It’s hard to believe it’s already the 7th day and almost time to go back to New York. Several team members have expressed interest in staying longer and one team member thinks he would like to move here! As with many good things there is an end. Today was our last workday as a Brickthink team in Jacksonville.
When we arrived at Father’s Love, the staff greeted us, and R., its director, laid out the plans for the day. Two team members were assigned to stay to make wooden benches, our team leader and electrician were sent to finish up at Ms. G.’s, and the balance of the team went to Ms. B’s to finish painting before the rains came. As God would have it we finished in the nick of time.
Tonight was our final opportunity to meet youth who participate in the Father’s Love program. The last two men from our team shared powerful testimonies with the teenaged boys. We hope the boys were inspired to believe that our loving God is always with them, ready to help them, whenever they sincerely ask.
We started our devotion today with the song “I Love You, Jesus”, followed by a reading from John 3:16. It was one of our team member’s birthday. She led the devotion and reminded all of us what a wonderful gift of life the father has given us. She asked that we be loving and kind in our walk and give all glory to God.
When we arrived at Ms. G.’s house she was not home because she had a final exam at the college were she is studying. She is a senior citizen and an amazing woman. Ms. G. does not mince words – she will tell you in a minute that her strength comes from the Lord. She loves Jesus and puts all her trust in him. She lives by faith and God has surely provided for her. We finished the garden, painted the trim on her swing a light green to match the doors and windows of the house, fenced the garden, cleaned the yard and put in new windows. She expressed her gratitude and was very happy the Lord sent her Father’s Love and the Brickthink team. Meanwhile, at team Ms. B.’s, our work is almost done.
At the completion of the workday, we all returned to the hotel to wash up before attending the evening meeting for 10- to 12-year-old girls at Father’s Love. The meeting was very well attended, and the girls were very friendly and active.
After games outside, followed by praise and worship inside, two of our team members shared what God means in their lives. Then, the women prayed with the girls, and encouraged them to pray with each other. After an important lesson on how to become strong in faith, the entire group spent time together over pizza and headed home.
Our day was filled with fun. The groups were split between two house projects again. The women switched houses.
At Ms. G.’s, one team member worked on her new garden; another replaced a door; others repaired a swing, and another was allowed to named her dogs Princess and Roscoe!
Ms. G. prayed and sang for them at lunch:
“If I could just touch the garment of my Lord, I’d be healed; my sin would be washed away.”
The team at Ms. B.’s continued working… and made new friends.
In the evening, the ladies visited the teen girls ministry at Father’s Love. We met the girls and shared testimonies and prayer.
The men did the same at Juan’s church.
Today was another glorious day. The weather was perfect. We enjoyed a touching testimony from a member of Father’s Love staff this morning. The girls who live at Ms. B.’s house told her that they are *so* excited about all the improvements being made there.
They were shocked that people from our town – “where everything is” – would come all the way to their town to help! They asked her how come all the good people come from New York. Because the previous mission team was also from Times Square Church, they perceive all New Yorkers through us. We finished our daily devotion and were on our way.
At the work sites, each team was excited to see what had been done so far, and then continue.
At Ms. B.’s, the team finished painting the front and one side of the house. New carpeting was installed in the girls’ room, and our expert volunteer electrician helped install new power outlets and repaired faulty telephone wiring. Otherwise it was lots of painting and scraping.
At Ms. G.’s, progress was slow and steady. The wooden boards on the exterior of her home soak up lots and lots of paint. One part near the rear of the house was sagging and our expert carpenter volunteers tore out the old boards and replaced them with new custom-cut planks of fresh wood. It was as if they had to hold the house up to keep it from falling. Only God could have helped them do repair work that was so necessary for the house, but out of their skills set. This mix of men from both ministries really came together in unity to get the job done.
It was a madhouse back at the Father’s Love building this evening. Around forty 10-12 year old boys were there for their weekly visit, where they play games and learn about God’s love. Dodgeball was the game of choice tonight!
Upstairs, three men from our group shared how God has blessed their lives. To their surprise, the boys really listened to the testimonies.
