I traveled into the past this morning.
Figuratively, of course.
We are working on a video to be shown during Diakon’s 150th anniversary celebration next year.
The script I wrote includes scenes of the Rev. Philip Willard—essentially the founder of Lutheran Church operation of what would become the Tressler Orphans Home in Loysville, Pennsylvania—coming to the small Perry County hamlet and meeting with the Tressler family. For ease of filming and availability of horse and carriage, those scenes were shot just outside Gettysburg on two other dates.
Today, we were permitted onto the grounds of the former Tressler home, sold to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the early 1960s for use as a youth development center, to film exteriors of some of the historic buildings.
When I arrived at Diakon in 2015, I was impressed with a number of things: the scope and breadth of programs, the difference those programs made in lives, the unbroken heritage of service since 1868 and the dedication and commitment of staff throughout the organization.
The time was also one of challenge and change.
We were essentially giving birth to a new organization as Diakon Child, Family & Community Ministries—offering such services as adoption and foster care, at-risk youth services and counseling and behavioral health care for people of all ages—was created as a “sister” to Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries.
In line with that creation, we needed to make more-efficient use of our limited benevolent-care dollars. We needed to grow our programs, both in scope and geography. And we needed to demonstrate our impact.
My alarm went off at 5 a.m. and I hit snooze. It was still dark outside and I wondered how on earth I would get these teenage girls up and out the door by 5:45 a.m. I flipped on the light after warning them with a 3-2-1 count and then I ran to get in line for the bathroom we shared with about 20 other females in the area to which we’d been assigned in a church.
Thankfully, I had to remind them only once to get up. They knew they had to get to breakfast in time to eat and pack their lunches before heading out to our job sites. The earlier we left, the sooner we could finish before temperatures became unbearable.
This was our morning routine during a youth mission trip to McColl, South Carolina, where about 20 adults and 60 teenagers volunteered to repair broken homes and, while doing so, also fix some broken hearts.
This trip, taken in late June, was my first mission trip with my two younger daughters, who are 16 and 14. I had received approval to use Diakon’s Love of Thy Neighbor fund to assist with the trip; the fund provided extra paid vacation days, as well as some grant money to use toward travel expenses.
After reading stories from co-workers who did mission work and learning how much they helped others beyond what we do during our typical work days, I wanted to do the same thing.
My 14-year-old daughter randomly shared this thought with me while we were driving last night….
Mom, isn’t it amazing how one tiny snowflake that falls from the sky joins with all the others and creates these huge piles of snow? It’s just amazing.
I agreed with her and then jokingly said, “I’ll bet there’s a life lesson in there somewhere, but I’m too tired of all this snow to think what it might be.”
Later that evening, the lesson dawned on me. Throughout the last few days I’ve heard stories of people joining forces to help others during and after the massive snowstorm that hit our region. Many of those people are my coworkers. Alone they could do only so much, but like those snowflakes, they combined their efforts and the results multiplied into something amazing. Just a few examples:
Most of my days are spent in front of a computer screen. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy my job. There is always something new to do and I interact with many colleagues through email and meetings.
But I like to be around people.