Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Surprised by Joy

Last week, something amazing happened to me.  I went along on mission with our church youth group. We drove ten hours to Tennessee to work with Operation Backyard. This organization repairs the homes of needy people for free, using volunteer labor and materials purchased by donors. I went along as the cook for our exuberant group of 30 high and middle schoolers and  their leaders. I had never done such a thing before, but I knew they would need some healthy food to fuel their efforts. I packed my good knife and cutting board, my apron and my pillow, and headed out the door, driving through VA, NC and through the Appalachian Mountains into TN.

 
My daughter (front right) was a chaperone/project manager, and my three granddaughters and their friends were part of the crew. They were all the incentive I needed to make this trek. I wanted to be there for whatever they needed. Their team prepped and painted this house for a wheel-chair bound man, whom you can just barely see in the frame of the door.

They climbed the roof to scrape under the eaves. She, of course, has never done such a thing before.

They painted while balancing themselves on top of ladders. No mattresses underneath to catch them if they fell.

They contended with dust flakes from old paint. It had been many, many years since this nearly 100 year-old house had been painted.

Days and days of back-breaking work in 95 degree temperatures. Nary a complaint.

Meanwhile, the second half of our team was in another part of town, re-roofing another house. Yup, our high schoolers just ripped off the old roof and completely replaced it with a new one.

They were also up in the stratosphere, climbing around like pros.

They nailed hundreds of new shingles on to the roof, guided by a roofing professional from our church.

After being in the hot sun day after day, one wonderful night they got a refreshing cool-down in the fountains of Knoxville's World's Fair Park.

Back at our host church, we all slept on the floor and the girls did so without complaint. These are my roomies. They made me laugh. Lots.



Here they are the next morning, eating the breakfast that I got up at 5:15am to prepare, so they could leave for the job at 7am each day. I had never cooked repeatedly for this size of crowd, but loved every minute of it. Spaghetti, pulled pork, stuffed potatoes, baked chicken, french toast, turkey bacon, mexican scrambled eggs. The usual. They were so affirming and grateful, and I felt a joy and enthusiasm I haven't felt since Joey departed. These kids were such an encouragement to me.

Here is our incredible team of leaders and chaperones. They prayed, counselled, encouraged and lead by example. They all hammered and scraped and painted right alongside of the kids. And laughed. Lots of that.

All done with their labor of love, the kids take a picture with the homeowner. See that neat roof behind them? They couldn't have been more proud if they had just won a league championship.

Our second group,  also smiling from ear to ear. It feels really good to help people...
Who knew?

With the work done, we headed to our pastor's parents' house at gorgeous Lake Norris in TN. A day and half of lake swimming and jet skiing--such a nice refreshing drink after a  a job well done.

Two of my granddaughters and a friend waiting for morning devotions to start. This was the highlight of each day. I loved hearing how God was working on the hearts of these kids.

It was such a sweet time of sharing thoughts and experiences. Each one answered the question, "Where did you see Jesus this week?". I, of course, saw Him in each of these loving, giving kids.

Praying together.

A final photo before heading home.
This group was so bonded, so full of love and joy, and high on what they had just accomplished. I felt so privileged to be part of this team. That's me in the front, third from left, and my daughter next to me on the right.
I came home with new memories, new friends,and  new hopes. Perhaps it's possible to live again with joy in this world. 

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I knew, just knew that this was God sent. He is amazing and we know that. I am happy for you and all your memories. And of course stories and pictures.
xoxo Sharon

karen gerstenberger said...

It is! It is, and I am so grateful that you feel it. He IS Love, and you are part of that Love. Thanks be to Him...and to you and this beautiful team, who heard His call, and responded with love. What a glorious witness! Thank you for sharing your joy and spreading it to us.

Norma R said...

Tears of Joy for new hope, Karen. xo

bodawlex said...

Karen, I love reading your blogs and this was no exception. I love that we serve a God who set us up to NEED each other and rewards us so richly when we put ourselves aside and truly worship Him by serving each other. I can't tell you what a blessing it was to me to know that you were going to be there cooking but I knew that God would bless you for your obedience, because that's how He operates. Thanks for sharing, I feel like I have a better understanding of what took place an how impactfull it was for the families in need, the kids, chaperones and you.
Dawn

Jeri said...

Love it!!! So amazing to do and support the work of the Lord for others.
J - Jesus
O-Others
Y-You
What a very special experience for you all!
Thanks for sharing!
Love you!!!

Anna/Flowergardengirl said...

Everyone was so hard working and seem to know the meaning of being there. This is the best kid of feel good story.

Having good food is key to the whole atmosphere. God knew just who to pick and you didn't let him down. He knew you were gonna love it. You made God smile too.

Big hugs and holding your heart in mine.

The Girl Who Lives In My Head said...

How fun to stumble across this post and see my home state being loved on!! I went to school in Knoxville(actually got lost at the World's Fair when I was four but that's my mom's story to tell:) In college, a friend's family had a houseboat on Lake Norris. Looks like an amazing time serving the Lord and supporting your family!! I miss you beautiful woman on God and love reading your thoughts on life. PS What was your host church? Do you remember where the houses were you were working on?