excited and eager to share with everyone about this great opportunity we had, but we came into a quiet house, as everyone except Donna had gone to bed. That's understandable -- this has been a physically and spiritually demanding trip, and I'm sure I'm not the only one whose body is aching and tired.

On Wednesday, we will go back to Northfield for our final day of work at New Life. We hope to finish the kitchen counter and sink, make some good headway on the ceiling, and complete the thorough cleaning. Mid-day, some of our team will go to the pregnancy center to volunteer with some of their material assistance needs, while others are planning to go to the home of a church member with a new baby to do some cleaning.

It is hard to believe that I have been in Vermont for 4 days and have only had one maple creamee (last year I think I had 3 a day!), but we are going to have to see if we can't arrange to have another one tomorrow perhaps.

Thanks so much for your prayers. This is a wonderful team of folks to be with, and we have enjoyed our fellowship and ministry time, as well as getting to know some of our brothers and sisters in Christ here. Keep praying for us! We look forward to being back home soon. 

Vermont Adventure - 9/16


As I mentioned in my last update, things got off to a weird start this
morning. But once our little crisis was resolved, we were on the road
to begin our work.

Some of the crew began an aggressive cleaning mission in the church,
some ran errands, while others began the construction projects. It was
decided that some would work on the kitchen sink and counter, while
others would work on the drop ceiling. The cleaning team washed
windows and walls, cleaned chairs and surfaces, and sanitized toys. We
hit our stride just in time to break for lunch.

Richard, Donna and I went on a grocery run and came back to the House
to get dinner started in the crock pot; Some went to Subway, and
others to a Cafe in the village square. By the time we were back from
the house, we spotted part of the team prayerwalking. They had several
divine appointments along the way.

After a long and hard day of work, we returned to the house and had
dinner. Our friends Steve and Nellene stopped in, and I imposed on
them to lead our team meeting with a little spiritual geography lesson
on Vermont.

It was a good day -- not without its challenges and stresses, but
filled with joy and expressions of love for the Lord and neighbor.
Thanks for praying for us. Everyone is doing well, praise God. Please
continue to pray for health and strength forthe team, as well as for
the unity and fellowship of the team, and for God to be glorified
through our time and energy invested in His name here in Vermont.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Vermont Adventure - 9/15


We had a great day today. We began with worship at New Life Cburch
where Pastor Trey brought a good message on the Authority of Christ.
Church attendance was significantly larger than it was a year ago,
largely due to Norwich Umiversity being in session (we were here
before the start of the semester last year). There were also several
new families and couples in the church. Seating was nearly maxed out
for the service.

After service we went to the Knotty Shamrock (which ranks up among my
favorite restaurant names in the world) for a good lunch. We enjoyed
fellowship with Trey and Robyn and their children.

 From there, we went to Mayo Manor Nursing Home for a ministry time.
We spent some time getting to know the residents before we started
with the Bible Study. We sang some hymns and Donna shared a wonderful
testimony of how God had carried their family through a terrible
hardship. Richard delivered a great devotional on the 23rd Psalm. This
entire time was a blessing to all of us an it was a joy to see each
team member interacting sweetly with the residents.

After leaving the nursing home we went for a walk along Cox Bridge
Road, which winds through 3 covered bridges. During this time, I had a
divine appointment with one of Trey's coworkers which will lead to
good follow up conversations hopefully.

After touring the bridges, I took the team to a true Vermont landmark
-- the Pumpen' Pantry -- for maple creamees. Some people had the
audacity to order something different but I think the rest finally
understood why we've been going on and on about maple creamees for the
last year. Trey and his family met us here and we went a LONG way out
of town to the home of Ed and Marti. They are "living the dream" --
they bought 40 acres on the side of a mountain, built a log cabin from
their own timber, an began living off the land. Ed has a small maple
syrup operation and described the process from the tree to the bottle.
Some of us purchased some syrup and honey to enjoy when we get home.
The church provided us with a potluck meal and the food was delicious.

We returned back to lodge late evening and had a brief meeting before
turning it. It was a long day, filled with activity, but all in all a
glorious and joy-filled day.

Monday morning now, and we are scrambling to find a missing item. One
of the team members has a crisis going on and the rest of the team is
scrambling to assist. We have just prayed and would appreciate your
prayers too.

As soon as we resolve this, we are heading out to Northfield to begin
working at the church. We sure could use your prayers this morning as
things are starting off a little crazy. God is in control.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Vermont Adventure - Day 2

Our second day of travel got off to a great start. Most of the team
seemed to rest at least somewhat during our overnight hiatus in
Harrisburg. After coffee was brewed and a little repacking and
cleaning we were on the way north again.

The "gauntlet" (as I like to call it) between the Jersey Turnpike and
the Connecticut border is a wheel-gripping, white-knuckling, anxiety
producing stretch of road. But in all honesty, I don't mind driving it
and traffic and other delays today were minimal. However, I think I
might have lost the respect of some team members who question my
judgment on the routing. I've been told that there may be a coup
developing and I could be voted off the island if I speak of returning
through the Bronx again.

