Prayer Point: Lord, Make Me Different

Another bit of the mission trip prayer journal from this summer.

Read through the prayer of St. Francis, below. In fact, don't just read it, pray it.
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master,grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Every line of this prayer is asking "Lord, make me different." That's a hard thing to ask, because the world doesn't usually react well to people who are different. But as Christians, we are called to believe differently, to live differently, to look at people differently, to have different attitudes.That's hard work. We won't always be accepted and loved and complimented for it while we're here on earth. God is sometimes the only one who realizes it's a good thing for us to be different from the rest of the world. And he's given us each other to help us. My prayer for all of you this week is that God will give you the strength to be different.


With Many Apologies

On Monday of this week, I posted a link to a New York Times story about a group of nuns in Hollywood whose ministry is to continually pray for the people of that town, believing it to be "the Babylon of the USA."

I made a comment about how the sisters' singular focus on prayer, without, as the reporter noted, soup kitchens or door-to-door evangelism, "raised a red flag for me."

One of my fellow youth ministers, who is preparing to become a nun, challenged me on this point, asking if I believed prayer wasn't enough, or wasn't necessary.

Both my original comment and my first response to the challenge were hasty and ill-considered, and I apologize for them, to her and to anyone else who may have been offended by them. I ask for the forgiveness of my readers and promise to think more carefully before posting in the future. I have decided to remove Monday's post completely.

I prayed about this situation on my way to a meeting with one of my students yesterday, and the words that came to my mind were "Not everyone who says 'Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom, but only those who have done the will of my Father." And I realized what I had done in my evaluation of the Hollywood nuns was assume I knew God's will for them better than they did. I don't get to decide what makes a full life for any other person. When God calls a person to a life of prayer, that makes a full and complete life for that person, and a powerful witness for the Kingdom, because that is what God commanded. And doing what God commands is never less than enough.

Thank you for challenging an obviously flawed statement, and all God's blessings in your call.



A little self-promotion

You probably see a lot of familiar names in the pages of Group Magazine, since it draws articles and ideas from the big guns and from youth ministers all over the world. In the current issue, look for the Rookie-- an article on page 97, "How to build a network of community experts" is a piece I wrote while I was still working in Michigan.

A quote I'd forgotten putting in there: "There's a suffocating lie going around that says as youth pastors, we should have an answer to every crisis, a solution to every problem, the ability to make any event happen, and a Bible verse, song, game and object lesson that can apply to it. I say no. We don't need to know all these things ourselves; we just need friends who do."


Sunday Poll

Teaching a Bible class (literally, a class introducing 3rd graders to their new Bibles and showing them how to use the Book) in my previous parish, I asked the kids if they had any questions. One little girl's hand shot up before I finished asking.

"Isaac," she said, "who made God?"

Her brother had another zinger. "What would happen if God got fired from being God?"

On this year's mission trip, a cascade of students came up in the evenings with serious questions. "Are there different levels of sin?" and "I saw some people at a youth event once who were falling down and speaking strange languages. What were they doing and is it Christian?" were two of my favorites.

Question for you, fellow youth ministers: What are some of the best (funniest, hardest, most insightful) questions your students have asked you?


Lord's Prayer Study

This is a study piece that CSMSG's mission trip crew used to pray through the trip to West Virginia this summer. We provided a series of blog posts and a paper journal and had the students think about each daily theme and their own gifts and callings as part of our prep.

Read the Lord's Prayer below very carefully. In fact, don't just read it; pray it.
Our Father, who art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, now and forever. Amen.

Now read it again, looking very carefully at the words I've capitalized. I've also added a word in a few places to show the subject of the sentence, in good English-class style.

Our Father, who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be YOUR name
YOUR kingdom come
YOUR will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
(YOU) Give us today our daily bread
(YOU) Forgive us our trespasses,
as WE forgive those who trespass against us.
(YOU) lead us not into temptation,
But (YOU) deliver us from evil.
For YOURS is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, now and forever. Amen.

