Monday, March 17, 2014

BCM Spring Break 2014 Colorado Mission Trip Wrap-up

After roughly 3,000 miles of flying, 450 miles of driving, 150 miles of bus riding, and even a couple of miles or so of hiking/walking, our team has returned safely from our journey to Colorado.

Matt's idea for a group picture.
Friday morning, we got up, ate breakfast, cleaned our rooms throughly, and prepared to leave Sky Corral Lodge. Before we left, we attempted to take a group picture, but, apparently, Matt is terrible at taking a selfie and getting everyone else in the frame. We finally asked Jim to take a picture of our entire group.

Our group: Matt, Patrick, Kim, Joe, Greg, and I.
Piggyback rides.
After we had finished taking pictures, we loaded our six team members and luggage (plus Jim) into the “Mommy Missile” (a small minivan) and drove into Fort Collins for lunch. We had a delicious lunch at BeauJo’s (a Colorado style pizza restaurant) with Jim, Luke, Jon, Mallory, Riley, Kelly and Rani (all staff members at Sky Corral). After lunch, we met our shuttle, rode to the Denver airport, and went through security. At this point, our group officially split, with both Greg and Patrick catching direct flights to Washington DC.

The gingers!
Joe is overjoyed to be sitting next to Matt.
Overjoyed for sure.
Matt, Joe, Kim, and I went to the gate to catch our flight to Chicago O’Hare where we were to board a connecting flight to Roanoke. However, there was a slight problem. Our flight ended up being delayed for over an hour as the ground crew tried to fix a climate control issue with the plane. Unfortunately, this delay caused us to miss our connection to Roanoke. When we arrived at O’Hare, we spoke with the United representative who told us that the airline would not be able to fly us into Roanoke until Monday. They offered us hotel vouchers, and told us that they could fly us into Greensboro the next day instead. We ended up staying the night in a Wyndham near the airport. We each got our own room, and we used our meal vouchers ($7 apiece) to order calzones at midnight for dinner/breakfast.
The next morning, we got up, checked out of the hotel, and rode the shuttle to the airport. Security in Chicago went much quicker than in Denver. Thankfully, there were no more delays, and our plane left a scheduled. We four took up the entirety of the first row in the plane, and had plenty of leg room for the first time on our entire trip.
When we arrived in Greensboro, Nic was there to pick us up and drive us back to Blacksburg. After a quick stop at Plateau Plaza Bojangles for dinner, our team split one last time as I picked up my car and we drove the last fifty miles to Blacksburg separately. Our trip was then officially over.
Taking off from O'Hare.
We had a great week of fellowship, service, and growth in the Rocky mountains, and I believe God taught me a few things while we were there. One morning, I was reading from 2 Chronicles 34. In verse 27, the Lord tells King Josiah that He will delay His punishment of the Israelites for their sin because “your [Josiah’s] heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God…” That was my prayer this past week: that my heart would be humble and responsive. There were two things in particular that stuck out to me.

First, the Lord impressed upon me the importance of thankfulness. At times this week, the work was tough and tiring, but the Lord reminded me to be thankful that I have the strength and mobility to serve in this way. It also struck me while we were on our hike on Thursday afternoon that some people do not get the opportunity to enjoy God’s creation in this way, and, since I am able to, I should be thankful for that opportunity.

The second was the importance of prayer in the ministry of Sky Corral to the surrounding community. There were several times throughout the trip where the staff explained to us that sometimes the only way to minister to the people in their community is through prayer. Because of the culture of that area, they often pray for long periods of time that the Lord would change a person’s heart before they are open to hearing the gospel.

With that being said, if you would like to join me in praying for Sky Corral and their ministry in Colorado, here are a few suggestions. Please pray for the staff at the ranch, that they would have wisdom and discernment as they watch for the best time to reach out to people in their community. Pray for Luke as he works at the local fire station and looks for opportunities to share his faith with those around him. Pray for Stove Prairie Community Church and their outreach to the surrounding area. Finally, pray that the Lord would soften the hearts of the people in the community so that they would be willing to receive the gospel.
The valley.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Unexpected Delays: BCM Colorado Mission Trip

After a mechanical problem delayed our flight out of Denver, causing us to miss our connection to Roanoke, part of our BCM Colorado mission team (Matt, Joe, Kim, and I) ended up spending the night in a hotel near Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.
Since @United couldn’t fly us into Roanoke until Monday, we will (hopefully) be leaving ORD around 1:00 PM today, and flying to Greensboro, NC. From there, we plan on driving back to Blacksburg.

Please pray that there would be no more delays, and that we would be able to get home safely and quickly. Pray that our attitudes would continue to glorify Christ, despite these delays in getting home.

