Kathy House's Journal of the Mission Trip to Mission Central, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania September 29 - October 4 (8 volunteers: Kathy and Tom House, John and Betty Cooper, Rev. Michaela St. Marie, Steve Ranous, Paul Thompson, and Kathy McMonagle). At our mission team meeting September 10th, I took a bathroom break and when I returned I had been designated to keep the trip journal! Thank you very much.
Day 1 - Monday was a travel day - we left for Pennsylvania at 1:30 and arrived at 6:00 p.m.We were lucky to get great accommodations at the Silver Spring Retreat Center which was recommended by the Coordinator of Mission Central. It was a house with 6 bedrooms (19 single beds, some of them bunk beds) with 3 showers and 2 half baths. It is run by the Silver Spring Presbyterian Church next door. A couple of the guys went to the grocery store while the rest of us settled in. We enjoyed a nice dinner of roast chicken and comfortable fellowship.
We had devotions twice a day, before breakfast and after dinner. I had the first night and spoke about the ride down, the colorful trees, and the cloud-filled sky. All kinds of clouds, big, small, wispy, mostly white but some smaller gray ones and how they reminded me of times of turmoil in our lives and huge patches of white sky that made me think of times of "clear sailing" or "care-free" times. I then talked about Rick Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life, and how it tells us we were created by God, for God, and by serving others we serve Him.
Day 2 - Tuesday Paul Thompson did morning devotions. "We all have different gifts, but work together for the common good." Our work day was 9-4. Mission Central is a huge warehouse with many missions going on. It is well organized and well run. Sixteen people are on staff and the rest are volunteers. We were shown an orientation film and then assigned to our work stations. The team split into 2 groups of 4. The first group assembled Health Kits and the second group assembled School Kits. Boxes and boxes of School Kits needed to be verified as to proper contents and proper size of tote bags. Also, any item that said "made in China, USA", etc. needed to be blacked out or taped over as they would not be acceptable for shipping internationally. The kits were then put back into boxes and put on pallets. In 3 days the team of 4 verified and reassembled
1,010 School Kits. What a joy thinking about the 1,010 smiling children as they received these kits. We all worked well together and began to enjoy each other's company. At lunchtime we ate our bag lunches together in their lunch room and then it was back to work. The women prepared dinner and John Cooper did the evening devotion. We sang hymns with his accompaniment on the piano. He also shared experiences during his time in the service about how we are "guardians" of one another and this one time when fear was so strong that he did not know if he could be a "good guardian" of those in his care.
Day 3 - Wednesday morning Kathy McMonagle gave her first devotion to an adult group. She was apprehensive but did a great job. She talked about how we should not be judgmental even though that is our nature. By not being judgmental we can be compassionate. Off to work! Half of us continued to assemble School Kits while the other half disassembled Health Kits. These kits had been sitting on the shelf for a year and so they needed to be taken apart, the towels and wash clothes were damp so needed to be put in the dryer. The rest of the items needed to be sorted and those items that did not meet requirements, like packages of toothbrushes instead of a single one, were put in separate boxes. When towels and wash cloths came out of the dryer, we had to sort them, cut tags off, fold them and put them in boxes to be stored on the shelf for those coming in to assemble health kits. After another enjoyable meal and fellowship, Steve Ranous gave the evening devotion about "Love". Love really does make the world go round; love of God, ourselves, and one another. We also sang Hymns about love.
Day 4 - Our last work day. Tom did the morning devotion about how it is more blessed to give than to receive. He said a friend of his on a trip to Haiti shared this feelings of the joy of helping others: "think of the best gift you have ever given, how proud you were of that gift and the joy you got as it was opened; now double that, and that is what it is like to help others on a mission trip." Tom then shared the story of "Two Horses" who were always together. One horse was blind. His owner chose not to put him down and has made a good home for him. The other horse wears a bell. It lets the blind friend know where the other horse is, so he can follow; trusting that he will not be led astray. God does not throw us away just because we are not perfect, he watches over us and even brings others into our lives to help us when we are in need. Sometimes we are the blind horse…being guided by the little bell of those that God places in our lives. Other times we are the guide horse, helping others to find their way.
"For we walk by faith and not by sight." Before heading to work we went next door to tour the Silver Spring Presbyterian Church originating in 1735 as a log church. It was replaced by a stone meeting house in 1783. In 1929 the Meeting House was restored to its 18th century appearance through the generosity of the McCormick family. It was awesome. The pews had doors on them and the pulpit was raised with steps going up to an enclosed platform. I stood in the pulpit and said "God bless you" and the acoustics were great. Upon arriving at Mission Central we had a tour by a retired pastor, Ruth, who volunteers there. She is so knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their many missions; from providing cleaning buckets, health kits, and school kits, to food, medical equipment, and home furnishings. Pastor Ruth shared with us several stories of how God has his hand in the mission work done there. Also it is interesting that nothing is wasted; for example, sharpened pencils are not acceptable in the school kits so they are put aside and given to a local school. Certain soaps are not acceptable in the health kits because they break down too easily, so they might be put in a homeless kit, etc., etc.
Day 5 - For some this was a travel day home. Pastor Michaela gave the morning devotion about how "a small group of people can make a big impact". We cleaned the Retreat Center and then went our separate ways. Pastor Michaela and Steve Ranous headed home, John and
Betty traveled on to see family, while others toured Gettysburg and/or Hershey World.
This was my first Mission Trip and it was very enjoyable. Our team was enthusiastic and sincere about making a difference in the lives of others. We pushed ourselves to make each day very productive. We all thanked Tom for his great leadership and passion for people and
making the world a better place.
It was another awesome mission trip with our little group of 8. It was a real joy to be helping at Mission Central by putting together Health Kits and School Kits to be shipped all over the world. To think how many people touch each item and the joy that it will bring at the other end fills your heart.
I want to thank not only the 7 people that joined me on the trip who gave their time and donations but to all of you that donated scrap iron which enabled us to give generously to others. With your help we were able to donate $1,000 to Mission Central. We were also able to donate $450 to the Silver Spring Presbyterian Church who oversees where we stayed, the Silver Spring Retreat Center. This is one of the church's many missions. They normally charge $150 per night for the Retreat Center but for non-profit groups they charge $150 for their entire stay and the church subsidizes the rest. While we were there we learned that the town had just doubled the property tax and they are concerned whether they can continue to keep the Retreat Center open and sponsor non-profit groups. We knew that it would cost us each about $100 a night to stay in a motel and this house was perfect for meals, fellowship, and devotions so we were glad to contribute to the well-being of the Retreat Center and hope that
this wonderful house can continue to be used for non-profit events.