We stopped for lunch at Sono Seafood in Norwalk, CT - a place Donia
and I consider indispensible on any trip to New England. A few of us
braved the brisk chilly wind to soak up a little sunshine while dining
al fresco, while the res chose to eat inside (this may be where the
coup was incited!)

After this excellent meal, we were back on the road and soon miles
were clicking by. In no time were through CT, MA and at the entrance
to VT. A short, scenic drive winds it's way from I-89 to Washington.
En route we passed a village fair that looked like an event from a
bygone era. A short time later we arrived at the Calef House and began
to settle in.

I must say that the team has shown remarkable resilience and
flexibility thus far. No matter how much you try to prepare someone
for the fact the drive up here is VERY long and hard, it is
incomprehensible until -- after two long days of driving -- someone
says "How much longer?" and the answer is still given in hours. Room
assignments haven't worked out exactly as planned. The diversity of
personalities and idiosyncracies on the team is a guarantee that
misunderstandings and offense will arise, but so far the team is
rolling along well with whatever comes our way.

I write these final words on Sunday morning, 9/15. Rumor has it that
there was some good restful sleep enjoyed by my roommates.
Momentarily, we will be leaving for church at New Life in Northfield.
We have a long, full day of ministry and fellowship ahead. After
worship, we'll eat lunch, then we have nursing home ministry at 2pm
followed by a fellowship gathering at the home of some church members
tonight. Thanks for continuing to pray. We are praying for our family
and friends back home, especially Pastor Jack and the saints at
Immanuel as they gather for worship this morning.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Vermont Adventure - Day 1


Hello Friends! The Immanuel 11 have arrived in Harrisburg, PA where we
will lodge for the night. We left IBC at 7am this morning and made
good time coming up the road. We've been blessd so far with safe
travel and good weather. We had a little rain in Gettysburg, where we
played "tourist" for a few hours, but the brevity of the rain was
nothing compared to some spectacular rainbows afterward.

Many of our team members had never been to Gettysburg before, so it
was great to introduce them to this important event of our nation's
history, even if some might have thought the "unofficial tour guide" (me) was taking too long to explore the battlefield. I heard reports that one passenger in the other vehicle was threatening to eat the upholstery if we didn't get a move on, so we did. We've enjoyed great fellowship so far. Jim B. was a trooper
and spent the entire day driving "the big van," while I drove "the
little van." Upon arriving at our lodging place tonight, we had a
brief team meeting. I'd encourage you to watch the following videos
that we shared tonight in our meeting:

Today, we travelled through NC, VA, WV, MD & PA. Tomorrow we will
cover even more ground. Thanks for all of your encouragement and
support ... Please keep us in your prayers!

Before I close out this update, I know regular readers of my mission
trip blog updates are probably wondering where the funny stories and
food reviews are. So without further ado ...

We have shared many laughs today, but for me the funniest moment came
when we were arriving here in Harrisburg and I doled out the room
assignments. Carolyn was one of the first to see her room, after which
she proceeded to tell her roommate Kristin to settle in with her in
the room with the big flashing red light. Well, as it turns out, their
room does have an enormous red glowing emergency exit sign hanging
from the ceiling! Not to mention that they have a room with a view ...
Of the drive thru lane at McDonalds! So immediately I began laughing
hysterically. Seinfeld fans can appreciate the analogies I was drawing
in mind with the infamous "Kenny Rogers Roasters" episode. If you've
never seen it (and if you have you will thank me for this) ... Here's
a "cliff notes" version (just imagine Kristin & Carolyn as Jerry &

Here's hoping their rods and cones aren't permanently damaged.

As for today's culinary delights ... First stop was Starbucks just
south of Roanoke where we were treated by a generous benefactor to
complimentary morning beverages (Thank you very much!). Then we
stopped at Arby's for lunch in Woodstock, Va. Did you know Arby's now
has a brisket sandwich? It's actually not half bad, especially now
that you can sub your fries for a side salad. I mean has anyone ever
eaten curly fries and looked back on it convinced that it was a good
decision to do so? I think they should be banned by the FDA or FEMA or
NASA or something.

Then for dinner Yelp! led us to a local pizza shop - Central Dauphin
Pizza. Besides a couple of discombobulated orders, the food was
excellent and the atmosphere was sufficiently authentic to convince us
that we were no longer south of the Mason Dixon line. If your ever
passing through Harrisburg and want a pie, I'd recommend Central
Dauphin. Assuming, of course that you don't want, like a pumpkin pie
or a blueberry pie. I don't think they have those there. Just the pies with sauce and cheese and meat and vegetables.

Okay, that's all for Day 1. Pray for good rest and continued safe
travels! Thanks for your prayers so far. It is now 6am Saturday and we are about ready to get the wheels rolling for an odyssey through six states today to our final destination! 

Monday, September 09, 2013

The Church Facing Change (Acts 10)

While I was away on vacation over Labor Day, Pastor Jack Benzenhafer (our Assistant Pastor) delivered an excellent and challenging message on the Church facing change from Acts 10. I commend it to you all. You can hear it here