Look at this picture and then read the below tweet to see if you can determine Kim's meaning.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Final Workday: BCM Colorado Mission Trip

Sky Corral from above.
Today was our last day working at Sky Corral Lodge here in Colorado. It was not a particularly eventful day, compared to some of the others that we have had here. We worked some this morning and then were given the afternoon off to enjoy the beautiful weather.
Joe, Kim, Matt, and Patrick.
Part of the finished ridge.
This morning, we worked on trucking out all of the wood on the ridge that we have cut, bucked, and split this week. We made several trips with a large trailer, filling it with wood, and then taking it down to the barn to dump. Sometimes this was easy, like with the piles of firewood that we had created beside the splitter. Other times this was difficult, like with the many large logs we had stacked at the top of the ridge line as we were felling trees. These logs had to be moved down to the bottom of the hill over rocky terrain so that they could be loaded. In between the trailer loads, we also found a little bit of time to have some fun.

Kim taking aim at Patrick.
Matt pitching to Joe.
After lunch, we spent the majority of the afternoon relaxing. Matt, Kim, and I went on a hike in the mountains surrounding Sky Corral. We hiked up to a meadow situated at the top of a ridge. We also used one of the GPS units from the lodge to look for a geocache that was supposed to be hidden on the property. After an unsuccessful search, we followed the GPS back to the lodge "as the crow flies." We also spent some time this afternoon playing Spades, and just hanging out.

Greg is not impressed.
One thing that struck me as we hiked today was how blessed I am to have the health and mobility to be able to come out here and serve Sky Corral, and even just to be able to take a hike. Please pray for our safety tomorrow as we fly back home. Pray that we would make all of our connections without any problem, and that we would be witnesses to whoever we encounter. Pray for Sky Corral specifically that they would be able to book reservations through the entirety of the summer.
The end of day.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dropping Trees: BCM Colorado Mission Trip

Here’s another update from VT BCM’s Spring Break 2014 mission trip to Sky Corral in Colorado.

Joe and Matt working on the splitter.

Today, we began by moving all the furniture in the rec hall to the opposite side of the room so that we could finish vacuuming and shampooing the carpet in there. After that, Matt, Joe, and Jim (Sky Corral staff member) worked on fixing the log splitter that broke earlier in the week. Apparently, having this part go bad is a known issue on this particular splitter, so we were able to find the replacement part without too much trouble. Getting the part onto the splitter, however, was a different story entirely.

Sharpening the chainsaws.

While the others were fixing the splitter, Jim’s son Luke gave those of us without much experience a crash course on running a chainsaw. Luke is a firefighter here in Colorado, and teaches classes at the fire department on chainsaw operation. One of the first things we learned how to do was to sharpen the teeth in the chain with a file. Each tooth has to be sharpened individually and the goal is to have a flat but angled leading edge on each tooth.

After the splitter was ready to go, we went and ate lunch, and then spent most of the rest of our day working on clearing the ridge behind the lodge building. For those of you wondering, I did get the chance to operate a chainsaw, and even dropped a few trees on my own. (Don’t tell my mother that I’m using a chainsaw!).

Please pray for our team strength and endurance as we complete our last full day of work tomorrow. We plan to continue working on the ridge, as well as sending a few people to do some light construction at the local fire station so that they can obtain their CO (Certificate of Occupancy). Pray that the Lord would protect us and give us safety as we work (especially as we operate equipment), and that our work would glorify Him.
We were told that the closest hospital is over an hour away.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Snow Day: BCM Colorado Mission Trip

Hello, all. Here is an update on @BCMVT’s #SpringBreak 2014 Colorado mission trip.
Sky Corral Lodge
Patrick getting ready to run the chainsaw.
We began this morning by continuing more of the work that we started yesterday. We loaded a large majority of the firewood that we have cut thus far into a trailer so that it could be taken to someone who was in need. After that, we split into three groups (each with a chainsaw operator), and continued bucking downed trees - piling up the logs that could be used as firewood, and putting the rest of the debris into slash piles. Today was a cold day, but our team made sure to wear several layers, and, as a result, was able to stay warm.

Matt, Joe, and Patrick.

Around midday today (while we were eating lunch), a snowstorm rolled into the area surrounding Sky Corral. The storm dumped enough snow to cover the ground, be a hinderance, and keep us from going back outside to work. We did not get the four inches that are required before we could burn the slash piles, but we most likely would not have been able to burn anyways, since the wind speeds today were high.

Kim and Greg.
This afternoon, we completed a variety of mostly indoor chores. We moved furniture in the rec hall and began to shampoo the carpet in that building. We also moved a heavy ice cream chest from the rec hall to the barn. We also helped Mallory clean a few of the guest bedrooms.

We ate diner fairly early (red beans and rice), and enjoyed some time hanging out as a team. Joe, Patrick, and Kim went for a short hike while Matt, Greg, and I played a couple of rounds of pool.