Afterwards, the kids had the option to remain in that room, if they wanted the men to pray with them about something going on in their lives. A shy little boy named A. was among those who stayed behind. “What do you need prayer for?”, our team leader asked. His cousin had been shot recently, and was in prison. A. was very upset, and was crying. Our leader prayed with him – asking God to grant him peace, and for his cousin to turn his life around, in Jesus’ name. The boys had pizza and the night was done.
Today was the first day of meeting the families we would serve. We had breakfast and then enjoyed our devotional on Philippians 4:13 and Romans 8:28. We then headed out to Father’s Love for our assignments. Once there, our leader shared what Matthew 25:31-40 and Isaiah 58:6-11 means to him. Then we were divided into 2 teams. One was assigned to go to Ms. G.’s house and the second team to Ms. B.’s house. We scraped, caulked, and painted the exteriors. Another team member worked on the electricity and another replaced the front windows. It was a very productive day.
Priming for paint
The start of the job
The ministry's logo on the side of the trailer which carried our tools
At Ms. G.'s
Electrician at work
Ms. G. even joined the painters at Ms. B.’s house! Yes… while the other team worked on her house! It was a real treat – she just pours out God’s love. Everyone has been so touched by her faith and her warm, strong spirit. We love her.
At the end of the day, we were invited to our ministry hosts’ home for dinner, table tennis, dominoes and a walk in a neighborhood park. Can you find the team member dwarfed by this tree?
Massive tree hug
After evening devotion, we headed back to our rooms. We’re exhausted! Good night!
We have two parts to our Day 2 blog, because the group went to church while the weather delayed our eighth team member. We were praying for her safe arrival because we’d heard about tornadoes that touched Arkansas and Oklahoma a few days prior, causing mass destruction of life and property. Our prayers were answered – she arrived safely. What we thought were tornadoes were actually thunderstorms near the airport. The pilot had diverted the plane to another city, until the storms passed.
The best part of the delay was the view after the storm!
The team at the hotel did morning devotion and headed out to church. The sermon was about God’s love for the poor. Gwyn & Debbie Wilkerson were in attendance.
After the service we went to a buffet lunch at Ryan’s and then return to the hotel to meet our 8th team member. After some discussion about her experience and unexpected delay we headed out to Father’s Love. We met some of the people who do such great work there, and even saw some bird houses that the children were taught to build! Each bird house was painted with quotations such as “His eye is on the sparrow”. The girls made crosses with the words “Faith” “Hope” and “Love” carved into the wood, and the boys made wooden cars and trucks to give to kids in Mexico.
We had a team-building exercise and devotion with the Father’s Love team.
Devotion at Father's Love
One gentleman shared the story of how he came to place a cross at the site where Pastor Dave Wilkerson met the Lord. We asked to stop there, to pay our respect.
Memorial Cross for Pastor Wilkerson
We all then proceeded to dinner at an authentic Texas Bar-B-Que.
Before we left Times Square Church for our journey, we prayed for our team and all the other teams. We asked Jesus to give us His traveling mercies since one of our team members had a fear of flying. Then we got off to an early start and arrived at the airport safely. Here is a photo of the Texas Team, missing the 2 bloggers.
Texas Team at the airport, NYC
We proceeded to the car rental area and found a magnificent exhibit of a cowboy and bulls – really great!
- Everything in Texas is BIG!
On the way to Jacksonville the guys insisted we see the newly built stadium in Arlington. Of course the ladies didn’t seem too interested but once we saw it I have to say we were kind of impressed and sorry we didn’t take pictures ( pictures to follow – if the guys will share them (smile) )!
After arriving at our hotel we discovered we were in the part of East Texas that was once known as the Tomato Capital of the U.S. Our host came with his wife and 2 month-old son to take us to a very nice Mexican restaurant, where we had plenty of sweet tomato salsa.
After dinner we went to the Dairy Queen for Banana splits. One member of the team had never been to a Dairy Queen. And this was the end of our first day in Jacksonville. We ended the evening with a thankful prayer.