The only time WE are the active players in this prayer is when we are forgiving. In all the other petitions, we are saying that God is responsible for all the things we ask. We are trusting him to be powerful enough to provide them, and loving enough to walk with us while we use them. Nowhere does the prayer say that WE provide anything for ourselves, or protect ourselves, or save ourselves, or that WE deserve to be honored.

On the mission trip, one of our daily themes is Humility. The verse that goes with it is Philippians 2:3-4: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."

To practice humility in the weeks leading up to the mission trip, make a habit of saying the Lord's Prayer; when we know what we're saying and mean these words, we put ourselves in the humble position where God can use us the most-- when we know it's His power, not ours, that works in us.


The Rookie's Library 8-24-06

What I'm Reading:

"Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace" by Gordon MacKenzie, (C) Viking Penguin 1998, ISBN 0670879835 (This is a book on maintaining creativity within a corporate culture that was recommended by Marko over on his blog. I'm about halfway through it and loving every page; the parish I serve has a lot of corporate-type structures in it.)

"Everything I know about Business I learned from Monopoly" by Alan Axelrod (C) Running Press 2002, ISBN 0762413271 (There's a theme in my books this week; the Monopoly book happened to be on the shelf just at eye level next to the Hairball book. I love Monopoly and also love finding useful lessons in ordinary things, so this was a very happy accident to find.)

What I'm Watching:

"Eureka" on SciFi-- the tagline "Every small town has its secrets, but in the town of Eureka, the secrets are top secret!" nearly got me; it was the talking house that hooked me for good.

"Who Wants to be a Superhero?" also on SciFi-- since I was there already, I decided to check out what Stan Lee's up to. Look for a blog post more specifically about this concept!

"Snakes on a Plane" on the big screen-- it's a B-movie. So long as you know that...

Places I went in StL last week that I haven't been since I moved here:

The St. Louis Art Museum (they have mummies-- three of them!)

The St. Louis History Museum

Ted Drewes' Frozen Custard-- ahhhh... drooling...


Armor of God PJs

Saw this in an email from my friend Ceci yesterday and had to post it. These are the "Armor of God pajamas" designed to help kids remember that they're protected by all sorts of attributes of God when they go to sleep. Or maybe just a way to make some spare cash off Christians. But the idea's an interesting one, and since I'm all about using simple everyday things to connect our simple everyday lives to the sacred, if they made them in my size I would own them. Although the helmet and shield might be less than comfortable.


Three Reasons I Don't Believe in Myself

Yesterday I spent three hours in Walmart waiting for my car. I'd brought it in for an oil change and a tire fix. (On the way to see "Snakes on a Plane" a few days earlier I hit a pothole and then it started going flat every day, slowly.)

Around the start of hour 2, I wandered toward the fairly anemic book section and picked up a well-known motivational pastor's offering on self-improvement.

The author has seven main points, all of them things like "develop a healthy self-image" and none of them things like "realize that only Christ can save me." And it's a Christian book!

I do not believe in myself. There are many reasons for this, so in the interest of getting something done that looks like real work today, I've pulled out three of my favorites.

1. I don't believe in myself because I do bad things. Every day. Even when I try really hard. On the days when I have the best self-image, I still sin. I can't get around it no matter what I do. I'm undisciplined, lustful, greedy, selfish and love junk food and television, frequently more than I love my quiet time with the Lord.

2. I don't believe in myself because I want to be in charge of my own life and often try to wrest that control of my path away from God who really owns it. When I hear God's voice I don't always jump to obey it-- my first reaction is usually "You don't really mean that." I try to escape the responsibility God entrusts to me. I am not always a good and faithful servant.

3. I don't believe in myself because I've hung onto a lot of crutches that aren't Jesus and so won't help me in the end. I haven't trusted enough to jump completely into Christ's arms; at best I've rested one foot on the cross but kept the other one in the mud because I think I'm keeping my options open. I talk about surrender and obedience and the joy and freedom that comes from them, but I don't act like I believe it.

I am not interested in self-help. I am in grave need of self-replacement. I believe God has in fact given me my body and soul, personality and talents, but I don't believe He's intending me to use them on my own, but instead to give them back into His control, since only He knows how to work with them for the glory of the Kingdom.

