On Wednesday and Thursday, both groups continued to serve at both Word Church and Meramec Valley Baptist Church. On Wednesday night, everyone on the mission trip attended a church service at Meramec, where we cooked hamburgers and hotdogs and fellowshipped with everyone. This served as a good way not only to connect with the people at Meramec, but also each other as well. We listened to Brother Jim’s sermon and worshipped together.
After four days of service, Friday was a much-deserved break for the mission team. Friday morning, the group headed to the Gateway Arch in Downtown St. Louis, which was a very cool experience. The Arch is 63 stories high, offering beautiful views at the top. Each tram ride took around five minutes to get to the top, and and around the same amount to get back to the bottom. At the top, there are little windows in the Arch in which you can look out over St. Louis and get views of Busch Stadium and just downtown in general. After finishing with the tram ride and checking out the Gateway Arch memorabilia, our group headed back to the bus to go to Six Flags St. Louis. We stayed here from about lunchtime until 7 p.m., when our very exhausted team headed back to Mission St. Louis.
The mission trip to St. Louis was a very beneficial experience for everyone involved because it challenged people in ways they did not realize were possible. Hannah Kate Junkin, a 2018 graduate of the Calvary youth group, and Rachel Goggins, an adult church member, shared their thoughts about the trip and how it impacted them going back. They have each been on several mission trips with Calvary, but each one is different and affects people in unique ways.
“I enjoy any opportunity to serve my own community and other communities. On the trip, I was able to make strong connections with kids that I am still able to keep in contact with today. I had the ability to teach some of the lessons and I enjoyed interacting with the kids in that way as well,” Hannah Kate Junkin said. “I take back from the trip an increased faith in the Lord’s sovereignty and his ability to…give me the right words to say to advance His kingdom.”
Rachel Goggins was positively impacted as well. “Serving in St. Louis allowed me to see the diverse gifts and talents that the Lord has given to each of the members of our Calvary family. While I loved serving the students at Meramec Valley, I found the most joy in watching the Lord use each member of our team in a very specific way,” Goggins said. “I have been blessed to participate in eight mission trips with Calvary, and no matter how many mission trips I go on, the Lord always brings a new truth and a new experience. The Lord is faithful, and He has never allowed to me to come home from one of these trips unchanged. I must remind myself that I can also choose to live with the intentionality of a mission trip here at home. When I go elsewhere to serve, it seems much easier to wake up each morning ready and willing to serve others and listen to the Holy Spirit. Building relationships and meeting the needs of those around me can be a part of my daily life, and I pray that the Lord continues to remind me of this experience.”
This was another impactful mission trip for the Calvary family, and it is only the beginning of this summer’s opportunities to grow in Christ through missions.
Mission St. Louis Day 2: Meramec Valley Baptist Church
On Tuesday, most of the same people who went to Meramec on Monday came back to serve again at the church. This type of service involved putting on bible studies for the neighborhood kids, playing with them, and just interacting with those at the church in any way possible. Everyone seemed to be able to find a way to serve these children and this church.
Before doing the actual Bible study lesson, the mission team played various games with the children at the church, such as kickball, where it was clear that many younger kids were much more athletically inclined than some older people. There was also a volleyball net that several people used. The Bible study and interactions took place for the most part on a large expanse of grass right across the street from the church, so the many beautiful trees helped bring shade to the otherwise hot and bright day. There were also organized games, such as ones that involved people being in a circle and running to try to get the plastic apple in the middle before the other person did.
The goal of this mission site was just to interact as much as possible with the individuals at the church. Even though we had a Bible study ready, the ultimate goal was for those at Meramec to see God’s love through us, no matter what we were doing. Most people had fun simply being around the children. One of the mission site leaders wrote a word of each key bible verse on the sidewalk: “Blessed are all who fear the Lord – who walk in His ways!” – Psalm 128:1. They then had the children draw with chalk around every word, which was a good way for them to enjoy using the chalk while also learning the bible verse better, almost without realizing it.
