Lessons from a Mission trip: Everyone needs a site coach

Group Mission trips, over the years have taught me many lessons about my faith and life. I learn from students, adults, and staff that I get the pleasure of serving with for the week. It is an intensive week of service that makes me slow down and listen to what God is doing in and around me. Over the next couple of weeks I am going to be writing about things I learned this year.

I want to tell you that this week challenged me in ways I haven’t experienced in a lot of years. I had the privilege of meeting and serving a wonderful resident named Ellen. She was a great faithful woman who had a hard time getting around. She needed a wheel chair ramp so she could get up and down to her home and bring in her groceries. So on Monday we went to work. Things were going well. We got the previous steps out of the way and ripped out bushes in less than 10 minutes. I had a student on my crew who was a hurricane of energy. I thought to myself, we will bust this thing out in a couple days. I was excited for an amazing week. Then Tuesday came. We started digging holes with the post hole digger because the auger hadn’t arrived yet. We dug for 5 hours to make our first 6 holes in hard clay. The Auger arrived (yeah) to finish the last 10. Wow I thought now we are moving. This is all going to be great. Two days of things going right.

Then Wednesday and Thursday happened. Many of the holes we had dug were not straight. I wasn’t paying enough attention to the details and well we had to pull out shovels and post hole diggers to get the holes lined up Wednesday. Thursday was probably the hardest day I have had on a worksite in my 17 years of Work Camps. We as a team made so many mistakes that the whole day was spent screwing in things and then removing them because we messed up. I removed and installed 12 lag bolts. Holes had to be moved again. one of the platforms moved and had to be put back. By the end of the day we had a broken post hole digger and I was beyond frustrated. I took my crew and another back and thought I will need to go back out so I can cement the last posts. Then it started raining, and I couldn’t go back out.

I was so broken that afternoon that I believed that this would be the first time is 17 years that I wouldn’t finish a project. Ellen this woman who I promised to build a ramp for would be let down. I was so frustrated I took it out on a few students who I yelled at over reacting to something they did and then went back to seek their forgiveness. It was a rough day.

The next morning I was getting breakfast and I saw my site coach. These are the red shirt people who are there to help you get your project done and figure out solutions. They are amazing people who go from site to site helping people problem solve. Jeff said to me “So did you get the posts cemented in?” I said “No we didn’t because of issues and rain, and I said their is no way we are going to get it done today.” That is when he did something that changed me this week. He looked me right in the eyes, and smiled, a smile I had seen all week. He said Steve I guarantee we will get it done today I promise you. It was what I needed in that moment. His confidence in what Jesus could do in this moment is what I needed to push with my crew and, another who would join us, and get it done.

For me in that moment Jeff was Jesus. He may never know it, but he had a profound impact on me this week. I don’t know about you, but maybe you are in a place where you feel you can’t keep going and everything you thought you know is falling apart. Maybe it is your marriage or your faith, or your job, or whatever, but you don’t think you can keep going. I pray God brings you a site coach to be Jesus in your life. A site coach like Jeff who walks along side you and picks you up in the hard days. We all need people in our lives who will be Jesus when we need them.

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus.

Romans 15:1-5 ESV

I was hungry did you feed me? Jesus prepared our good works!

DSC00787Today as I led chapel I was tasked with kicking off our Kids Against Hunger program here at St. Peters Lutheran Church.  I was excited for this as I have been planning for almost 6 months the work we are going to do for this project. I am excited to see God at work through this project with families and our youth.

Today, I also gave the message on Matthew 25:31-40 in chapel.  I was reminded, as I was reading the text about the importance of the Gospel in Matthew 25. It is so easy with these verses to go strait to the law and guilt them into feeding the poor because that is what the Christians do. However when you read text closely I am reminded that even my good deeds are prepared for me by Jesus.  You see I don’t do good because I am a good Christian.  I do good because Christ is working through me.  I do good because Jesus has prepared me to do good and is working through me to do good.

So as we raise funds, pack meals and pray for those in our community and world who are hungry and in need of food I am excited at how God will use me and others.  As we raise funds over the next month and April 23rd pack meals for the hungry children and families in our community and world we are reminded that our work here is about Jesus’ work through us.  It is not about law or our work, but about what Jesus has done for us and through us.

So I am asking those in my community to join us as we follow Jesus in the work he has prepared for us. For those of you in other communities what is Jesus leading you to do today and how can you be a part of it?

Are we pointing them to Jesus?


This weekend I got to spend time doing something I really enjoy.  I spent time at Concordia University Ann Arbor at an event I spent four years serving and investing in to help students grow in faith.  It was a joy to take students to this event this year, but it was probably more special to me because my daughter was able to attend the event as well. This weekend was definitely the high of the week.

The problem with ministry much like life is that it is filled with far too many lows and not nearly enough highs.  You see the whole week leading up to the event is spent in the mundane of meetings, meetings, reading, meetings…did I mention meetings.  It was a long week.  Thankfully, it was a fulfilling time in life and ministry.

I think I discovered why it was so fulfilling based on the Gospel lesson for last Sunday.  John 3:16 is one of those texts that is very powerful and although it gives me great hope I think the important part of the verse is the story leading up to it, John 3:1-15.  The story brings images of the symbol of us living in darkness and Jesus being our light.  I love how Jesus reminds us of the point of this season in the Church year, His cross.

We, as the Church and disciples of God are called to point His people to the cross.  At Tool Time, I got to experience a group of students leading an event dedicated to leading students to that cross (this is not an altar call moment).  What I mean is these students were constantly showing the students I serve, Jesus.  Whether it was small groups, general session speakers, or time in the chapel for offerings, the goal of the weekend was to show them Jesus’ love.  It wasn’t about awesome bands, or great sets, servant events, or funny skits.  All those things were about pointing kids to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

This week reminded me of something so important in my ministry and my life.  It is how I should judge everything I do with students, with my family, and with those I meet.  I should say to myself did I show them Jesus?  Did I point them to the cross?  No matter how you do this, no matter what vocation God has called you to serve in, remember our call as the people of Christ is to point them to Jesus. I want to point them to His life, death, and resurrection so that we might have that eternal life hear on earth and in the life to come.