Sun—bright, unmistakable—sun peeked through the curtains the morning of our much-anticipated recreational day and our last partnering with the Father’s Love team. After a couple of overcast and unseasonably cool days, we felt blessed that gorgeous weather was cooperating with what promised to be a wonderful time ahead at the Rockin C Ranch. After sleeping in a bit—we met in the lobby for our devotional and prayer at 9:30 AM, then headed out for breakfast. Roger and Isabelle came to meet us and we were excited to be on our way.
Driving onto the property it looked like a regular working ranch. We saw turkey, sheep, and heard about the longhorn, so named for the length of the horns, known as “racks.” We got our first flash of our host’s humor when we learned the names of the steer with the longest racks—Shadrach and Meschach (get it?). They haven’t yet found their Abednego. They took us through our paces with quizzes about chicken—how many eggs will a chicken lay in a year? how long does it take for an egg to hatch? and yes, why does the chicken cross the road?
A Christian camp, the owners love partnering with Father’s Love to provide scholarships for children to attend for the week. Several kids had confided in us that they’d never left Jacksonville, not even been up the road to Tyler, so I could only imagine how exciting it must be for them to attend sleep-away camp. Of course the kids have a wonderful time on the low ropes, high ropes, canoeing, riding horses, etc. But they also assume all the tasks associated with running an actual ranch. In the process they learn to get up early, work hard, and be disciplined and responsible. With scholarships, the Father’s Love kids get to attend for just $50 rather than the normal $550 per week. But even at that nominal amount, Father’s Love frequently winds up assuming the cost for kids who want to attend.
Our guides wasted no time in giving us city slickers an opportunity to prove our metal with the High Ropes Challenge. Tanicqua, who’d met us at the ranch, was first up. Dude! Gotta say, she represented. She scampered up the tree, lightly supported her body with overhead wires as she walked a tight rope and performed other feats (all with a harness, of course) that would have put you in mind of Jane as in “Me, Tarzan.” Exhilarated, going down the zip-line she stopped just short of a back flip. We all followed, granted, with a bit less flair—some electing to complete the entire course, others opting for the zip-line only. Not only was it great fun, but also was a wonderful exercise in conquering the fear of heights (more accurately, fear of falling) for some of us.
With a bit of swagger, we were ready to move on to the next challenge—horseback riding. I say “challenge” because this was something new to virtually the entire BrickThink Team. The training we received was without much ado. “You put your foot in the stirrup, and swing your leg over to get on the horse; you pull the reigns to the right when you want to go right, and toward your belly when you want the horse to stop. Don’t let tree limbs hit you in the face.” There were a few more instructions of that ilk on horse-riding basics. Before we knew it, we’d been matched with a horse that was temperamentally suited to each of us and we were on our way. From this vantage point we got to appreciate the beauty—the hills, lakes—tall trees, and sheer expanse—of the property. We rode for an hour, convinced that no seasoned cowhand had anything much on us. We conveniently forgot, of course, that the horses had been specifically trained to give us a gentle, uneventful ride.
Sho ‘nuff, and as the Rockin C Ranch staff promised, we’d worked up an appetite. With mouth-watering aromas wafting through the air we knew that they’d fired up the barbeque. We had burgers (fresh from the ranch) hotdogs and baked beans. To say that they were a cut above anything we’d had back home is an understatement!
As the day turned to evening we reflected on our week in Jacksonville, Texas. Roger reminded us of his promise that by the final day we would each know what God had in mind for us—the work He was performing in our hearts and spirits—in choosing us for the trip. As we listened to each person share, it was like watching, and hearing the puzzle pieces click into place. We could see, perhaps not everything God had in mind, but a clear glimpse into the good work He’d performed in each of us. It’s not everyday that you get to see His hand in your life so clearly and to know the lengths He’ll go and the details He’ll orchestrate to help us grow in His ways and His love.
Starting our day with prayer and devotions as usual, we had no idea that it was going to be all about miracles.
As our week is winding to a close we are all incredibly motivated to pull the projects we started at the beginning of the week across the finish line. Although painting Alfredo’s house from top to bottom seemed quite impossible when the project began, its completion was within sight.
