As most of you that are my friends on social media know, we spent this entire week in Florida with a handful of our youth at General Council. This is an event that happens every other year within the Assemblies of God. It is a huge conference that people come from all over the country (and even a some from out of the country) to attend. A/G Pastors and their families, along with students that are participating in National Fine Arts fill the Orange County Convention Center. The week is filled with FAF performances, business meetings, trips to the exhibit hall, receptions and nightly services. It’s a great time to see friends that are all over the place serving in ministry.
This is the fourth year that we have brought students to general council. Usually this trip is kind of a laid back & leisurely trip for us. In years past, we have spent numerous days at theme parks with our students and wandered the convention center free of any real schedule restrictions. We have usually spent free afternoons at the mall, downtown Disney, or the hotel pool…. While attending services at night.
This year we decided to participate in the AIM missions trip for the first time. Our students were pumped at the thought of a missions trip. During the planning/ registration process, we found ourselves slightly discouraged as it did not seem to be very organized. I’ll be completely honest, I headed into the week with some nervousness and anxiety. We found out that the groups that signed up to participate had been assigned to host churches ( local churches at which they would be working). Our host church backed out. As far as the scheduling goes, we would be doing AIM work from 9-4 on Tuesday through Friday and have Monday as our only free day. Another bump in the road for me was that we found out that we were not allowed to bring Allie and Gary on site with us. We explained that Allie was technically in youth now, but for insurance reasons they had a cut off for birthdays and she did not make the cut. The council had a kids camp that we signed them up for, however the times did not align with the AIM schedule. So we also decided to rent a car once we arrived in Florida so that I could get around on a different schedule that the rest of the group in a easier way than the church van.
We left Sunday right after morning service with six students and the Fulford four. We headed to Florida in the church van with a uhaul full of luggage- we had to pack multiple outfits per day since we would have work during the day and service at night. We had a smooth trip down. A fuel student that now lives in Florida drove to Orlando and was waiting at the hotel to surprise our group. So, basically as soon as we arrived tears were being shed. She went to dinner with us and we had a great first night in Orlando.
We woke up Monday excited to spend our free day at universal studios. We ended up buying everyone two day tickets and decided that we would skip service one night and head back to the park after our missions work one day during the week. Monday would be our full day at the park. We did have to go register at the convention center and pick up the rental car before we went into the park. We also had orientation at 4pm for the missions work and so the plan was to get the car, go to registration, go to the park, go to orientation, and then go back to the park until closing. Otis and I both went in at the rental car place and left the students and our kids in the van. We had signed the paperwork and were headed out a back door to get the car, when I heard someone yell my name. One of our students came running down the hall saying that another student had gotten sick in the van. Happy Monday to us! Ugh! So I went with her and ran back out to find our group had bailed out of the van and standing on the sidewalk with grossed out looks on their face. So, to summarize a disgusting thing— we basically had to do a quick clean…..then go back to the hotel…..get the student taken care of…..take the seats out of the van and clean it. Luckily whenever the van was cleaned out before our trip, the spray bottle of the really strong orange smelly spray was left in the van. We joked about it on Sunday when we left, but we were so thankful for it come Monday!!
I stayed at the hotel with the sick student and Otis took the rest of the group to the park. By the time they came back before orientation, he was feeling better. We all went to orientation together and then enjoyed a few more hours afterwards at the park.
Orientation was interesting. We learned that since we had no host church that we would be doing flyer distribution. I could see disappointment on some of our students faces. Let be honest, you want to come home from a missions trip with stories of helping the homeless or ministering to children…..flyer distribution is not a very glamorous assignment. We rolled with it. We prayed as a team, worked to keep spirits high, and headed back to the park.
Tuesday morning would be our first day working. We drove to the middle school that would be hosting a convoy of hope event that Friday. Our job was to canvas surrounding neighborhoods and go door to door passing out flyers for the event. We did that from 9-12, then stopped for an hour lunch, and then worked from 1-3 or 4. I came late after dropping the kids at the convention center and then had to leave at 11 so that they would be picked up and we could meet our group for lunch. The afternoon time was the main part where the schedule did not line up. The kids camp did not start back until 2:30, so if our group finished at 3 or 4……there was no real point in taking them to the afternoon session, since it took about an hour to take them, drop them off, and get back on site.
I picked up the kids and met our group for lunch and I was mad. I was frustrated and in tears. I walked into the zaxby’s crying and totally not feeling it. I was just having a selfish meltdown. The teens were already seated and eating. Otis got our food and let our kids sit with the students and we sat alone. We talked things through. I was just feeling like what the heck was I going to do– not being able to really be anywhere fully. I just felt like I was going to spend all week running around and like I wasn’t going to be in the stories, memories, or pics. After lunch, he went back to canvassing with the students and the kids and I went back to the hotel and slept.