Please pray for our team as we work for two more days here. Pray that we would have the strength to do the work that we need to, and that we would have a joyful attitude in doing so. Also, pray that the Lord would direct our plans regarding who we will be helping on those days.

The view from above.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Clear-Cutting: BCM Colorado Mission Trip

Hey guys, I just wanted to give you all a quick update on the Colorado mission trip.

Today, we spent the large majority of our time clear-cutting part of a ridge on the Sky Corral property that had been burned by the High Park fire in the summer of 2012. The High Park wildfire burned more than 80,000 acres, and was the third most destructive fire in Colorado history, in terms of the number of houses that were burned. The flooding that followed also wiped out many of the roads in the area.

Clear-cutting the burned/dead trees on the ridge.
Greg and Joe surveying the area.
The way we worked today, Joe, Patrick, and Jim (one of the Sky Corral staff members) ran the chainsaws, felling dead trees and bucking them (cutting them into manageable pieces *read* “small enough to be carried”). Matt, Greg, Kim, and I worked on creating “slash piles” of excess branches and debris that would later be burned. We also carried the logs that had been bucked to the wood pile, where Joe cut them into firewood sized chunks, and Kim used the hydraulic log splitter to split them into firewood. Near the end of the day, the log splitter stopped working! Kim made it very clear that this was in no way her fault. Apparently, one of the critical pieces that transfers force between the engine and the hydraulic piston decided to give way. Jim’s son Luke is now in the process of trying to find a replacement part so that we can can get the splitter running again.

"Do you want to build a snowman?" One guess as to which of our team members created this.

Patrick "exhausted" after a day of work.
Today’s work was harder than Saturday’s due to the wet, muddy ground produced by the snow melt. The temperatures have been in the 60’s the past couple of days, and the snow that was on the ground here when we arrived now only exists under shade trees and in large piles. However, the forecast does call for more snow during the day tomorrow… anywhere from three inches to one foot of accumulation is possible. That should make things interesting.

Matt and his helpful footrest.
This evening, we had a delicious dinner (made all the more savory by our work-induced appetites), prepared by Sky Corral staff members Jon and Mallory. We also had a good time of testimony as a group, and played a couple of rounds of Spades before heading off to bed at an early hour - since all of us were worn out. Tomorrow, depending on how much snow we get, we hope to burn the slash piles that we created today. Colorado regulations require that four inches of snow be on the ground before you are allowed to burn a brush pile. They probably have a really good reason for that, but I’m not really sure what it would be off the top of my head.

If you are praying for our team, please continue to pray for us as we eat, work, and live together. Pray for the continuation of the sweet spirit of fellowship that has formed. Pray that we would be able to get the rest we need, and that we would have the energy to do our work to the best of our abilities in order to bring honor to God.

Monday, March 10, 2014

BCM Spring Break 2014 Colorado Mission Trip

As some of you may know, since transferring to Virginia Tech, I have gotten involved in the Baptist Collegiate Ministry on campus. I have joined a small group Bible study there, as well as helping out with audio/visual production during their 6:33 worship services on Tuesday evenings each week. Several months ago, I took a step of faith and applied to go on a Spring Break mission trip through BCM, despite having no idea what my homework load would look like at this point in time. As I filled out the application, I prayed that the Lord would either clearly open or shut the door, in order to show me what His will was. To make a long story short, it appears that His will was for me to be on this mission trip to Colorado over Spring Break with these awesome people from BCM!
Our team, from left to right: Kim, Greg, Patrick (center), Matt, Joe, and me.
This mission team consists of five current and one former Virginia Tech student(s) There are five guys and one girl on our team: Matt (Junior), Joe (graduate of Virginia Tech), Patrick (graduate student), Greg (Senior), Kim (Freshman), and me (also a Junior). We are working at Sky Corral Ranch, a Christian family camp located in the Rocky Mountains, north-west of Fort Collins, Colorado. Devastating wild fires and floods have swept through this area over the last couple of years, and we are helping with repair and cleanup work, both at Sky Corral, and in the community surrounding it.

Our trip certainly started off with some excitement. Our first flight was supposed to go out of Roanoke at 06:00 AM on Friday morning. However, as Thursday afternoon rolled around, an ice storm was forecasted to hit Blacksburg. Darrell (our campus minister at BCM) was concerned that we would not be able to make it to Roanoke the following morning to catch our flight, and he suggested leaving Blacksburg that evening and staying in Roanoke, making it easier for us to get to the airport the next morning. My parents offered for us to spend the (short) night at our house, instead of our team getting a hotel near the airport. We agreed on this, and Matt, Joe, Kim, and I left for my house at 8:00 PM on Thursday evening. (Both Patrick and Greg had separate flights to Denver out of different airports, due to scheduling conflicts.) I waited until we were in the car on the way to my house to remind (or inform for the first time, as may well have been the case) my fellow team members that I am the oldest of eight children. At this point, Joe made the comment that he had "Only brought enough rope for one." Ha-ha.

