Monday, March 16, 2015

BCM Spring Break 2015 SWVA Mission Trip Wrap-up

On Saturday, our entire team returned safely to Blacksburg from Southwest Virginia after spending several hours on the road. The morning was mostly uneventful as we packed up, cleaned, said goodbye to Jan and Scrappy, and left The Manor.
On the way back, we stopped for lunch at the Dip Dog Stand in Marion, VA, which is a BCM SWVA mission trip tradition. Our car arrived a little bit before the other, due to a navigational challenge, so we took a few pictures while we were waiting.
Drew's car.
Waiting for our food after the others arrived.
Drew impersonating a walrus.
Below is the video from Drew's attempt to eat an entire Gut Buster at Teddy's Restaurant all by himself on the second night we were in SWVA. The Gut Buster consists of every ingredient and topping that is used to make the milkshakes and ice cream dishes sold at Teddy's and is designed to feed at least a few people. Teddy himself told us that he has only seen two men eat the entire thing by themselves. Drew took this as a personal challenge, despite having just eaten dinner and a milkshake.

WARNING: There is a reason that the title of this video includes the word "Attempt." If you have a weak stomach or are easily grossed out, you may want skip this video. However, it is quite hilarious.

On a more serious note, one theme that seemed to come up repeatedly for me this week was that of thankfulness. Not just thankfulness for the material things of life, although I certainly have reason to be thankful there, but also for the opportunities that I have in my life, as well as the relationships the Lord has blessed me with in many areas. I may go through difficult times, but I should be joyful because I know that the Lord is in control and He is working for my ultimate good. Romans 8:28 My prayer for myself and our entire team is that we could maintain that attitude while jumping back into the rest of the semester.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Final Work Day in SWVA

Today was our final day on our worksite here in SWVA. We spent the day putting in the molding around the edges of the living room in the mobile home, and finishing up various other small tasks. We had to be very careful while cutting the molding, because we had a very limited amount to work with. Thankfully, we were able to finish the entire room with roughly six inches of molding to spare!
Although it was raining today, it didn't prove to be a problem because we had fewer cuts to make and were able to use the saw indoor without issues. We finished up the floor around lunchtime, and ate lunch in the finished living room before leaving.

Group shot with the finished floor, along with the homeowner.
Hunting for a Geocache.
After we returned to The Manor, we went to look for a couple of Geocaches in the rain in Nickelsville. We were able to find the first one we were searching for, but we weren't quite as lucky with the second. We did, however, take a cool group selfie at the base of the bridge that is on the road at the entrance to Nickelsville.
Selfie with the Nickelsville bridge.

After Geocaching, Dakota decided he was in need of some of the delicious tater tots from Teddy's. Drew joined him, and an hour or so later our team started to wonder why they weren't back yet. I drew the short straw and walked down to see if Drew was trying another Gut Buster. As it turned out, what was originally intended to be a trip for tater tots ended up including not only the tater tots, but two corn dogs (because the first one was slightly burnt, according to one of the employees), cheese rounds, and fried corn bread on the house as well. Dakota and Drew also enjoyed talking to Teddy (yes, Teddy, the owner) and most of the other locals who were in the restaurant at the same time.

While Drew and Dakota were talking to the rest of Nickelsville, a few of us spontaneously decided to take a road trip to Natural Tunnel, a large, naturally formed (Ha-ha) rock tunnel, which is located about thirty minutes away from where we're staying. Five of us hopped in Drew's car and drove to the tunnel, hoping it wouldn't be raining too hard when we arrived. Thankfully it wasn't, and we were able to walk down to the mouth of the tunnel and back out without getting too wet.

At the entrance to Natural Tunnel.

When our group returned to The Manor, we ate a dinner consisting mainly of leftovers from our other meals, and then had our team devotion for the evening. We also took a final team photo with everyone piled onto a single couch. Afterwards, we played several rounds of Body Body to finish out the night.

