The previous post was all about the construction activites we performed while down in the Gulf Coast Region. This post will reflect on the people I worked with and met while on this trip.
I arrived at the St. Louis Family church to meet up with 5 strangers to travel down to the Biloxi, MS area for a weeklong mission/service trip. From the Family Church there was Mike and his wife Charlie(Charlotte) and Mary(former Catholic nun and SI trip alumnus). There was Patti (a nurse who was currently unemployed and searching for what God wanted her to do next) and Jen(the youngest of our group-who was also seeking God's direction in Missions).
Upon arriving at Cedar Creek Methodist Church, we were greeted by Pastor Ed of the Family Church who is acting as coordinator on the ground in Biloxi for SI. We were introduced to Mike and Dave, who are also SI employees, acting as the construction foremen. We quickly found ourselves surrounded by a group of people speaking with a very thick southern drawl. This group from eastern Kentucky consisted of Pastor James and his wife Debbi, Janet and her husband AJ and Nancy and her husband Wade.
As dinner was laid out buffet style, we were introduced to the family group from Kansas City, MO. Chris and Tricia Tayrien and their children Tanner and Tatum as well as family friend Nikki Mereghetti. A silent group that seemed to stay off to themselves a bit, this group seemed kind of out of place in a room filled with boisterous, loud and very outgoing people. Like it usually happens, I found out why things were the way they were the next day.
In a conversation the following day, I learned that the Tayrien family was on this trip to celebrate the life of their eldest son, Tylor, who had died in a car accident on Dec 3, 2004. So this family, along with Tylor's close friend were spending the anniversary of his death helping other people. I cannot tell you how much I treasure my conversations with Chris and Tricia as well as with Nikki, limited though they may have been. God allowed me to give them some words of encouragement and He continues to allow me the ability to lift them up in my prayers often. If you have a moment, please visit www.remembertylor.org and suppot all that they are doing in the KC area.
In the evenings after dinner, we played card games for most of the night. With interspersed conversations heer and there, our group of total strangers became incredibly close in a very short time span. To work alongside of people all day long (while helping other people) and then come back to the same place and eat and sleep under the same roof is an experience that cannot be replaced by another.
I officially adopted Janet (of the KY crew) as my mother while I was there, as we hit it off right away and she took care of me when I wasn't feeling well a couple of days. Pastor James and I had a couple of great conversations regarding the mysteries of God and the Bible and how the Church is commanded to reach out to others and treat its own members. I played a lot of card games with Wade and AJ and I watched them worked tirelessly on hanging sheetrock in the garage at the parsonage. They truly are two men of silent demeanor but huge men of action and love.
Mike and Charlie were the Newlyweds of the group, having been married for a year or so. I watched and listened to Mike in how he worked during construction and how he took time for his wife throughout and am a better man because of it. Jen and Patti were that refreshing blast of air to remind me of how I once was passionately striving for what God wanted in my life and that I should get back to that point.
Everyone in the group played their role perfectly. We did the jobs we were assigned to the best of our ability and had as much fun as possible while doing it. We were transparent with one another in our faults and shortcoming and thorugh it all I believe we all became so much stronger for it. Our daily devotional time was a wonderful bonding experience in the Lord and proved to be the perfect way to start every day.
Late Friday morning, the Kentucky crew was ready to head home. They packed up their van and came over to visit us at the parsonage on their way out. I think Mike said it best when, after they had finally disappeared around the bend in the road beyond sight "It feels like saying goodbye to your family and not knowing if you will ever see them again." Yeah. And the grout in that last bathroom has some tears mixed in with it to prove the point...
At dinner time on Friday, the next group of 40 came in and started unloading. We helped welcome them, showed them around the place and generally talked about what we had seen, heard and accomplished while we had been there. After dinner the KC crew packed up to leave. While the new group finished eating and sat around and talked, our group met on the parking lot to say goodbye to some more of our family. Tears flowed freely in that space and it was refreshing and heart-rending all at the same time. Those of us remaining came back in and sat down at the tables. I unashamedly cried right along with Jen and Patti and remained silent for quite a long time.
The relationships forged during that one week were amazing. And then, in the end, you have to say goodbye to all of those people, not knowing if you will ever see them again. All you can do is leave them in the hands of God and thank Him for allowing you to know such wonderful people...