We arrived at my house and had dinner, and afterwards, Matt pulled out his phone to check on our flight. It had been cancelled. Joe immediately went into rescheduling mode, calling the airline only to find out that we had been booked onto another flight leaving Roanoke at 7:00 PM the next day. This would not work, as we had several other connecting flights to make, as well as a bus to meet on the other end in Denver. After spending over an hour on the phone (most of it on hold), Joe was able to find another flight out of Richmond International Airport at 7:30 AM the next morning that had four seats available. We immediately booked the tickets, loaded into the car, and drove through the night to Richmond. My dad drove part of the way, swapping with Joe and then dropping us off at the airport and driving back home.
Richmond International at 07:00 AM.
We went through security at Richmond International at 4:30 AM in the morning. Once we were through security, we picked the spots on the airport floor that looked the most comfortable and proceeded to take short naps. At 7:30 AM, we boarded the plane, and proceeded to sit on the tarmac for over an hour, waiting for the plane to be de-iced so that we could take off. This delay made our connection in Chicago O'Hare (to Denver International) very tight. With a little bit of running, however, we were able to catch it. After an uneventful flight to Denver, we met Patrick in the airport, and proceeded to board a bus for Fort Collins.

Welcome to Sky Corral Lodge.
From Fort Collins, we were picked up in a mini-van by Jon, a Sky Corral staff member. He warned us as we started out that it was possible that the van wouldn’t be able to make it up the mountain to the ranch, because of the large snow storm they had recently gotten. He assured us, however, that they had a backup plan. We got about halfway up the mountain before the mini-van started sliding. At this point, our team split into two parts. Joe and Patrick joined Jim (another Sky Corral staff member) in his four wheel drive pickup truck, and continued up the mountain to the lodge. Matt, Kim, and I rode back down to town with Jon to make a second attempt in his smaller, front wheel drive car. We were much more successful this time, making it up all but the last half of the driveway with the car. From there, Matt, Kim, Jon, and I hiked the last mile or so in the snow to Sky Corral.

That evening, all of us were pretty tired… a result of traveling for 24+ hours straight with very little (if any) sleep. We met some of the staff from the camp, ate dinner, and then went straight to bed. The next morning, we began our actual work in and around the ranch. We began by traveling down to the local fire station, where we will be doing light construction work. We did some planning, and decided to come back on either Tuesday or Wednesday, during another forecasted snow storm.

Greg and Kim chopping firewood.
Also, about halfway through the day on Saturday, Greg, our other team member from BCM, arrived at the ranch. He showed up just as we were finishing lunch and getting ready to start the next items on the to-do list. Matt shampooed the carpet in the dining area while Patrick sanded and refinished a door. Meanwhile, Joe, Greg, Kim, and I went with Jim up into the mountains to begin cutting down, moving, and chopping trees that had already been felled into firewood.

This morning, we attended Stove Prairie Community Church - a church that meets on the grounds of Sky Corral. After the service, we took a group to a guy’s house who needed help moving two gun safes. These safes were nothing to be laughed at. One of them weighed six hundred pounds, and the other one ONLY weighed four hundred. Both of these, of course, had to be moved up a flight of stairs. Thankfully, we accomplished this with only minor incident.

Patrick enjoying the view.
After lunch, our team took advantage of the opportunity to hike up into the mountains and spend some time enjoying God’s creation. After throwing quite a few snowballs at each other on the hike up, we split up to be by ourselves and spent some time reflecting, praying, and (in Matt’s case) singing. This evening, we went to Old Town Fort Collins (near the campus of Colorado State University) to have dinner. We ate at Moe's Barbecue, and then returned to the lodge for a time of sharing testimonies.

So far on this trip, I believe God has taught us all a lot about his providence and power over every detail in our lives. The biggest example of this was the way in which He orchestrated our travel details after our first flight was cancelled so that we were still able to make it to Colorado at a decent time. It also struck me as I was standing on the mountaintop today, looking at all the of the area around Sky Corral that had been destroyed by the fire, that if He is powerful enough to direct this massive fire and keep it from destroying the ranch, He is powerful enough to handle the small details of my every day life.

There are a few ways that you can pray specifically for our team. First of all, pray that we would work together well as a team and have a spirit of unity, both with each other, and with the staff at Sky Corral Lodge. Pray that our bond would grow stronger as a group, and that we would build relationships that would last a lifetime. Pray that we would be able to bless the people that we are ministering to, both with our words, and with our actions. Finally, pray that we would each somehow grow in our relationship with God this week.
On the mountaintop: Matt, Kim, Greg, Joe, and me. (Photographer: Patrick)