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Mission Atlanta

August 03, 2010|By LAKIN THOMAS / Pulse correspondent
  • This home was one of the projects that some of the members worked on with Project Excel.
Submitted photo,

ATLANTA - We had all gathered in First Christian Church's Youth House to find out about the "Big Reveal." Youth group started out as normal that evening, with chatter in the beginning, and then group time. There was a big group that night, mostly because of the attraction of the big announcement. No one wanted to be left out.

As it turned out, we never found out what it was that was so interesting that night. However, later that week everyone received a text exclaiming the exciting news. April Deshong, our youth minister, was preparing for the senior high teens to travel to Atlanta for a mission experience. We were all ecstatic. This was the first big trip we were taking as a youth team.

With the big news out, everyone wanted to learn more information about what we would be doing, where exactly we were going, and so on. You could feel the genuine excitement flowing around.

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When it came time to leave for the trip, 18 members of the youth group were signed up to go. We had to be at the church and ready to go by 6 a.m. on June 13. If you know any teen, you know this is not an easy task to accomplish. Although it was stressed many times that we needed to leave right at 6, we ended leaving the parking lot around 6:30.

With everyone loaded into the two vans, our journey began. It was going to be a 12-hour car ride from Hagerstown to Atlanta, but we came prepared with a lot of games and music to keep us occupied.

Atlanta, here we come

Two other groups would be joining us for the trip-one was from Kentucky and the other Missouri. It was neat to see how dedicated groups were, and how they traveled far to help other people. We ended up arriving first of the three groups, but the others arrived soon after.

Our group got out our vans to stretch a little. The staff was nice in helping us to figure out where we needed to put our things, along with lending a hand with heavy bags. We were staying in an older church, and there was not a good, working air conditioner.

While we lugged our baggage up to the third floor where the sleeping rooms were, we felt the air slowly thickening to a sauna-like temperature. It was a surprise to us because we had driven down in a cozy air-conditioned van and were not used to the extremely hot weather.

Throughout the week, the staff workers kept referring to Atlanta as "Hotlanta," saying that there are usually very warm temperatures down in Georgia. We finished settling in to our separate-gender rooms, and everyone made their way down to the dining hall.

This was probably the coolest place in the church. By looking around the faces of our youth group, there was a shared impression about this trip. It seemed as though we were ready to go home already. The lack of nice, cool air was bumming everyone out and causing an unhappy mood. The temperature was going to take a little getting used to.

'More vs. Less'

After a while, we met in the Club Room, a general activity room, for an opening session. The theme for the week was "More vs. Less." The overall message was "More Jesus, Less Me." The week was dedicated to thinking less of ourselves and our needs, and more about what Jesus wants. Throughout the week, a single Bible verse stayed on the board, constantly reminding us, "He must become greater, I must become less." (John 3:30).

Each day we worked on a new "More vs. Less" idea. Monday it was "More Courage, Less Fear," reminding us that we need to believe in God, and trust he knows what's right. Tuesday it was "More Be, Less Do," allowing us to focus solely on what God is telling us. Wednesday we focused on "Less Here, More There," showing us that it is better to live in the moment, then worry about what's next. Finally, Thursday we worked on "Less Ego, More Love," reminding us, yet again that we should focus on others needs more than our own.

We would spend time each morning concentrating on devotions to work on one of these four concepts. The devotional book we received allowed us to either look through scripture or just ponder what God has done for us. It was a nice time to spend in quiet, listening to His words of wisdom.

When we awoke Monday morning, there were signs posted up to show the different crews. Each crew had around 10 to 12 people, and the signs also told where a certain group would be going throughout the week. I was in group No. 5, which consisted mostly of teens from my youth group, but also some of the volunteers from Kentucky.

Starting outreach

Our first mission site was at the Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children: A Place of Hope. The shelter provided a place for women to obtain clothing, to get job training and to try to turn their lives around. It was amazing to see all the wonderful things that had been set up for these women.

When our group arrived, a woman who helps maintain the shelter greeted us. She then took us for a tour of the building so that we could experience what some of these women go through each day.

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