The entire team on a couch.
Please pray for our safety as we travel back to Blacksburg tomorrow morning, as well as the seeds that were planted this week as we served and were obedient.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Laying the Floor

Kim is proud of her mudding work.
Today, we went back to our worksite to continue working on the living room floor in the mobile home. Our focus today was on laying down the new laminate flooring after cutting it to length. Thankfully, it did not rain, and today was a beautiful day to work outside. We also worked on replacing a section of drywall, and tying up a few loose ends with the door we had installed. We also added supports to the last several pieces of floorboard we put in on Monday.

The way we went about our work for most of the time today was someone with a tape measure would call out a measurement, I would cut the board to length, and then the team inside would align all of the boards that made up a single row of flooring and slide them into place.

Putting down the new flooring.
Today we were able to finish laying all of the flooring in the living room as well as our work on the wall. Tomorrow we plan on heading back to install the molding and finish up anything that's left.

After we were finished working, we took a (curvy) detour hoping to see a nearby waterfall. Unfortunately, the gate to the area was closed, most likely due to the road being washed out by the recent floods. We then returned to The Manor and had dinner, which consisted of salad, grilled cheese, and tomato soup. After dinner, we decided to walk to the small park here in Nickelsville. On the way there, we stopped on a bridge which crosses the main road and took a group selfie, which turned out fairly decently.

Bridge selfie with Nickelsville in the background. Also, Drew.

Drew "traversing" the playground.
We enjoyed fooling around on the playground equipment in the park for a while before returning to The Manor where we rounded out the night with a team devotion, bonfire, and s'mores.

Please pray for our safety during our last day of work tomorrow as well as our return home on Saturday. Please also pray for several of the regular volunteers at the food pantry that we interacted with this week who are facing tough or difficult times in their lives. Please also pray for our team as we jump back into the school semester on Monday, having had little or no time to catch up on schoolwork over break.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

An Intense Quiet Game and Our Second Day at the Food Pantry.

First off, I apologize in advance for the lack of pictures on today's blog. The few I did have from the food pantry ended up being fairly blurry. In attempts to make up for it, please enjoy this hilarious video of Dakota and Ellen's contest of wills during a round of The Quiet Game earlier this week.

Today we spent our second full day working at the Scott County food pantry in Gate City. Most of our team spent the majority of the morning helping to organize the pantry's walk-in freezer. It was filled mostly with boxes of different types of meat that needed to be sorted. We emptied almost the entire freezer box by box, sorted the meats into "small" and "large" serving boxes, and then packed them back into the freezer.

The lunch prepared for us by the food pantry staff consisted of hot dogs, chips, and chocolate ice cream, which was very agreeable to (almost all) of our team. After lunch, we continued to pack food bags and complete various other organizational tasks as needed, including shifting around some of the stuff in a storage room. Dakota particularly enjoyed this part of the day and compared it to solving a jigsaw puzzle.
On the way back from the food pantry, Drew's car got lost while he, along with the other people who were in his car, was looking for a grocery store. Unfortunately he had to drive almost twenty minutes in total to find a spot to turn around and get back to where he was.
When we returned to The Manor, we laid around for a few hours, reading, sleeping, doing homework, and/or watching Friends. We then cooked dinner, which consisted of pizza bagels - cheese and pepperoni melted on top of a bagel. After we had our team devotion, we walked to Teddy's again for ice cream and fried pickles. Also this evening, we played a few rounds of Body Body, which I think was enjoyed a bit more by some of the members of our team than the games we played last night.

After dinner snack at Teddy's.
Please pray for safety tomorrow as well as our conversations as we head back to our worksite to complete the work on the living room floor. Also, please pray that the weather would be cooperative so that we could use table saws and the like outside instead of inside.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Gate City Food Pantry and Breakfast for Dinner

Breaking down boxes in the food pantry.
Today we spent our first full day at the food pantry in Gate City. At first, we all worked together to pack bags of produce, and then we were split up into several smaller groups and given assignments. Most of us worked on packing the bags of food that would then be distributed to those in need. Each client received a bag of food from the USDA, a bag of salvaged food, a bag of produce, a bread, a drink, and a can of ravioli (if there were children in the house under the age of sixteen). Bradley and Drew helped the clients who came into the pantry load the groceries they were picking up into their cars.
Some of the volunteers at the food pantry prepared lunch for us. We were treated to pinto beans and corn bread... a southern staple familiar to most of our team.

