I spent last week in Wilkes County, North Carolina, part of Good Shepherd’s student mission team with the Carolina Cross Connection.
CCC is a United Methodist-inspired mission organization that has this rather glorious mission statement:
Carolina Cross Connection (CCC) is a Christian youth mission helping students and adults make a difference with people in need while allowing Jesus Christ to transform their own lives to look more like Him.
What does that mean, exactly? It means that students from a number of different churches gathered together, divided up, and ventured into mountain communities to do works of home repair, yard work, and painting. I joined Good Shepherd leaders Devin Tharp, Diana Setter, and George Diggs on the mission. Here was my little crew:
Here are my top five takeaways from a week away:
1.Nostalgia. This was actually not my first experience with Carolina Cross Connection. While pastoring at Mt. Carmel Church in Monroe, I took part in seven straight CCCs — from 1992 – 1998. By the second day, I was thinking, “why did I take an 18 year break?!” I even messaged some parents of those Carmel youth (sheesh – those “kids” are now in their late 30s!) telling them how the ministry kept its 90s spunk and just added some 21st century technology.
2.Connection. Our site leader was the daughter of a United Methodist preacher friend. The church sharing ministry with us was a Gaston County congregation whose sanctuary was built in the same year (1996) with the same brick and same basic design as Good Shepherd’s Phase I. And, ironically, it was a church I thought I might want to serve.
3. Morning Watch. My favorite tradition of CCC is called Morning Watch in which the entire camp goes silent from 8:00 – 8:30 a.m. Leaders provide devotional materials along with instructions to locate a solitary place, read, reflect, and pray. The stunning views of the Wilkes County mountains provided the ideal backdrop to recognize that all of creation stands in testimony to its Creator.
4. Work. We built a wheelchair ramp. We trimmed bushes. We painted porches. I was able to use a weed eater / edger — which is when a mission trip turned into a vacation! My favorite work moment came when GS student Forrest Moore and I mowed and edged a family cemetery. Yes! They really exist in the High County and we were able to make it look pretty. Here’s Forrest:
5. Perspective. Few weeks have meant more to me personally, spiritually, and professionally than these six days spent in the midst of stifling heat, teen angst, bathroom chaos, and religious beauty. I suspect I won’t wait 18 years before the next go-round.