Monday, July 14, 2014

Houston 1:8

Brace's a long one.

For the past four years, the week after July 4th has been one of the busiest, most stressful weeks of our year.  But it is also one of the happiest, most fulfilling weeks.

It is the week of Houston Project, now called Houston 1:8.

For those that don't know, Houston 1:8 is our church's mission trip to our city.  There are multiple sites across the city that minister to the many people of Houston.

I'd love to share with y'all a little bit of our personal history with Houston 1:8.

We first heard about Houston 1:8 about 4 years ago.  We heard an announcement in our Life Bible Study about volunteering, but we tuned it out.  We were "too busy."  For the next year, it's important to note that we felt no guilt, we didn't feel anything missing.  We weren't aware that we had missed out on an opportunity.  We opted out of joining forces with our Mighty God to reach our city.  I am certain we opted out of His blessing, because we have seen so many wonderful things happen in the subsequent 3 years.

The next year, we were approached by a couple in our Life Bible Study and asked if we would like to assist them in coordinating a Houston 1:8 site.  They explained that they were pondering moving to another city, and would like to hand over the site in the future, but that they would allow us to partner with them so they could train us for the future.  Ha, what a joke!  Several weeks later, we found out that they had the opportunity to move much sooner than expected, so we were quickly promoted from assistant site leaders to THE site leaders.  We were surprised, we were stressed, but we were also sure it was too late to back out.  That year was a wonderful learning year for us.  We learned many wonderful lessons in servant leadership, and were blessed to work with an inner city church trying to reach its surrounding neighborhood.

2 months after Houston 1:8 ended, we enrolled in Perspectives.  This class forever changed the way that we view the world as Christians, and we became passionate about unreached people.

The next July, we found out that there were two new sites needing leaders, and we were given the opportunity to choose between another inner city church, or an apartment complex comprised of international refugees.  We quickly jumped at the chance to lead the refugee site as soon as we heard the word "international."  We were not familiar with refugee status, and had so much to learn about the particular needs and challenges of what it means to be a refugee.  We were able to partner with a local Bhutanese church, that incurred so much growth that they are able to sustain a church that can reach their own complex.  Amazing!

The next July, there was yet another new site being developed.  This site, Sunblossom Mountain Apartments, housed Bhutanese, Burmese and Nepali refugees and was a huge complex without a flourishing church.  By this time, we felt like we were "pros" at leading Houston 1:8 sites, and felt confident that we were well prepared.  Wrong!  On our first day, we fed 400+ people!  We ran out of food, so that our volunteers didn't even get a chance to eat, poor things.  We could not believe the turnout.  Each night we had 200-250 kids involved in VBS, and many youth and adults in their respective activities.  After the week ended, we felt an enormous burden on our hearts.  How could we leave this many people without a church?  When would they next hear the name of Jesus?

So we prayed.  We brainstormed.  We prayed some more.  And we felt like the Lord was leading us to start a semi-monthly kids' ministry so that we could continue to build relationships with these kids and teach them about Jesus.  Each week, we would spend two hours playing, reading Bible stories, singing songs, coloring, and passing out a lot of snacks and juice boxes.  Each week, we had anywhere from 30-50 kiddos that came out to play and hear about the Bible.

So this year, we were even more excited to get to come back.  Over the last year, Sunblossom has become a habit for us.  I don't mean to say that it is something we do thoughtlessly, but this complex has become a home-away-from-home of sorts.  We have gotten over our culture shock.  Our fear.  Our anxiety.  Our worries.  If there's anything the Lord has taught us these past four years, it is that He is faithful, and that He provides.

This year was no exception.  We had a wonderful turnout of kids, and were able to build on the knowledge they have been learning for the past year.  Kids were poring over the Bibles, learning scripture memory verses, and learning how to read the Bible for themselves.

We had an awesome women's ministry, where each night 25-30 women came to hear about Jesus and make a spiritually relevant craft.

We had an amazing turnout in youth boys, which I'm sure is mostly due to World Cup fever and the soccer that we played with them.

We had a consistent group of youth girls that were hungry for knowledge about Jesus.

We fed everyone, and passed out a. lot. of. sno-cones.

The last night, we had a wonderful speaker who delivered the Gospel message so powerfully.  People were sitting on their apartment balconies, completely engaged in his message.

What an amazing week!  We are physically tired, we are glad for a respite from all of our planning, but more than anything we are encouraged and excited to continue to trust in the Lord for His presence at this apartment complex.

 By far my favorite part of this week is the legacy that we are leaving for our family.  My younger brother, Jordan, has joined us for 3 years for Houston 1:8 and this has become a special time for him.  This was Henry's first official Houston 1:8 out of the womb, and we were so excited to see him smiling and interacting with refugee kids and moms.

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