The Bible study in the morning was for younger children, while there was one for older kids in the afternoon. Katelyn Skelton did the bible study in the morning, and it was about how Adam and Eve could eat from any tree in the Garden of Eden, except the one in the very middle of the garden that God told them not to. However, the serpent, who was the Devil, persuaded Eve to eat it, who then passed it on to Adam, and as a result, God banished them from the garden ultimately for their good; if they stayed in the garden and kept eating from the forbidden tree, they would have been stuck in brokenness. Katelyn related it to a really nasty food like liver, and while she told the children that it could rot their stomachs and make them feel really bad, several children still said they would want to try it. This went along with the story because it showed how sin can rot our brain and souls, and how God always wants the best for us.
Meramec fed the group lunch both Monday and Tuesday, barbeque and tacos. After lunch, everyone went back out onto the grassy area and played, while also waiting for individuals to show up for the later bible study. During this time, since it was for older kids, it involved a different lesson and different games than the morning Bible study did. The pastor of Meramec was very involved in this Bible study, giving one of his own lessons and playing a game with everyone.
After another day of service, the entire mission team departed for a St. Louis Cardinals game at Busch Stadium, where the Cardinals were playing the Miami Marlins. This served as a fun way for everyone to get to know each other better as well as de-stress and relax from the two days of hard work. It was a late night for everyone, as the game did not finish until late and the bus did not make it back to Mission St. Louis until around 11:30. Regardless of the late bedtime, everyone was still ready to be up and about and ready to serve early Wednesday morning.
Mission St. Louis Day 1: The Word Church
Monday was the first day of mission work in St. Louis. There were two separate groups of our volunteers, and one went to the Word Church, where they are helping with construction projects, and the other went to Meramec Valley Baptist Church, where they helped do bible studies for children of various ages. After grabbing breakfast at Mission St. Louis, where we stayed, we left on the bus at 8:30 to be at our church work sites for the day. Most people will get to experience both church experiences, spending two days at each site.
Pastor Ulysses Ross is the pastor of Word Church, which is a church that partners with the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association, as well as the North American Mission Board. The sign outside their church read “We love God and we love people,” which I think is very fitting in the way that he serves his church and his community. He was very welcoming on the first day that Calvary members volunteered, opening up his church and its contents to all of our volunteers. His church has only been in this building for around two months, but the church itself has been in existence for about two years.
Word Church has been undergoing construction since it moved into its current building, since the church that was there before them did not do much in the way of fixing it up. Our group took on several construction projects on Day 1, including painting inside walls, the outside of the church building, and the door of the other church building. Several people took down a stair rail and put up 2×4 wood pallets with sheetrock on top. Several volunteers also began pressure washing the front of each house.
Pastor Ross said that this church’s journey, and the progress inside the current building, has been slow and steady. Being able to have Easter inside the new church was considered a victory for its members. “My greatest joy is when I see people finally get that that we’re here to make disciples, not church members,” Pastor Ross said.
Each member had valuable experiences from whichever church they served at on Monday. Whether it was simply by doing construction work or just playing kickball with neighborhood kids who came to the church, these were opportunities to show God’s love, no matter the task. Even those who were doing construction at Word Church were able to interact with individuals who passed by, and some even got to hold a meaningful conversation with them and invite them to Word Church.
On Monday night the mission team got back from their work sites at Mission St. Louis around 5 p.m. For the rest of the night, people relaxed and fellowshipped with each other, while they enjoyed a dinner from Hodak’s, supposedly the best chicken in St. Louis. At the end of the night, we debriefed and shared with the group the positive aspects of our experience, the challenges, and what made the most impact on us that day. That is always one of the most valuable experiences of the trip because it allows for others to get everyone else’s points of view, and learning about things they haven’t gotten the opportunity yet. Everyone was excited for what the next day would bring.