As I sat back and watched a freshman girl carry the front end of an 11’ piece of steel siding over her head while a senior guy held up the back, I realized that we were taking part in something much bigger then ourselves in Carney, OK. The LCC Youth Ministry team took our high school students on a mission trip to Oklahoma, to serve those who had been affected by the tornado that rolled through the Oklahoma City metro area last spring. The loss of property and life was and still is devastating to that community and, although a year has passed, we were able to serve those who were still in dire need of help.
I grabbed a bottle of water and sat down with one of the staff members at the Carney K-12 School where we were replacing the siding and roof of their FFA building. Softball-sized hail had torn gaping holes in the steel roof and high winds had ripped the siding off the frame in the spring of 2013. Rust had begun to claim the surviving elements of the structure. Another staff member was cutting steel beams to support the damaged frame sending a shower of sparks my way. I shielded my face, my new friend just sipped his water. “It’s hard on us in these small communities,” he said between sips, “if y’all wouldn’t have come down here, it would have been all on us and it wouldn’t have gotten done.” The other man, late 60’s, clad in a denim work shirt and jeans drops his saw and sits down. I ask him how he’s doing, “I’m too old to work,” he replies as he sits with us in the shade of an old school bus that had long since ceased to run. We sat and watched our LCC students transform a skeleton of a building from an eyesore into something that’s going to be a blessing to this school and community.
At our second job site, I leaned against the west wall of a dog kennel converted into a one bedroom house. “You may be wondering why we’re living in an old kennel; you know we used to raise Bull Mastiffs back in the day” the property owner told me beneath his generous straw cowboy hat, an older gentleman with a thin frame and generous smile. “When the tornado came through I told the wife to take the girls to the shelter. I watched it go down the road, but it turned towards us. We lost all of our possessions, but our family made it.” LCC High School students were uncoiling cables for power tools and setting up ladders around us. They were getting ready to finish the roof on the bedroom the family had built onto the place that now made their home. “All my life I’ve refused help,” he coughed and his eyes begin to tear up, “but God has shown me that I need to accept it and I ask God to bless you for what you’ve done for us. When I was young I could have done this, but I’m too old. I thank God and ask him to bless you for what you’re doing here.”
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?
-1 John 3:16-17
Last night at our Wednesday night youth group service, we asked the students how they saw God working in the mission trip. “One person didn’t do all the work, God used us all a little bit to make this happen” one of our senior girls shared. She began to talk about guys giving up power drills and letting girls do the “fun” stuff, students making sure everyone had enough water, the fact that no one complained despite it being the hottest week of the summer. “God brought this group together in an awesome way that I didn’t expect” one of our junior guys shared, describing the late night conversations and community that organically happened on the work sites. “It’s tough coming back, because I love to be around y’all and I miss having you guys in my life 24/7” a graduated senior on one of his last nights in our youth ministry shared with our group. I sat back again as an observer and reflected that God had used a bunch of teenagers with no construction experience, to bless a school with little resources and to increase the quality of life for a family who had lost everything and brought our youth ministry closer together in the process. My prayer for this trip had been from the beginning that God would bless us and use us to do good, beyond anything we could expect. I believe that he answered that prayer. God is good and he is faithful!