I really don’t know where to start with the trip…praise God!!! That’s where I’ll start. Let me walk you through the last days leading up to the trip first. I had 2 students that couldn’t go on the trip last minute-God filled those two spots within hours. One with a guy who attends church across the street from us that I had met once at the drive-in movies, I knew his first name and that was about it. The second spot he filled with a guy from the church in Battle Ground who I knew from the ski trip and who had given his life to Christ just a week before our trip at Icthus. Seriously ridiculous how God planned for them to join us!! Next Satan started working. Ryan and I were butting heads the days going into the trip and even the first two days while we were there. The spiritual warfare was thick and heavy over our communication. I texted my 3 best friends and awesome prayer warriors the second night we were there and they went to work along with us. The next morning we realized overnight that God had won that battle for us and we were a team once again!! I learned the very hard way to get as much prayer as possible before we try this again because Satan wanted us to fail miserably but God had other plans for us, plans for a hope and future!!!
Next came the hard part! We drove 9 hours into the south were the heat index was 105 degrees everyday-when you got out of the shower and "dried off" you still felt wet! We stayed in a very old church that needs some serious TLC and whose sanctuary had burned down just weeks ago. There were monster cockroaches and just 2 showers for 60 people. You do the math. Well, in our weakness Christ was strong. Here are all the amazing things he let us do to show the people of Birmingham his love…we got to play baseball and kickball with kids from the worst part of town. Their parents are non-existent, drug-dealers, prostitutes, gang members, abusive, and all of them live way below the poverty line. We got to love on PJ, Jakeal, Brandy, Ariel, Mario, Jay, Charlitria, and many others that made our hearts burst open when we had to say good-bye. Don’t get me wrong, it was HARD!!!!!! The first day several of them wouldn’t even tell me their names, they often hit our students, tried to steal our stuff, and Ryan had to break up 3 serious fights over one of the girls from the church sleeping around. But Jesus loves them all and so do we! Another way we served was at a local nursing home/rehabilitation center. The boys from our group were able to read the Bible to a blind lady staying there-one of their favorite parts of the trip. They also cleaned out cupboards in the kitchen filled with cockroaches-yuck!! That same part of our group worked at the Family Life Care center in town and were able to tutor kids in math. The pastor who runs the center shared his story from living in Tanzania with the boys and even gave our new Christian some one on one time to ask questions about being a true disciple of Jesus. The second half of the week we were allowed to teach swim lessons at the University-it’s crazy, African Americans are 3 times more likely to drown than a white person-so we got to help them out-the little kids were precious and again, it was really hard to leave them! One of our most difficult assignments was working at a homeless shelter-they serve over 1500 meals a day to all kinds of people. We just sat and listened to their stories for hours. They were so welcoming to us and one even allowed us to lay hands on him and pray for deliverance from alcohol. We also cleaned out their big walk-in refrigerator and prepped veggies for dinner that night. This particular shelter, called Firehouse, works to rehabilitate people on the street so they get food, counseling, and job training.
Throughout the week we got the chance to go to historic sights in Birmingham including the Vulcan statue and The Civil Rights Institute. The Institute taught us all about what took place just blocks away-the march with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the 16th Street Church bombing where 4 little girls died, 2 shootings of young black boys-one by a white cubscout, and the list goes on and on. One evening we attended a local church service where we were blown away by the music and the pastor’s sermon on humility. It truly was anointed. Our last night we had a cookout where we invited people we had met throughout the week to join us for a meal and talent show put on by the kids. Our own Wil Tucker did some jokes and stole the stage!!
When it was time to go we were sad but ready for our own beds. The week taught us that Jesus loves us all, no matter what our background, income level, intelligence level, or race. Our students were the hands and feet of Jesus in Birmingham and learned that when we get out of the way-he does amazing things.