California Mission Trip Updates
Monday June 18
It has been awhile since the last update, but we have been quite busy. To start, we built two sets of stairs on Friday morning. It was challenging but rewarding work. After finishing the final touches, we were thanked by the lovely owner and took a picture together. Afterwards, we cleaned up and got ready for the teen gospel mission. We came early and got to play some games with the teens and talk to them until it was time for the service. During the service, Julia gave an astounding message about how God is consistent. However broken or ashamed you are, God will meet you where you are at. I believe this message was definitely needed for the teenagers listening. They come from the streets, or broken families, so to know that God will meet them where they are at gives them the assurance they need. Along with Julia’s message, Kristin gave her testimony. Her story was so heartfelt and personable. Once we all heard it, we realized it was an integral part of our overall service.
The weekend was slower pace. We spent time getting to know the Kauffman family (apart from Lloyd and Kristine, who we are very well acquainted with).
Saturday morning we drove to Turlock to help Kourtney, the eldest Kauffman daughter, with some yard work. This involved rototilling, trimming trees, and overall cleaning up the yard. Afterwards, we had a barbeque with the family.
On Sunday, we all went to CrossPoint Church’s service in the morning. The message was about not trying to balance things with following God. Following God should come first, and the rest should come naturally. It is very hard to put our love for Jesus over our love for family, but following Jesus first will make you a better child, spouse, parent, sibling, etc. After the service, we went to the old folks’ home, Ralston Towers, and held our own service. Alexis gave the message, speaking about why God tests our faith. This was a great topic for our audience, as well as our team. She provided biblical stories, such as Job’s life, to explain why we are tested. I will always remember what she said: “God doesn’t test us because He wants to know how strong we are, He tests us because He knows how strong we really are, and wants us to realize it.” I think this quote is so powerful. God knows what is ahead for all of us, and how strong we really are, even though we don’t. In fact, our obstacles build character and faith. If we don’t challenge ourselves, we will never grow. Kristin also sang a solo, “You Make Me Brave.” Her voice was breathtaking and spoke to everyone’s hearts. To end the night, we played soccer in the park to enjoy our free time.
On Monday, we met Advancing Vibrant Communities at their office to load up two wheelchair ramps. One was for a sweet lady named Rita, and the other was for a man, named Terry, and his wife. In the afternoon, we were almost done building, but had to leave so we could pack lunches for the folks at Ralston Towers, as well as the homeless. Our team split into two groups. Thorin, Kristin, Alexis, Gary, and Tashia stayed at the church to serve the meals to the homeless and talk to them. Kristin provided a brief message about fear, and Thorin played piano. The message and music was outside, so a lot people were very distracted. However, there were a few who listened contently. In fact, three of the homeless people there signed up for a drug rehabilitation program shortly after the message. It is just amazing how God works through a single message or song. Anything can change someone’s life, or at least trigger the inspiration to change. The other group, Sierra Brantz, Julia, Amelia, and I went to the Ralston Towers to deliver meals. There were other volunteers ready to serve, so we were each assigned two floors with a partner. I thought this small outreach was a great experience. I got to meet many new people and hear their stories. Many of the residents just want to feel love, God’s love, even if that is through someone knocking on their door with a meal. Many of them were also interested in our stories, such as where we came from and how we came to know God. As Sierra and I gave the extra meals to a group that were holding a bible study, they asked each us to give our testimony. I was pleasantly surprised by how well they listened and cared for each of us. Once the whole team was home, we ate out at Texas Road House and made memories.
I am very excited for tomorrow, as we will be heading to Fresno Zoo. We will update you soon!
Thanks for all the love and support,
Thursday June 14
First thing this morning we got up and went to finish a fence for an elderly women that we have been working on the past few days. We got to the job site and began ripping out roots along the fence line, cutting boards, and putting in brackets to set the boards in. Many of the teens such as Julia, Kristin, and Sierra Grace began leading or working on their own with other teens, teaching them how to do a specific job after shadowing Gary or I. Julia and Kristin both were able to cut boards for the rest of us; meanwhile, Amelia, Tashia, and Alexis were on safety management, pulling nails out in old boards, and cleaning up around the job site. We all stayed hydrated and refreshed with a pop cycle break and a stop at Taco Bell.