We had a great service that night at which George Wood spoke about Elijah and Elisha. He spoke the passing of the mantle. He talked about how the older generation must have something worthy to pass down- something that the younger generation desires. It was a great service and we always enjoy hearing him speak.
After we got back to the hotel, we all met in one room and talked about the day. This was where all of my frustration was taken away. The students talked about the people they talked to in the neighborhoods and about how they they knew their work would make an impact come Friday. I just felt like the Lord was speaking to me as I listened to each of them talk about their experiences that day. We were telling them that no matter how unimportant the task might seem, God uses it to fulfill His purpose. The Lord reminded me that one of my greatest jobs is being a mom. I would spend the rest of the week doing what moms do– running around, buying bottled water, checking on teenagers health, getting in their business to make sure they were following a budget, taking care of sick students, providing ibuprofen, and doing head counts. He reminded me that it’s an important job and essentially on any trip (and especially one that is a week long) that I am the mom of the group. I felt a new peace and knew that from then on I would not worry about how much time I was able to spend wherever- I would just do what needed to be done and do it cheerfully. The rest of my week was phenomenal and those little end of the day meetings became one of my favorite things.
Wednesday we did the same type of canvassing. Everyone seemed to be impressed with how hard our team worked and how quickly they covered ground. We spent the afternoon visiting the exhibit hall and wanted to be early for service. We wanted to get the best seats we could because Kari Jobe was leading worship.
There are no words to even describe the service Wednesday night. You would think that a service with that many people would not be personal, but God is so personal no matter how many people are around. Claudio Freidzon was the speaker and this was labeled as the “youth service”. The altar time was certainly life altering. Our youth worshiped and went after God with all they had.
During the altar time, the speaker asked us to get with another person or two and begin to pray over them. I watched as my husband prayed over the student next to him and then crawled over chairs to make his way down the row and pray over each and every student. The end of the day meeting was inspiring as our group talked about how some of them had never felt God in that real of a way ever.
Thursday was another day of passing out flyers. Our students were amazing day after day. We are talking about August in Florida— it was HOT. They were walking 7-10 miles a day in this heat. I never heard one complaint. The services ran so Late that our dinner options were limited to places like IHOP and Perkins: again no complaints. They were waking up early and getting to bed late. They were working in the heat all day and doing repetitive work. They were chased by dogs and had doors slammed in their faces. They never stopped. We had two students that could also speak Spanish which was quite handy. I am so proud of them.
Thursday was also the night that we skipped service and headed back to the park for a few hours.
Friday was the big day! This was the day of the convoy of hope event at the local middle school. We had to wake up at 5:30 am to be onsite by 7am. The event started at 9, but they wanted everyone on site by 7 to bag groceries.
The bagging of the groceries was basically a giant line. Pallets of groceries were in a line and students were at every pallet. Other students started at the front with a grocery bag and walked down the line getting each item put in the bag. They would tie off their bag, add it to the pile, and go back to the front to do it again. The end result was this-
There were several stations at this event and different groups were assigned to the different stations. There were shoes being given away (provided by TOMS), they offered haircuts, family portraits, lunch, a kid zone with inflatables, entertainment with a d.j. and some fine art performances. They were also brought to a connection area and then given groceries before they left. The connection area is where our group worked. This was essentially a prayer tent and we hoped for this assignment all week. How great is God that we worked so hard all week and then got the area that we were hoping for! I am confidant in our students and I know that they know how to pray. Not all youth groups are like this. I knew that ours would be able to handle this job. When families came to the connection tent, we had chairs set up in circles of four. We would bring them to a circle of chairs and simply connect. We could ask for prayer requests, pray for them, share testimonies, and give them Bibles to take home.
We did face an sudden afternoon rain storm and our kids ran out in the rain to grab the bags of groceries and frantically get them back on the truck so that they wouldn’t get soaked. We were moving paperwork and Bibles Out of the rain. They jumped into action and ignored the fact that they were getting absolutely soaked.
The event ended at two and ended with quite a bit of extra work. The groceries that had been quickly put on the truck had to all be unloaded and reloaded neatly. Floors had to be swept and mopped. Tables and chairs had to be moved. Everyone was exhausted and wet and just kept going. After the work was completed, we all gathered and had a quick debriefing with the coordinator. The numbers were amazing. The also asked Kyra to share her testimony from the day. She was the only student that they asked. How amazing is that!
That night was the celebration service where they announce the winners and showcase select Fine Art participants. It is always a fun service. You usually get to see some amazing talent. My favorite are the human videos.
We ended up staying up late with laughs and silliness- typical youth trip stuff.
I love these guys.
We slept in on Saturday morning then went to the mall for lunch. We let everybody hang out for about an hour before heading home.
We are currently 45 minutes from home.
I’ve had a great week- God has done amazing things in us and through us.