Tom, a team member who was first assigned to the project on Monday, relates that he’d initially made fun of the house in his mind. It was so ramshackle that he laughed at the little house and thought of gluing it together with paint. But God dealt with him, asking what was so funny? He then made it clear that this was His temple with the presence of the Holy Spirit dwelling within the family who lived there. The Lord’s gentle correction completely shifted Tom’s view of his divine appointment. He became committed to making that house a beacon of hope in the community. One of the finishing touches was adding a light to the porch, probably the only house on the block that had one. With the color choice—and the light on the porch, it has truly become the beacon he envisioned.
This was such special home we learned from Juan who’d supervised most of our team’s work on the home that this family had been touched by a miracle. He’d asked us to be sure that we stopped by that evening to hear their testimony. When we arrived the whole family was dressed up in their Sunday-go-to-meeting finery. Though they spoke little English and we spoke less Spanish they were able to convey the full power of the miracle that I’d alluded to in a previous post.
Our Miracle Girl
Their precious little girl had suffered from debilitating eczema from when she was nine months old. Not only was the crusty skin disfiguring, but she scratched until she bled. She begged her mother to help her but medical remedies failed. The only thing her mom could do was to pray. For six solid weeks they anointed their precious child with oil and prayed–prayed without ceasing. Less than a month ago her mother tells us, on a Saturday, she went to her daughter’s bed and was horrified to find it covered with dead skin. But God spoke to her and told her that her child had been healed. She touched her daughter’s soft, perfect skin and confirmed for herself His promise. Aren’t you blessed seeing the joy and gratitude in the family’s face? But look at the girl!
Speaking of miracles, here’s another one that Juan recounted. We’d just helped him load a hundred chairs on his flatbed that he was taking down to Mexico for a church service as part of his mission’s trip. He was leaving in the afternoon for the arduous nin-hour drive, but took the time to relate how he had come to missions work.
As a young boy his family had been so poor living in Mexico that they’d made their home in half of a train boxcar. When missionaries came they made a huge difference in the family’s life, both in terms of survival and spirit. At 45 years of age Juan says “they taught me so much that stays carved on my heart until today, although I was just 10 years old then.” The missionaries would stay for several weeks and then return home to raise more money. But one day they went back to the states, never to return.
Fast forward, several years ago Roger blessed Juan with a trip to New York where the plan was to introduce him to Pastor David Wilkerson. But somehow their wires got crossed and Pastor David was en route elsewhere. Sharing his testimony at a Teen Challenge meeting in Brooklyn, Juan’s wife frantically waved him to her side. A young woman audience listening to the story asked him to restate his full name, and hometown, and to relate again the surname of the missionaries. What God had put in place was a reunion of Juan missionary workers’ daughter! Not only had she heard the story from her parents, but also blessed Juan with a photo album of pictures featuring Juan and his brother, Omar. For all those years it had been on his heart to thank the missionaries for all that they had done in his life. Through their daughter he finally got his opportunitiy.
As has been the case throughout the week, Hugh rolled with Brett to pick up the children in the afternoon. Today it was time for the 10 to 12 year old girls. Similar to the experience with the boys on Tuesday, the girls were ecstatic when picked up and even more so when they arrived at Father’s Love. The team played volleyball and basketball with the girls, and some even whirled around the hoola-hoop and jumped rope. Then it was time for chapel.
Szilveszter, Enshil, Hugh, Deborah and Tom were asked to share with the girls. We each shared a piece of our hearts with the girls as we allowed the Holy Spirit to speak through us. As Enshil shared, it seemed as though each girl could identify with the story of her childhood experience and from where we stood at the front of the group, we could see it in their eyes, hear it in the many “sniffles” and from the sound of golden silence, that the Holy Spirit was moving deeply in the hearts of these young girls. Derik, was quietly sitting at the back of the room observing the scene when Ms. Melissa asked if he wanted to share anything. After saying no and shaking his head a couple times, he said “you know what, yeah I’ll share something”. The story he shared about the heart of a father, brought tears not only to our eyes, but also to those of many of the girls as he encouraged them. By then it was clear that the common theme of the afternoon was about the Father’s love for us, and that He’s the one who brings healing even after many years, to broken relationships with our family.