When we were finished we all packed up and came back to the Kauffman’s house, got cleaned up, and began to practice the worship music and ready for a church service at the gospel mission for family night. Last night all of the teens either sang or played instruments. Thorin gave a great message on truth and how the world tries to convince us to believe lies such as: you’re not good enough, you’re not pretty enough, God doesn’t love you. At some point everyone has heard one of these lies and Thorin’s message pointed out that the truth and our morals come from the Word and that we are loved and wanted. Amelia also gave her testimony. The ministry that is done at the gospel mission is aimed towards kids who have grown up on the streets or who have been through/are going through hard trials. Being able to come to somewhere they call home( the gospel mission), where people who love them speak truth into their lives and talk with them and let them ask questions is very powerful and heartfelt. Their testimonies that we have heard so far have moved me and helped to further strengthen my faith.
Wednesday June 13
June 13, 2018
Spent the morning serving at the Vine House; serving food, fixing a lawn mower, and visiting with the homeless. Then split the group, half went to set the post in concrete for our fence project, half served water at the bus stop. Then we all met at a church to join a local youth group. Read on to see what Sierra Grace and Alexis have to say.
The next morning (today), we returned to the Vine House. Once again, it was a humbling experience. Thorin, Julia, and Alexis worked outside, while Kristin and I served breakfast and Amelia helped out in the kitchen. Along with breakfast at the house, there was a shower shuttle available outside. Both of these organizations show an amazing work ethic and a great example of God’s love. I thoroughly enjoyed working alongside them and learning about their stories and testimonies.
Currently, Gary, Sierra Brantz, Julia, and Alexis are continuing the fence project. Today, they will be laying cement and poles. Later, the rest of us will be handing out water bottles at a bus station as an outreach project. At the end of the night, we will be attending CrossPoint Church’s youth group. I am very excited to meet new teens and leaders, and to see how they run a youth group of over 150 people!
Thank you for all your support!
Today I learned how to mix concrete!!! That might not be that exciting if you think about it but it was a lot of fun. Julia, Sierra Brantz and I, oh and Gary got to work on building the structure of the fence. We only had the four of us and we had to dig six holes. But thanks to AVC they had give us a tool that helped a lot and made the job go a lot faster, it was… a Jack hammer. That was the first time I got to see one in use. I was afraid to use it, so I let Julia and Sierra use it and I scooped the dirt out. Not only did we get the holes done but we also got the posts in and the concrete made and put in the holes.
Yesterday, we got to eat with some refugee families. They gave us a lot of food I got full after the first dish. It was an amazing experience. To learn about their religion and just hear how they missed their families that they had to leave behind. Thanks so much for the love and support. Tomorrow we are going to finish the fence and go to the Gospel Mission and hear Thorin speak. I doing it on Sunday so wish me luck!!
Tuesday June 12
Getting ready to head out to dinner with Refugees from Afghanistan, but read Julia’s take on the day so far.
Our day started off with a very early morning for most of us at 5:30a.m. The alarm went off and we all got ready for the prayer breakfast at the Double Tree Hotel. It was a beautiful experience to eat and pray with a large roomful of people. After we were seated, we were led in worship and briefly informed of the topics of prayer. We prayed for the government, organizations, education, media, family, etc. and had a wonderful breakfast. I was very thankful for the experience to pray in a roomful of other believers praying for the city they love; to see such an amazing bond between all of them and God’s light shine through each individual was a lovely image of God’s people.
After the prayer breakfast had ended, we divided to prepare for construction. Alexis and Sierra Brantz went with a gentleman named John to get supplies from Home Depot for the project. The goal today was to clear out the wooden fence that was covered in thick vines and keep the undamaged boards. We were able to completely clear out the fence and old black tarp.
After tearing out the fence of a former volunteer in Modesto, we prepared to serve the elderly some ice cream at the Ralston Tower. As Kristin and I served 51 lovely residents, Thorin played piano, Julia played her violin, and Amelia played her guitar as background music. The people we were able to visit in the short time we were there shared some astounding stories and great advice. We hope to see some of them again at Sunday’s service.
After the ice cream social, we got ready to meet some Afghani refugee families. We separated into three different groups to visit three separate families. Thorin, Amelia, and Tashia met Doctor..., his wife , and there two twin boys. The doctor used to be a surgeon in Afghanistan, and performed surgeries that saved many lives. In fact, he showed them a video of an open-heart surgery he performed! Sierra Brantz, Alexis, and Kristin talked with another family, and their four children. The family showed them the written language of Dari, and told them how to cast out sickness, by reciting certain Quran versus three or four times. They also showed them some music from India and Afghanistan, as well as a song by Shakira. Lastly, Gary, Julia, and I visited a family who came to America in early December. This family also had four children: a 17-year-old girl, a 15-year-old boy, and twins that were in grade school. This family cared a lot about education, as there two older kids had a 4.0 GPA average! Considering the fact they attended a public school that only taught in English, they are very smart. We had a great time and their hospitality was amazing. In their culture, a neighbor or guest is more important than ten relatives! We were offered plenty of delicious food dishes, such as rice topped with raisins and carrots, chicken, steamed pot stickers, beans, roast beef, Afghani bread, and much more. Along with that, we had tea before and after dinner. The dad was really open about sharing his religion and culture, which was very intriguing. I also enjoyed playing a soccer video game with his oldest son.
