by Nancy Cheng
The idea of a mission’s trip for the youth group started with a few of us sitting around chatting. But after much planning and preparation, Chinese Christian Church’s youth group went on their first mission’s trip. We went to Los Angeles, San Diego and Mexico from August 1st to August 10th.
The first day of the trip was basically traveling, settling in at Plymouth Congregational Church in Whittier, CA and going over the next day’s plans for Harambee Christian Family Center. We were hoping to work with 100 to 150 of their kids but in the middle of practicing skits, games and testimonies Pastor Scott announced that Harabee’s kids were double booked for an aquarium trip. We realized that although we had an agenda for the trip, we needed to allow God to give us the ultimate stamp of approval on the things we planned. Sometimes, that meant last minute changes but we’re thankful that He guided us through the trip. So the next day, Friday, August 2nd, we went to Harambee center with Plymouth’s youth group and worked on preparing a house for inters and faculty members.
A large part of what makes Harambee unique is the history behind it. Harambee’s main house served as the headquarters for a notorious drug ring in the 1980s and is located on a corner of their neighborhood called “blood corner.” Countless individuals died on “blood corner” because of drive-bys and drug related activities. When the founders of Harambee Christian Family Center, Dr. John and Vera Mae Perkins, moved into the neighborhood they organized efforts to prevent drug dealers from taking over. Harambee is a Swahili word meaning “Let’s Push Together” and in the past 19 years many people have done just that to save the homes/lives of those living around Harambee. Their neighborhood once had the largest daytime crime rate in Southern California but is now the home of Harambee’s base and facilities. As drug dealers move out of the neighborhood, Harambee attempts to purchase their houses. In spite of death threats and violence, Harambee persistently grows. While targeting African-American and Latino families, Harambee organizes after school tutoring programs, a junior staff program, summer day camps, day care as well as other programs. In 1995, Harambee also opened a prep school that now offers quality education to 70+ students.
The next day, we worked with World Impact and a youth group from British Columbia, Canada. We had a World Impact festival with face painting, skits, balloons, Chinese calligraphy and a gospel bracelet station. On top of that, there was cotton candy, hotdogs, and lots of happy rowdy kids. =D.
World Impact is a nationwide and inter-denominational organization founded in Los Angeles in the early 1960s. Their main pursuit is planting churches and schools in inner cities around the U.S. Some of their other operations include retail stores, retreat centers, and a medical clinic. By the way, they’re constantly looking for teachers who are willing to serve in an inner city environment.
The next day was Sunday so we relaxed. We went to Plymouth Congregational Church for Sunday morning service. Afterwards, we packed up, drove down to San Diego and went to the beach. We played football, had a bond fire, ate marshmallows and fish tacos, and worshiped. That pretty much sums it up. I got to tackle Pastor Scott hehehe… Jimmy, formerly a youth group intern at CCC but now a youth pastor at Harbor Presbyterian Church, let us stay at his cousin’s house and his friend’s house. The houses are conveniently on the same street. So we went home that night, shared a birthday cake for one our youth group teens, Chris, and slept well.
Monday we were back at work. Jimmy’s church, Harbor Presbyterian, was planted not too long ago so his task for us was to hand out fliers for free babysitting and offer discounted movie tickets to participating parents. In the process, we met some nicer people, some not so nice people and a shopping center security guard. We seemed to be playing a game with the security guard. Out teens put up put up fliers and he would take them down. Eventually, we went around and posted fliers in area neighborhoods too. Only two or three families came to the outreach event but the experience of knowing first hand how difficult it can be to outreach was well worth the effort.
Tuesday, August 6th was a traveling day. We arrived in Mexico and Rancho Sordo Mudo that evening.
Rancho Sordo Mudo is a boarding school for children who are deaf or hearing impared. More than thirty years ago, Mr. and Mrs. Everett decided to move to the Guadalupe Valley of Ensenada and work with deaf children when their son Luke began losing his hearing. During the school year, they have on average 32 kids from the ages of 5 to 12 years old. Fortunately, we had enough money in our mission’s budget to give the kids a new computer for the fall. Becky, our administrative coordinator, also brought tons of beanie babies.
We were there for three days, from August 7-9th. Each day we had a list of things to do in order to prepared the ranch for the kids who came back this past fall. The chore list varied from mowing the lawn, painting, tearing down walls, laying down floor tiles to cleaning, killing black widow spiders, installing toilets, and cooking. At night , some of us slept in the dorm rooms while others of us slept under the stars.
On August 10th we came back home tired but happy and somehow knowing more fully how great it is to serve the Lord. Thank you. =).
Working with C.C.C.’s youth group means a lot to me. No matter how hard the week is, seeing my kids on Friday nights are always the perfect ending. I don’t know if it’s an unwritten rule or something but the teens never let me go home without my sides hurting from laughing. I love them. I admit, it’s not always fun and games. There are some hard issues that pop up. Sometimes, I feel inadequate or conflicted because of things in my own life that are hard to face up to. Time and time again, through serving the teens, I’ve been challenge to grow and to depend on God. I don’t always know the right things to say or do. A lot of times, I’m learning from their example. I remember one time during the mission’s trip the teens were performing a skit and I couldn’t stop crying. It was because I could see that they were not only going through the motions of the play but also testifying. In every gesture and expression, I could hear their heart whispering I love you Lord.
I don’t think I can put into words all the things that happened on the mission’s trip; especially the unseen things. One of the things I came away from the mission’s trip was the reminder that serving God can be done through everyday chores. On the trip, we didn’t accomplish heroic feats. All we did were simple things like building relationships, painting, and washing dishes. But through these activities, we came back with a burning question. If all we did were everyday things and we experienced such joy in serving God, where is that passion in our lives at home? For many of us who went to California and Mexico, the trip served as a reminder or a realization of how awesome it is to fulfill our purpose in life, which is to glorify Him.
His spirit working through us resulted in so many amazing things. We felt a unity and peace that was unprecedented for our teens group outings. Usually, one or several of the teens are mad at each other by the end of a trip. Instead, we had a teen that insisted on washing dishes even though one of his hands was bandaged. Another teen that stepped on a nail in the morning was hopping around on her other foot and trying to help in the kitchen by the afternoon. Remarkably, people who were finished with their assigned work tirelessly inquired if there was anything more they could do. In times of fatigue and frustration, I could see His strength carry us through each day and allow us to fulfill His work joyfully and lovingly. It was awesome.
So again, I wonder why it’s so difficult for us to lift everything up to Him? He gave us physical and spiritual life. Why do we allow Satan to steal away the power and joy of living for God? Why do we give away pieces of ourselves to unworthy things? And how can we forget that we don’t have to live like that? It’s our humanity, huh? Darn it. I’m just thankful for being reminded of the difference it makes to live for Him and to have Him work through me. And although I know I didn’t need to go on a mission’s trip to figure that out, I’m grateful that it was one of the things He revealed to me through this trip. Coming back, I see many of the teens/adults that went on the trip striving to honor the lessons that God taught us. Overall, I’m sure that we will continue to recall how satisfying it is to live a life focused on Him every time we remember the trip. Thank you for being a part of that.