To close out the afternoon, Ms. Melissa asked each girl to hug at least five others, and this turned out to be an overwhelming outpouring of love with hugs and tears of joy among the team and the girls. Enshil has never been hugged by so many 10 to 12 year old girls in all her life!!!! Even Godfridah and Lisa joined the party at the end. Thanks be to God for his loving kindness and tender mercies. This really touched the hearts of everyone.
We all drove along with Brett and Tanicqua on the round-trip home after the meeting. For some of us, it was our first opportunity to see beyond the curtains of the neighborhoods where the girls lived. Some of the girls openly expressed how much they enjoyed the evening; it was such a blessing to hear!!
We were sad as we saw Melissa and Brett off since they won’t be able to join us at Rockin’ C Ranch tomorrow; they will be taking a group of teenagers to a conference in Dallas. Since we won’t get the chance to share with them again for a while, Derik suggested that we all have dinner together, just to savor the moment. We went back to our now favorite Mexican restaurant and enjoyed quesadillas and fajitas. Tanicqua and Isabel also joined us. In the midst of the many lighthearted moments, Melissa and Brett expressed how much they and the Father’s Love team have been refreshed by our presence, like a cup of cold water, and how they thank God for answered prayers.
By the end of the day we were truly overwhelmed by God’s continuous demonstration of what He will do in our lives and how much He loves us.
Tomorrow’s going to be a day of recreation and you’ll learn all about it in tomorrow’s post!
The progress that we’re making on our various projects is unbelievable. We have totally gelled as a BrickThink team in concert with the team from Father’s Love. Praise God!
The highlight of the day was sharing our testimonies with the girls, 13 and over. We were asked to lead the worship. The session began with Melissa inviting Praise Reports– the blessings that the girls had receive, and prayer requests, for the troubles they face. Several of the girls requested prayer.
We decided to teach two songs: “There’s No One Like Jesus” and “I have a Father.” Before getting started we introduced ourselves and the girls were simply fascinated with the diversity of our background. They immediately asked that we sing the first song in Swahili. After giving that a bit of whirl and the girls trying to catch on to the unfamiliar sounding words they were ready to return to English. We then taught them the dance moves that go with the song. At first, the girls were a little shy–worried, as young teenagers are wont that doing the dance moves might be a little lame or corny. But a few found Lisa’s beat on the makeshift drums just too irresistible. So they girls doused the moves with some local flavor and just danced!
But then Enshil from Korea stepped in. She danced with abandon and the room caught fire, especially as she pulled the first few that had started things off to the front. Not wanting to be left out the inhibitions fell by the wayside and everyone “walked around here and there, searched around here and there, looked around here and there to find there’s no, there’s no one like Jesus.” These girls were singing at the top of their lungs and dancing for all they were worth. When Lisa finally paused they looked at her as if she’d lost her mind, begging her to resume.
To say that they were warmed up is an understatement. They loved “I Have a Father,” too, also with an African beat. We then briefly shared how we had each come to develop a personal relationship with Jesus. They listened with rapt attention, some nodding their heads in recognition or agreement. They then asked questions such as ”what happens when you ask God for something and he’s listening to someone else?” “How Jesus helps with anger?” “How long you known each other?” ” How can you pay your bills when you return home after after paying for the trip and taking off work?” What they seemed to be seeking was knowledge and examples of how they can know and trust that God is faithful.
Sharing our stories
We then broke into small groups to pray with the girls. In the groups we learned more about their lives and several revealed the heavy burdens that they were carrying. One described how much better she felt after Godfreda prayed over her. She’d confided that her mother was terminally ill and her father had been “lost.” In the group that I was part of a girl described how much it hurt her that her father wished that she’d been born a boy, and just didn’t love her the way that he did her brother. Referring to the song we sang earlier, she said that by knowing she has a heavenly father who loves her, she wouldn’t care so much about what her earthly father thought of her.
These girls were so softhearted. The facade of “cool” crumbled almost immediately; it simply couldn’t sustain against their hunger and thirst for the truth. It confirmed what that they’d been hearing at Father’s Love all along. But hearing outsiders from all over the world say the same thing meant the world to them.