This morning I wrote the title to this post and then went for devotions with my dear friend and colleague Marty C. And I found these words in the Gospel for today:

"[Jesus said] I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me. If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that his testimony to me is true." --John 5:30-32

"You search the scriptures because you believe that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept glory from human beings. But I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in my father's name, and you do not accept me; if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God?" --John 5:39-44

I love when the Scripture challenges me this way, and when the Word coincides so well with what's been worrying me, I know there's something to pay serious attention to there.


Disaster Control

Yesterday CSMSG went for our long-rescheduled family float trip on the Meramec River. The forecast in the previous few days had called for a chance of scattered thunderstorms, but it had been really pleasant so we weren't worried. It did rain on both Friday and Saturday, so we figured the clouds were out of the system.

Halfway down I-44 to the outfitter's (it's a 90-mile trip from STL) it started to rain, heavily. Huge drops and wind and probably a bit of thunder that I couldn't hear. At the river site, it was only drizzling, so dampening spirits a little but not doing much more than that.

But twenty minutes or so down the river we started to see lightning and hurried everyone off the river (and out of their metal canoes) onto a gravel bar to wait out the storm. We were there for an hour and a half, then finished the trip when the sky cleared.

As camp staff for five years, I'd been on trips like that before and followed the basic crisis/danger plan we'd used there. That part was well in hand. But I learned a few things and made a few notes that would have made the trip a little easier on everyone.

1. A good crisis plan starts with a lot of info going out to people before the trip starts. Adult leaders needed a huddle to go over what might happen and what to do if it did They needed to be informed of their responsibilities as leaders, not just parents/trip participants.

2. While on the river it's hard to keep the group entirely together (with differing skill levels, currents, time stuck on rocks, etc.) a traveling group like this needs a designated leader and rearguard. And those two canoes need some form of communication (turns out we had two radios with us, but I didn't know it.) No one goes in front of the lead canoe or behind the last.

3. During a crisis, the attitude of the adult leaders is key. If they're courageous and able to deal positively with the situation, their outlook will spread to the students too. Adults need to know they're deputized for the whole trip-- they are youth ministers with you and they are "on" the whole time.

4. We made this a family trip, not a youth group trip, so parents were responsible for their own children and each family unit had a certain amount of autonomy. Still, the trip wasn't just a casual float down the river, but a beautifuly journey with God's people, and time needed to be made to bless the group in prayer before leaving, and devotions at lunch, as per the original plan. I'm saying this to myself a lot lately-- plan your work, then work your plan-- if you say something's going to happen, make it happen.

Any other useful notes out there for handling sudden situations?


A Song from Tanzania

Erin mentioned in one of her comments here yesterday a song that one of the Tanzanian counselors brought to Fortune Lake Lutheran Camp. I thought I'd share the words to the song here this morning, because it's been in my head all day! It's a really simple, high-energy song.

"Our God is not Dead"

Leader: Our God is not dead!
(echo) He is alive
Leader: Our God is not dead!
(echo) He is alive

Leader: Our God is not dead!
(echo) He is alive
Leader: Our God is not dead!
(echo) He is alive

Leader: Oh, I feel it in my feet... (the leader dances, pointing to each part)
(echo) Oh yes! (the echo repeats the dance)
Leader: I feel it in my toes...
(echo) Oh yes!
Leader: I feel it in my legs...
(echo) Oh yes!
Leader: I feel it in my knees...
(echo) oh yes

Leader: Our God is not dead!
(echo) He is alive
Leader: Our God is not dead!
(echo) He is alive
(Repeat chorus twice each time)

The verses go through the whole body, and can have a LOT of body parts involved, depending on how energetic the leader is. I'm hoping to get the tune to the song up here at some point, but for now, just let the words remind you that our God is not dead! And that's the point.