Enjoying break time on the couches.
After we finished our work at the food pantry, we returned to The Manor and most of us took a much needed afternoon nap. Around 4:00 PM, Dietrich left us to return to Blacksburg so that he could go to work in the morning. When dinnertime rolled around, we decided to fix breakfast! We had pancakes, eggs, and bacon for dinner.

Drew and Kim volunteered to be our pancake chefs. Notice the Mickey Mouse pancake.
During our team devotion time this evening, a large majority of the team thought it would be a good idea to pile together onto a single couch. However, Krista and I thought the better of it, and both of us had a couch to ourselves.

Devotion time seating.
Tomorrow we plan on going back to the food pantry for a second day of work. Please continue to pray for our safety, and that we could be an encouragement to the other volunteers who work there regularly. Please pray for a couple of our team members who are getting over colds or who aren't feeling completely up to par. Additionally, please begin to pray for the weather on Thursday when we plan to go back to our worksite and finish our work on the living room floor in the mobile home. The work will be a lot easier if we are able to cut the laminate flooring out of doors.

Flooring, Poems, and Gut Busters

Today was our first day on our worksite here in SWVA. We worked on redoing the living room floor in a mobile home, as well as replacing the front door. The floor was badly warped due to a leaky air conditioning unit, and the subfloor needed to be replaced. We started by pulling the nails out of the floorboards which attached (or used to attach) the floorboards to the joists. Then, we cut out sections of these boards and pulled them up piece by piece.

Bradley cutting up the old floor while Tony, Henry, and Ellen supervise.
After the old floor was taken up, we cut new supports and plywood sections to make up the new subfloor, and began screwing them into place.
Replacing the subfloor with new plywood.
We also removed the old front door from the trailer home and replaced it with a new one which had a working screen door. This necessitated Ellen and Kim spending a good while scraping old caulk off of the frame before we could install the new door.
In the process of replacing the door.
By the end of the day, we had pulled up the entire subfloor and replaced it with new supports and plywood, as well as installed a new door. Later in the week, we plan on going back to this worksite and completing the work on the floor by laying down a new laminate flooring over our completed subfloor.
Team photo at our worksite, along with the homeowner.
On the way back from the worksite, the vehicle containing Drew, Krista, Ellen, Dakota, and Dietrich came up with the following poem, which I will leave here for posterity.

At 8:00 AM I awoke.
I walked to the kitchen and almost choked.
Bradley was sitting at the kitchen table.
Tried to stand up but was not able.
Eating cheerios with peanut butter.
And then added milk straight from the udder.

According to the others in the car, Ellen then killed this game by failing to come up with a new line.

After we returned to The Manor and had dinner, we decided to go to a local restaurant, called Teddy's, to get ice cream. This began as a fairly harmless outing, with each of us ordering various types of ice cream, and Drew creating an extra long straw, which he used to drink out of Dakota's milkshake.
Drew drinking Dakota's milkshake. Ellen's "judgement" face immortalized.
However, as all of us were getting to the bottom of our ice cream dishes, Dietrich spotted an ice cream dish on the menu called "The Gut Buster." He then proposed a challenge to Drew (who had just eaten dinner, a milkshake, and part of Dakota's milkshake). Dietrich would foot the cost of a Gut Buster if Drew would eat all of it... by himself. Drew hesitated slightly, then agreed. What followed cannot be summed up in words (although it will make a hilarious video in the hopefully not-so-far-off future), so I will let the following text, written be several of our SWVA team members, and the below tweet from Heather sum it all up for now.