Monday June 11, 2018
June 11, 2018
What an amazing bunch of teens, willing to serve were and how they are needed. Last night I ask Sierra Grace if she would speak in front of 150 folks today, without hesitation she said sure. Tonight we laid out a plan for tomorrow that include a couple of teens gathering building supplies, one helping to get a tool trailer on site, one helping Tashia do some shopping, and the rest heading straight to the building site to start ripping out 50’ of old fence; everyone agreeing to do their part for the team without hesitation. Oh, and I sure do get a lot of complements on the quality of teens on the team. Read on to see what Thorin has to say. Again, sorry for no pictures, maybe tomorrow. It’s late and we rise at 05:00 tomorrow.
Today was the first real day of our trip. It was eye-opening for every one of us. We began the day by serving at the Vine House, a place run by volunteers where needy people come to eat breakfast, pick up mail, be prayed for, and make relationships. Our team did a variety of work in the two hours we were there; some served food, some worked outside, and a few sat and talked with the people who were there. Even with such short time, God opened our eyes to the needs of these people who are around us. Already God is changing our hearts as we minister to those in need. Before we left the Vine House, we sat and talked with the volunteers who run the place and shared what we had done in the morning. We all prayed together afterwards – it was a beautiful picture of Christ’s church.
When we had finished at the Vine House, we returned to our place of refuge and prepared for the rest of the day. After a period of recuperation, our team traveled to a nearby church to minister to the homeless and needy who were there. A fantastic ministry that provides showers, haircuts, and other services was there. We got to both assist the volunteers running the ministry and talk and witness to the many people who were there. We heard some amazing stories about how God has changed the lives of those in desperate need through the church and the other ministry. After an intermittent period of time, our team split into two groups. One stayed at the church to serve a free meal to anyone who wanted it; the other group traveled to the Ralston Towers, a retirement home, to give out meals and talk to the people there. Julia and Amelia Palmer provided instrumental background music for the meal at the church – needless to say it was very well received. Sierra Keele shared a brief message to the people gathered for the meal about hope, something so many desperately need. It was evident that the message was something they needed to hear and that God was working in the hearts of those who were gathered there.
After these events, our ministry was finished for the day, and we gathered together to discuss what we had learned. Sierra Keele led us in devotions, we gave gifts to our host family, and we discussed what was to come. The LORD has truly blessed us upon this trip – already we are seeing doors open and opportunities to share His love. As for ourselves, He is working in our hearts daily to draw us ever closer to Him. It is for His glory that we do this.
We thank you all for your support and your prayers.
Sincerely, Thorin Panke
Sunday June 10, 2018
We made it. After changing our leave time to 12 hours earlier because Daniel
couldn’t come with us, getting to OR and finding out our cabin we rented was
giving away, and Julia and Amelia not being able to find us until an hour later,
we made it. God is good. We woke to snow and now are in 80º. Read on to
see what Sierra K and Thorin have to say. –Gary
We give thanks to God for his protection on our trip. We left Saturday morning at 9am to head to Modesto, California on the good old bus. Originally, our plan was to leave at 10pm and drive through the night. However, Daniel was not able to come with us due to a job in Florida. We managed to head out Saturday morning and arrived in Seneca, Oregon in the evening. We had plans to stay in the cabins, but another guy called in and said he was staying that night. His reservation was documented for July 9. To compromise, we stayed in a separate cabin, more like a barn shed, used for times like these. After settling in to the little town of Seneca, we were offered the school gym, where we played three-on-three volleyball matches until dinner. Although it was a little chilly, the cabin was delightful and simple.
On Sunday morning, we headed out the door to meet Julia and Amelia at the original cabins we were supposed to stay at. However, they were not there as they were looking for us. After what seemed like an eternity, we met at a gas station and continued our road trip to California. As we drove, we practiced our worship music and the messages we planned to give. Our speakers are mostly ready for what is to come, and all are excited to see what God has in store for us. On the last leg of the trip, we stopped at “The Olive Pit” for some delicious milkshakes and souvenir shopping. We have safely arrived at our destination; soon, we will truly see what the LORD has in store for us.
Grace of God be with you all; all we do is for His glory.
Sincerely, Sierra Keele and Thorin Panke
Saturday June 9th
We are leaving Pinehurst School at 9am for California!