Kids in the news

Stories like this one, on MSNBC this afternoon, both make me incredibly sad because they point to the low valuation society puts on its own future (via devaluing children) and guarantee youth ministers, child psychologists their jobs for many years to come:

"Across the nation, there are signs of a low-burning uprising against children supposedly behaving badly in public.
Eateries from California to Massachusetts have posted signs on doors and menus saying “We love children, especially when they are tucked in chairs and well behaved” or “Kids must use indoor voices.” In North Carolina an online petition was started last year to establish child-free restaurants — the petition loosely compared dining with children to dining with cigarette smoke."

I agree with the need for proper behavior in public; at the same time, I call for people to understand that children are messy, noisy and expensive and that's just the way it is.

Which Jesus do you like better?

Last night I went to see "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" and while I couldn't write a whole review about it, I did hear one worthwhile question in the film.

Possibly the funniest scene in the whole picture, (which says something since Will Farrell is brilliant at blurring the line between stupid funny and making people laugh at both) is the first time we see Ricky Bobby's family sitting down for dinner together. Ricky says grace, thanking God for his wife, sons, fast food and "21.2 million dollars" and he addresses each part of the prayer to "baby Jesus" or "infant Jesus" or "little Jesus in your cradle." His wife, both impatient to eat and disagreeable about the theology, interrupts to remind him that Jesus grew up and became a man, and so one doesn't always have to pray to the baby.

"But I like the baby Jesus best," is Ricky's reply. Then the whole table jumps in, stretching grace to five or six minutes on screen, talking about how they like best to picture Jesus.

So which Jesus do we like best? And does Jesus in fact represent different things to us at different stages of his life? Baby Jesus is innocent; teenager Jesus is rebellious, but in a good way; grown-up Jesus is wise; dying Jesus is merciful.

Is it appropriate to look at Jesus in so many different ways? Should we focus only on the grown-up attributes, or look for the ways his infancy, childhood, adolescence give us clues about him? Does it deepen our faith to attach to one part of Christ's life, or does it only rob us of the wrestling we experience with putting the whole story together?

Which Jesus do we like best? And does that show in our ministries?


All Roads Lead...

Rick Lawrence shares this story at youthministry.com about Charles Spurgeon critiquing another pastor's sermon:

"Will you tell me why you think it a poor sermon?" said the young pastor. "Because," said Spurgeon, "There was no Christ in it." The young man said, "Well, Christ was not in the text; we are not to be preaching Christ always, we must preach what is in the text." The old man responded, "Don't you know, young man, that from every town, and every village, and every little hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London?" "Yes," said the young man. "Ah!" said the old preacher, "and so from every text in Scripture there is a road to the metropolis of the Scriptures—that is Christ. Dear brother, when you get to a text, say, 'Now, what is the road to Christ?' and then preach a sermon, running along the road towards the great metropolis—Christ."

I don't have anything to add to that, really. It's a challenge and a goal that I pray God will keep in front of me my entire life and career.


Good Reads Today

Reuters ran this article through Yahoo yesterday on a retired British gentleman whose video blog became one of the most popular clips on YouTube last week. The news service was amazed because the site is dominated by teens/college age students and the man hadn't expected to connect with them. This gives me a lot of hope for cross-generational ministry, if we can get older people to reach out and share themselves with our students.

I'm a big fan of things that make sense, so here's a column that ran on McSweeney's a while back. The title sets it up nicely: "If the Head Counselor at my old Summer Camp wrote a Household Q&A Column"

This is what I had for dinner last night. Eat it. It will make you feel all good inside.

One of my students this past spring tried to convince me that Jesus historically HAD TO have a beard-- there was no way around it. She dug out some vague verses in Isaiah that sort of supported her. So this post at The Complex Christ blog caught my eye. It's about different styles of beard marking different kinds of churches.


Mark Hall shares ideas!

Yesterday out at Six Flags St. Louis, JoyFM held a lunch for youth pastors in the STL area. Casting Crowns was playing a concert that evening at the park, and the radio station put the lunch at the same time so that Mark Hall, the band's lead singer, could speak to the group and share some of his insight into youth ministry.

