Friday, March 28, 2014

Bits & Pieces: Destination: Arkansas

As you read this on Friday, I'll be neck-deep in a mission experience with 130 of my closest kidlet friends and other crazy adults.

On Tuesday evening, I "headed for the hills" of Fayetteville, Ark., to take part in Destination: Fayetteville, a mission trip experience for third through sixth graders through the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Destination: Mission trips began in 2007, when I was working for First UMC in Siloam Springs, Ark., and I had a brilliant idea. I say brilliant now, because hindsight is well, hindsight.

Destination: Joplin, the first Destination Mission Team prepares to leave for Joplin, Mo, 
in June 2008. The team was comprised of students and adults 
from First United Methodist Church, Siloam Springs, Ark.

In all honesty, looking back on it now, I'm pretty sure the parents were simply humoring the newbie with a crazy idea.

I thought that rather than wait till a student was in high school to expose them to a mission trip experience, we could take older elementary and middle school students on a trip, out of their comfort zones, to experience age-appropriate lessons in life.

So we ventured to Joplin, and volunteered at agencies I connected with during my days at a newspaper in southwest Missouri.

The trip was viewed as a success - aka we didn't lose anyone and everyone came home happy - so we tried it again in 2009 (we called that trip Destination: Joplin 2.0).

In 2010, a second church joined us and we traveled to Little Rock. By 2011, additional churches were coming on board, and a second trip during the year - during the state-wide spring break was born.

Fast forward to this week. Destination: Fayetteville is the 10th trip. A milestone of sorts. Students from across the state are gathering in Fayetteville to become the hands and feet of Jesus.

Destination: Mission, the 10th trip. Spring Break 2014, 
Fayetteville, Ark., with 136 participants representing 16 churches 
from the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church.
The trip that began with three work sites, has grown to include 14 different work sites during the course of two workdays.

While I'm not directly involved (the hands-on aspect has been passed on to my partner in crime and ministry colleague), I am able to sit back and watch the trip expand into a brand-new, and amazing territory - and continue to impact student lives.

Later this year, the trip will experience another milestone: two summer trips. The idea I had in 2007 has grown up. My mission 'baby" has gone to college. When 2014 comes to a close, trips 10, 11 and 12 will be in the books. Pretty amazing stuff when you think about it.

It's amazing to look back at the team pictures for the last 10 trips and see how some of the "regulars" have grown up, experiencing missions in this way.

For the record, I've only missed one trip to date - Summer 2013, because well, I was a little busy adjusting to my new role at The Grove Sun.

If you want to see what has been happening with the Destination: Mission gang, feel free to check out www.facebook.com/destination.mission. I'm in charge of the photo team and social media posts (go figure) so I'm sure there will be lots of pics posted throughout the four days of our adventures.

A Note of Thanks

Thanks to the guys at Vance Quick Lane for checking my tires before I left town. The "low tire pressure" light came on Sunday, and well, I'll be honest, I figured it was caused by the cold snap (it happened before).

Fortunately, the guys had time to air up my tires, and when they found out I was headed out of town, the tire with the questionable level was immediately pulled off to be checked for a problem. This is where I admit I apparently drove around town with a screw in my tire for three days.

Thanks y'all for taking care of my tires on Tuesday. It let me focus on getting stories for Friday's paper done and ultimately, ensure that I would be on the mission trip. I appreciate it greatly.

A final note.

On a final note, we're saying adios to a colleague at The Grove Sun this week.

Richard Stroud will move on to a new paper next week in Shawnee, Okla. For me, it's bittersweet because Richard has been a joy to work with not only as a sports editor but as a colleague. I will miss his razing on many levels.

Richard, we will miss you. Thank you for your humor, your encouragement and most of all, thank you for your friendship. May God bless you and keep you in this next phase of life. This is adios, but not goodbye. Stay in touch.

That's the bits and pieces for this week. I'm sure, like any good "parent" I'll have photos to share if you see me on the street.

Editor's Note: This column was originally published on Friday, March 28, 2014 issue of The Grove Sun.

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