Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Appalachian Mission Trip with World Vision

Philippi, WV.

That's where we went for our 4 days and 3 nights mission trip. Philippi is located in the Appalachian region and with a sparse population of 3,000 residents, we joined World Vision to help this struggling small town.

Admittedly, each of us had different expectation about the town and the community that we would be serving, and what we saw there seems to defy all of our expectations. I guess we were still struggling to reconcile the definition of poor in the US compared to what we have brought up seeing in Indonesia. The family that we were serving seems to possess things that low-income Indonesians would be considered luxury: flat TV, fully stocked refrigerator, electricity, plumbing, and comfy bed.

However, this initial shock did not last long. We had a debrief the first night and took the chance to unite and align our perspective again to the Bible. God is teaching us that He does not discriminate any of the disciples when He washed their feet, including Judas. Thus, regardless of their poverty level, we were called to serve, and serve we will.

Our main goal is to finish painting one living room. First, we started the day getting to know Rosetta and her family (this is the family that we served), and quickly started to work. Before the wall can be painted, we needed to sand and chalk the wall. So majority of our time was spent doing these, while some of us (Eva, Upik, and Maria) were assigned to repaint another room.

During the course of three days, we slowly got to know Rosetta and her family. She shared how she was raised in a church, but hardships and disasters that came later in life pushed her away from believing in God. She could not understand why a loving God would put her in an alcoholic family and allow suffering to happen in her life: bankruptcy, medical bills, and many other calamities.

Despite the disappointment, she also shared how she was touched by the kindness of World Vision and all the volunteers who had come to help her renovating her house. Teared up, she confided that she was not ready to accept Christ yet, but all these gospel-adorning activities by Christians around her definitely softening her heart.

One personal memory with Rosetta was when she invited all of us to watch her son's football match. We were more than thrilled to take part in this family event and quickly agreed to attend. We arrived at the field, her brother insisted on paying all of our tickets (such an act of generosity) and we all sat down together cheering the home team. That game was a special moment because at that point, I believe we were bonded deeper when all of us cheering and shouting together for her son. No label, no presumption, no I-am-the-volunteer, and no I-am-the-poor, just people having fun together over a game.

The last day of service, we started out with a morning devotion from John 13 about Jesus washing the disciples' feet. We meditated on Jesus' servanthood: that He loves in spite of who the disciples are (no discrimination, including Judas), in spite of what He is facing (single focus to serve although He would be crucified the next day), and in spite of who He is (King).

Then, we painted the outside of the house and by the end of the day, we finished painting two sides of it. Quite an accomplishment. For our last dinner, Rosetta and her family came to our campground. It was truly a delight to have her over, and we discovered that she was a very friendly and sociable person. We thanked God that during the course of three days, the ice had melted, the racial and demographic gap had been bridged, and a memorable friendship was built between Rosetta and us.

As I looked back over the experience, I, and I'm sure I'm speaking for the whole team, was truly blessed by this trip. First, it is true what the Bible said that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35) and we experienced that first-hand. Not just the acts of service, but the satisfaction from being a blessing and to do this in the context of friendship and fellowship. Second, it humbled me: that my life is undeservedly blessed, that I complained more than I need, and I give thanks less than I should (we also had a no-complaint rule during the trip :) ). Third, God's unconditional love is far more radical than I imagined. Love views the world in opaque: no cultural, racial, socio-economic black and white and ultimately, demanding no response.

All in all, thanks to World Vision, Kris (the coordinator), and Rosetta and her family for the experience. Hopefully we can come back next year, with a different team!!

The Team, Rosetta (in pink), her husband and children, and Kris (in orange) from World Vision

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