Well, I made it. I survived the crazy weekend! This is where I've been:
Junior High Girls' Sleepover
This event was such a blast! Twelve girls, 6th through 8th grade, in one house for 13 hours. I was so impressed with this group; there were no problems with clique-iness, nobody was mean, or insensitive, or oversensitive (at least, as far as I could tell!). We all hung out and had a great time together. Highlights were a treasure 'show and tell' time as well as a hair/makeup challenge - with the makeup artist blindfolded! I got some great pics out of that one! And, I believe I even got six hours of sleep - woohoo!
Guatemala Team Meeting
As it stands right now, Gary and I will probably be bringing seven high school students with us when we return to Guatemala this summer. We won't start our in-depth training and team building until after we're back from New Orleans, but we've met a couple of times to pray and worship together, and get started on basic stuff like passports and vaccinations.
It's such a delight to see the character of this group begin to emerge- it is a team of servants and worshippers, and as a group they are particularly musically inclined. I am thrilled to see how God will use these talents to cross language and cultural barriers this summer!
After taking students home from the Guatemala meeting, I ended up with about two minutes to change clothes and run over to the church for my next event. Whew! The women's ministry planned a fun event for the ladies to get to know the high school girls. The team did a fantastic job and we all had a really fun time (I'll post some pics if I get them); the only downer was the high number of no-shows by girls who had signed up. The afternoon involved a car-rally scavenger hunt around Concord, a jewelry-making craft, and a pizza dinner. I am proud to say that all my world race challenges did me good and I was able to help my team to victory (Red team, you would be so proud! And, hooray for no race rules committee!)! Way to go Chi, Lorrie, Heidi, and Becky!
About half way through the craft, I hit the wall and totally pooped out. I gave up on the earrings I was trying to design and waited for the pizza. I'm glad I hung in there, because I ended up having the best conversation of the day with Becky and Karina, two high school girls that are also in my Sunday night small group. They're part of the New Orleans mission trip (first time for both), so it was fun to talk about our preparations.
I went to bed early the night before, but Sunday morning was still brutal. Our mission trip prep has been during the Sunday school hour, and this was the final meeting before the trip. We had a really special treat for our team: a special guest, a first time visitor to Fair Oaks Church here in town on business.
Kirby is from Louisiana, and picked our church to visit because he saw that our youth group was headed to New Orleans over spring break. He connected with Gary, and they arranged for him to come in and greet the students, tell his story, and pray for us. Turns out, he's a Sunday school teacher for the youth in his church back home! He was absolutely fantastic, and just what we needed to remind us what we're going to do and why. What a blessing - thank you, God!
After all that good stuff, and with more meetings ahead of me, I confess that church was a struggle. It's pretty typical for me to come out of the morning sessions with my mind racing as I think about our kids, our leaders, what's coming up, what needs to be done, etc. Putting all that aside to worship God seems the most unnatural thing I could possibly do at that time. (Any of you out there experience this? Any tips you want to share?)
I was also saddened by the fact that our interim worship leader of over a year left this past week; as a congregation we were simply told that he had resigned. There was no 'last Sunday' at which we could recognize and thank him. I don't know what happened to cause him to leave like this, but it's one of my peeves that a main contributor to a church family could just disappear with so little explanation or closure. When churches handle transition so quietly, I can't help but wonder why. Unexplained disappearances don't do much to build that sense of authenticity or family or community that I am hungering for. (But, that's another post for another time)
Omega Team Meeting
Immediately following church, I met with my subgroup of the New Orleans mission team. With 37 people participating in the trip, we've put together four teams (Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Omega) to lead ministry on different days and to prepare and debrief together. My team is planning a skit about a crippled man who is healed by John and Peter, and as our own creative touch we have decided to add a song / dance to the end of the skit when the guy comes to his feet. That sounds like it could be pretty terrible (!) but it has really come together and I think will be quite effective and memorable. (Definitely memorable!)
High School Small Group
The final event of the weekend was the most powerful for me. To recognize the coming of Easter, and to celebrate what Jesus did for us on the cross, Gary set up the stations of the cross for our small group. This is our second year in a row doing this exercise, and it's one I hope will continue. We had eleven different stations with various depictions of religious art as well as guided prayer exercises. Candlelight and low music added to a thoughtful atmosphere. We spent probably an hour and a half in prayer, moving through the various stations, and when everyone was finished we gathered around our dining room table and took the Lord's supper together. It was such a blessing to me to have so much undistracted time in prayer, to talk to God and pour out my heart to Him.
Despite the craziness, I really enjoyed all the time I got to spend with students this past weekend. Now that I've survived, I'll be catching up on my rest and whatever else I have to do before we leave for New Orleans on Saturday. Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement, and especially for not calling before noon!