One of the reasons I respect Mark so much is that he's a youth minister on top of being a musician, and his commitment to the youth at his parish strongly influences the way he handles his touring and performing schedule. Sunday through Wednesday, he told us, he's at the church doing youth ministry; Wednesday night he and the band lead their Wednesday program, Refuge, then get on the bus and drive to their next venue. On Saturday, they perform the show, then get on the bus and drive back to their church in Atlanta just in time to lead small groups that afternoon. This is a guy who is seriously committed to preaching the Word to the students God's given him to care for.

A few of his ideas jumped out at me.

An email team from the youth ministry sends email to every student every day of the week. One student is the "Monday guy" and on Monday, sends a short note to the whole youth group list. It's on the order of "Hi, how's everyone-- remember, this event is coming up and it's so-and-so's birthday. Check out this verse I read this week in the Bible." Tuesday, Wednesday and so on do the same thing. Every member with an email address gets a message from someone every day.

This may be a no-brainer but I've never done it, on purpose anyway. On trips to retreats or camp, Mark's church uses separate buses for guys and girls. He says the youth group took a couple of months to realize they liked it that way, but now wouldn't want to go back.

Lots of programs focus on having everything perfect; video, music, drama, etc. Mark's philosophy is a little different-- what matters is that kids are doing it, not that it's flawless. His video team is made of students who are still learning all their video-editing skills; it's not the guy from the band who knows how to do everything professionally.

When you have the chance to see the band and/or hear Mark speak, it's well worth it!

Spot the Chuch Van at Six Flags

Warrenton Christian Church, you were prayed for yesterday while you enjoyed the waterslides and I was lost in the parking lot!


An Attitude that makes ministry more difficult

Watching TV last night, I heard a commercial for the first time that included this tagline:

"The minivan that proves you don't have to give up anything to get everything!"

Our focus this year is on commitment to the Christian life, so this line gets under my skin because one of the messages my students will consistently hear this year is "Yes, friends, there are things you give up when you follow Christ."

How do I get around messages like the minivan commercial? (Even though they don't buy minivans, my kids hear the words of that ad...) How do I challenge them to make those tough decisions, without straying into legalism and creating despair, rather than the hope that Jesus always provided?
  • My students are going to hear who Jesus really is, what he commands, and how he never asks us to do anything he didn't do himself.
  • They are going to see adult mentors who behave that same way, participating in all the things we challenge students to.
  • And they are going to wrestle themselves with how to connect their church-worlds to their life-worlds (we are still at that point, and it's a slow process to rise out of it.)

Honestly, the trickiest part is going to be getting the adults to the point where they can model what we need them to. We will all be learning from each other this year.


What's in your office...

...that no one in any other field would understand your having there?

For quite a while I was the only youth minister in Upper Michigan with a 40-pound bag of quick setting cement in his office. We used it to make stepping stones for a youth group day on ebenezers, or monuments in a place where God did something really cool.

In St. Louis, I have this: it's a microwave potato cooker, but I use it to play "What is it?" a game where each youth group member has to take a random object and instantly make up a use for it, without naming its actual function.

What do you keep in the office that flummoxes people when they see it for the first time?

Spot the Church Van on I-64

Centennial Olivet Baptist Church in Louisville, KY


Deliverance Tabernacle in Huntington, WV--

You were prayed for on I-64 this July!

(Played the game on the mission trip but lost the card where I'd written down the names; the prayers, though, were heard at the time and are ongoing!)
Jesus talks to sinners (video)

On the first day of the mission trip, this was one of the clips Group Workcamps used to introduce the theme for the week-- learning a true Jesus attitude. A lot of people seem to think it's like this... the video was produced by vintage21.com.


Seeding a small group

One of the problems we face as an affluent city church is that people are only willing to give our program a limited amount of time-- when we look at our calendar, we frequently make compromises on what we'd like to accomplish with each event based on how much tim we believe people will give. This isn't an ideal way to do youth ministry, but not every event can be a three-day retreat. And the underlying issue is material for a whole other post.

