Thursday, August 6, 2009

Group Workcamp '09

The FUMC Jr. High youth group left on Sunday, July 19th for the Group Workcamp in Bay City, Michigan. It was pouring down rain as we loaded Big Red and Reba (Heather's rental). That did not stop us from starting out with "vanversations" and having a good time. Well, that is until a dragonfly met an unhappy ending when it flew into the windshield of Big Red and got caught in the wiper. No matter what I did, he would not come loose. We stopped at a rest area and Tyler bravely removed the gone, but not forgotten, dragonfly. We laid hands over it and prayed. I wish I could say that was the only casualty of the week, but two kamakaze birds were doomed (two separate bombings). We finally made it to Bay City. We were the first group to make it! You can see more of Group's official photos here

We stayed at the First Presbyterian Church of Bay City. It was a beautiful stone church. Thankfully we had air-conditioning! We got a tour of the facility and set up our beds. There were no showers, so we were allowed to go the YMCA and use their showers (we knew that a few days ahead of time). While the other groups arrived, we sat around playing Mafia. Soon it was time for dinner and then our first worship. We were assigned into our Crews. We sat down with our Crews and got to know each other and chose our "assignments" for the week. I was the "Progress Reporter". Crew #2 consisted of: Bill P., Nicole, Phillip, Laura and Cory. We were to work on JoAnn and Robert's wheelchair ramp, back deck and dirt pile.


Monday morning arrived and we set off to meet our homeowners. I did not realize that I had my camera until Tuesday, so I didn't get any pictures of the dirt pile "before". We did not have all the materials to build new steps off the back deck; so we removed the old, rotting steps, started moving the dirt to the north side of the house (we piled it up and sloped it away from the foundation). We weren't too sure about what we were supposed to do with the wheelchair ramp, so we had to wait for our Site Coach, Bruce, to arrive to explain what we were to do.

After our work day ended, we headed back to the church to meet up with our youth groups to go shower. Chandra had received a phone call that morning which requested that she get online. After the FUMC girls showered, we stopped at the Library which was only two blocks from the church. We hung out while Chandra accessed the 21st century.

Bay City has a beautiful public library


Crew #2 had a better idea of what to do. The dirt pile was significantly reduced, so we started pulling the weeds out of it. We left JoAnn's pumpkins and were careful as we weeded around them.
pictured l-r: Laura, Phillip, Cory

Cory worked hard shoveling and using the pick ax to break up the incredibly hard pile of dirt.

Nicole and I stopped to snap a cheesy photo.

As I was shoveling dirt, this huge frog lept out at me. I screamed and ran away like a little girl. He just startled me. We watched out for him the rest of the week.

Tuesday was also our short day. That meant we spent less time at our worksite and had an afternoon for free time. FUMC went and saw Harry Potter. First we ate dinner at a sub shop that Bill P. highly recommended. Then we walked down to the St. Lawrence (?) Candy shop. We had a great time, and were thankful that the rain came that evening and not during the day.


We got the steps on the back porch finished and got the handrails up. I called Cate to consult her on the railing height so it would be to code. We also secured the rest of the deck. That thing was solid like a rock after we were finished with it! We did start staining. We hurried and finished staining the back deck steps before the end of the day. The wheel chair ramp had the extra railing on it and it also got the beginning stages of stain.

The new steps

Crew #2 (front row, l-r): Laura, Nicole, Emoly, Phillip, Cory. (back row): Bill P. (foreground: Bruce's finger tip) What you don't see behind us is a sunflower that is growing out of the crack in the driveway. It was already about three and a half feet tall. It had a huge flower on it that probably opened up the next week.

Mmmm fudgsicles. Jenna and I enjoy our dessert that night after dinner.


Our last day at JoAnn and Robert's. We woke up to rain. We headed out to the house, hoping and praying that it would stop raining. When we got there we decided to cover the back deck. If it dried out enough by lunchtime we would be able to finish staining it. After we covered it, we weeded, in the rain. By lunchtime, the fence around the yard looked great, but it was still misting and the back deck hadn't dried out at all. We ate our lunch in the van. We decided the best thing we could do would be to go in and talk to JoAnn and Robert.
Laura and Nicole hard at work, weeding around the fence.

They welcomed us in. We sat and talked for an hour. We had a card to give to them. JoAnn had Phillip get an envelope off the table. She said it wasn't much, but in her entire life she had never had anyone do something so nice for her, and she gave us each $10. It reminded me of the parable of the woman who gave her last two coins. It wasn't about the money; it was the gift that we gave to them, and that even though weren't rich they wanted to share what they could with us. I am still moved by their generosity.

We got to know them a little bit better. JoAnn turned 77 on July 27th. She and Robert will celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary on August 14th. Robert has had four strokes, yet he can still walk around short distances, dress and feed himself and use the bathroom by himself. God has blessed them. They have three children who take good care of them even though they don't live close by (the closest one lives near Grand Rapids in Walker). They do not have any grandchildren. I think that JoAnn adopted us all as her grandkids that week. They are a wonderful couple and I am so happy that we got to spend that time talking with them.

We also got to learn that just because we didn't finish God used us in other ways. One was chatting with JoAnn and Robert. The other was that we were able to go pick up an abandoned Crew. They had been getting a ride all week long with another Crew. When their ride finished their projects they were sent on to help a third Crew finish up at a different location. That meant the Crew that had been getting a ride was now stranded. Not to worry, Crew #2 was on the way! We all made it back safely. Other Crews stayed until their jobs were finished late that evening. Of course the sun came out at about 4pm. We had no idea. Again, we learned the value of spending time with JoAnn and Robert. She assured us that her one daughter enjoyed painting and staining and would be able to finish.

Bill P. and I stopped to buy our Crew ice cream before we picked up the other Crew.
I love ice cream! This cone was wood flavored!

Thursday night was our final worship and our lights out was pushed back an hour. Since FUMC was headed to Mt. Pleasant for tubing on Friday, we did not need to leave uber early. We did not mind staying up a little later.


We loaded up the vans and were the last to leave! We drove to Mt. Pleasant and went tubing on the Chippewa River. After losing Jenna, Heather and Chandra, and then losing a tube, we all linked together and floated down the river as one big group. Dana worked hard to keep us from running into any more trees or rocks. We spotted over a hundred turtles. Lindsay shared a tube with the cooler and passed out snacks. Three hours later, we climbed out of the river and headed home.

We had packed Big Red with more stuff so Heather's van was less full. More kids rode with her on the way back since this was the last time she was spending with FUMC/team Vine. We made it back to the church an hour early and unloaded the vans. We waited for parents and said goodbye. What a wonderful week!!!

Thank you to Chandra, Jason and Bill P. for your leadership and blessed patience with our youth.

Thank you to Sam, Nick, Chris, Sarah and Lindsay for the memories (dragonfly). Good luck in High School!

Thank you Jenna, Dan, Dana, and Tyler for all the memories and more to come. See you in the fall!

And finally...
Thank you Heather for all of your dedicated hard work with these youth. God has given you a great gift. I learned to appreciate Jr. High youth and see them for who they are. I learned to teach them to be the best they can be. I learned to have fun and to always be flexible. I learned that friendships can survive hours of road trips together with a dozen Jr. High students. I learned all of these things from you and with you. I love you!!! Best of luck to you in your new venture!