"Today in SWVA, we had an adventure. One of our members had a physical expenditure. Of course, we should have expected this; the warning signs were all there. The large eyes. The swelling cheeks. The inability to turn any direction other than straight ahead. He kept eating and eating. With each spoonful getting larger.  Nothing was going to stop him. Did you know if food remains in the stomach for less then two minutes then it does not decompose and looks the same as when it went in? Not even the screams of a tussle of llamas spasming in his stomach would quell his spirit.  But all of this is of little consequence; it is what came after this horrifying event that is of real interest. Because then Drew went running."
Please continue to pray for our team, as well as other teams from BCM@VT that are serving over Spring Break. We are thankful that there were only minor scrapes and scratches today, despite our team being in close quarters and using power tools all day. Please pray for our effectiveness during our trip to the food pantry in Gate City tomorrow, as well as our continued efforts at the worksite. Also, pray for safe travels for all of our team, but especially Dietrich, who will be leaving us and driving back to Blacksburg tomorrow evening.

Monday, March 9, 2015

BCM Spring Break 2015 SWVA Mission Trip

Although arriving a bit later than the rest, I have joined the team from Baptist Collegiate Ministries at Virginia Tech in Southwest Virginia (SWVA) for their 2015 Spring Break mission trip. Our team consists of myself, three other guys (Bradley, Dakota, and Drew), four girls (Ellen, Heather, Kim, and Krista), and a BCM staff member (Dietrich) who has joined us for the first couple of days. Our team will again be working with the Southwest Virginia Partnership over the next week, helping with various construction type projects and building on the work of past teams.

Most of our team left Blacksburg on Saturday afternoon and arrived in Nickelsville, VA yesterday evening. They purchased our groceries for the week on the way down, and then attended church at First Baptist Church of Nickelsville this morning. Dietrich and I had to come a little later, due to prior commitments, and drove down together this afternoon.

When we arrived, Dietrich and I unpacked, and then the team decided to spend our Sunday afternoon touring a local zoo. After quite a bit of... adventurous driving, we arrived at the gates of the zoo. Unfortunately, as we then discovered, the zoo doesn't open until mid-March, and will open even later this year, due to snow damage.
Disappointed that the zoo is closed.
After that disappointment, we decided to drive to Gate City, VA to purchase some "sports equipment" that we could play with while spending the afternoon outside in the warm weather. We found a Dollar General that was open, and purchased a cheap frisbee and a wiffle ball and bat.
Crossing Main Street in Gate City.
When we got back to The Manor (an old nursing home that has been turned into a housing facility for teams working with the SWVA Partnership), we decided to play a friendly game of wiffle ball. During this game, I took a lot of grief for my pitching ability and for hitting the people I was pitching to with the (plastic) ball. It took four walks with the bases loaded for my team to decide it was time to call in the relief pitcher. I was also given a hard time for being overly enthusiastic while tagging (certain people) out while they were running to home plate.

Dinner with the team.
After our dinner of spaghetti, salad, and bread (a BCM mission trip staple), we had a short meeting with Tony and Jan, the project coordinators for the SWVA Partnership. They told us a little bit about our project for the week, which will largely consist of redoing the floor in someone's home. We will also be working at the local food pantry, and will split people between the two projects as needed.

After our meeting with Tony and Jan, as well as our team devotion and prayer time, we spent the rest of the evening trying to kill each other. We played Mafia and Body Body until about midnight, when everyone decided to go to bed. We head out around 9:00 AM in the morning to our worksite.

If you would, please join us in praying for the things that we prayed about together as a team this evening. First of all, please pray for the other mission teams from BCMVT serving over Spring Break - both stateside (Atlanta, GA and Thibodaux, LA) as well as internationally (Toronto, Canada and London, England). Please pray for our team's safety as we will be doing construction work and tools (powered or not) can be dangerous. Lastly, please pray for team to have opportunities to show the love of Christ in both word and action this week.

Check back for updates, and follow our tweets with the hashtag #SWVA2015.