It also points the way to one of my larger goals, which is to have most of our events serve to whet the appetite for small cell groups that meet for longer periods and bond together for accountability, Bible study, service, etc. The quote I'll borrow from Rev. Heather is "Like salt, [they are] intended to make the student thirsty."

Thanks to a number of people I've worked with in the past six years, we'll start up our small group ministry this fall with the following strategy. I could use some ideas on tweaking it, if you have any thoughts:

Two personally invited groups begin the process, one of students and one of adults. In fact, there will probably be two student groups and an adult group, because I have one natural group (this year's mission trip kids) who are already somewhat bonded, and another set of kids who have been asking for a small-group study. These groups will serve two purposes-- to give us success stories and faces to connect to when we begin forming additional groups; and to teach their members how to lead groups, so they can serve as guides if that's their calling.

All groups will begin with a six-week commitment, enough time to work through the first unit of the curriculum we're using, but not an intimidating amount of time that will sap the energy of the group. At the end of the six weeks, they'll renew and be able to help structure the group for the future.

The groups will use a curriculum to spark discussion and give structure to the setup, because we're not in this just randomly. At the same time, we're building lifelong relationships, not just info-dumping, so we'll be dynamic enough to deal with members who bring questions, issues, problems in need of solving.

The group members will decide their schedule together, choose and set up their space, provide snackitude, and rotate responsibilities within the group to train their discipline and leadership.

Once they're self-directed, the small groups will still have the youth minister's support (by that guy regularly attending each group on a rotating schedule, with other adults) and be connected to the other small groups (via several times a year dinners/social events/worship nights) and to the life of the whole church (picking ministries/projects to be part of.)

That's the layout-- go on, kick the tires, poke at it, let me know where we need bettering!



This video needs a caption: how about "The adult volunteers signed up in droves at Wally's church when he taught them how to achieve the same behavior at home!"


The Rookie's Library August 3, 2006

What I'm Reading:

"Enter a Murderer" by Ngaio Marsh, (C) 1998 St. Martin's Press ISBN 0312966709 (Every year or so I'll read a mystery novel that kicks off a whole month or more of reading mystery novels; this one's set in a theater so it had a double appeal for me, but won't spark a big read.)

"Sixy Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong" by Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow, (C) 2003 Sourcebooks Inc. ISBN 1402200455 (It's a study in why France is the way it is, and it's a fascinating read. There's so much history and insight that makes France unique.)

"A Brief History of Time" by Dr. Stephen Hawking, (C) 1988 Bantam ISBN 0553346148 (This is next on my reading list but the book on France is going so quickly I'll definitely be opening this one up in the next couple of days.)

What I'm Watching:

Shark Week! on Discovery Channel
Modern Marvels on the History Channel

What I'm Hearing:

Relient K-- multiple albums
Carbon Leaf-- multiple albums

Number of cat toys Louie's played with to the point of losing this week: 4


See? It's not too difficult...

One of the things I forgot on the mission trip a couple of weeks ago is that the workcamp sends out to all the churches participating the email and snail mail addresses for the camp office, so students can receive messages from home. One of the reasons I forgot about it was that all my kids have cell phones, and are almost never out of contact to begin with-- that's a whole different issue and I'll tackle it later.

Grace United Methodist, of Gaithersburg, VA, had a really clever system worked out to keep their students supported on the road. Back home, the members of their church had an info page with a photo and some basic facts about each student, and prayed for the whole group. Members also had a few students each to keep in touch with over the week through email.

They didn't have to send long correspondence, just a note here and there-- the notes didn't even have to be relevant to the workcamp. Some of the students I met had notes that included recipes; movie times in Anchorage, Alaska; lists of things on a friend's dresser; a page of pet names all beginning with the letter "P."

These kids were laughing about their notes the whole week, and that little touch of support (there were also members designated to send care packages once or twice through the week, so there was a constant flow of snacks as well) kept them strong during the week.

One of my prime guidelines about youth ministry is that it must be connected in significant ways to the mission of the whole church-- not a separate group off by itself. Grace definitely had that connection going in West Virginia this year. And I offer it, complete with the list of random things to send, as a mission we may all want to take on next mission trip season!