Tag: mission trip

Ceilings and Floors

I am 47 years old and I have never owned a passport.

True, I have been out of the country to places in the Caribbean but that was back in the days when you could go on a cruise or fly to certain regions with just a birth certificate.

In fact, I had not even gotten on a plane until I was nearly 20 years old. We just didn’t have much money when I was growing up to take exotic trips overseas and in my younger years I was not much of a risk-taker. Even now, I’d prefer a trip to Disney’s Epcot over going to actual countries because I do not enjoy flying at all!

A few weeks ago, I had dinner with a very wise friend who said something that has stuck with me since then. We were talking about our young-adult kids and the things they are all doing and she said, “I want my ceiling to be their floor and I haven’t even reached my ceiling yet!”

What a great way of looking at how we prepare our children for adulthood!

I have three daughters and each has a distinctive personality and a different “comfort zone.” My oldest daughter traveled to Ireland in January on a college exchange program and will most likely end up living in New York City soon. My youngest hates cities, but traveled to Barbados in the spring for a field hockey tour with her club team. I was actually surprised for two reasons that she did it— first, she has never been anywhere away from home without at least one family member and, second, we told her she could go only if she paid for it (and she did!).

I was surprisingly calm during both their trips compared with how, a decade ago, I would have been worrying nonstop.

My middle daughter, who turns 18 in a few weeks,  is in many ways the most adventurous of the three but has not ever traveled anywhere on her own.

A few months ago, however, I suggested she look into going on a missions trip to Saint Lucia through Youth with a Mission, but when she saw that it was two weeks over her birthday and she would not know anyone going, she talked herself out of it. I didn’t really pursue it with her, until I heard my friend say: “I want my ceiling to be their floor and I haven’t even reached my ceiling yet!”

So I brought up the missions trip again and my daughter had a look of longing in her eyes. But then she started rattling off the list of excuses of why she shouldn’t go.

I’ll be gone two weeks. I won’t know anyone. I’ll have to fly by myself. How will I raise the money? I’ll be away over my birthday. I can’t do something this big…

I interrupted her and asked her, “Does the thought of it give you butterflies and stir your heart every time you think about it? If it does, and you talk yourself out of it then I think you know what you should do!”

She admitted that it did stir her heart and by the end of the day, with no further conversation, she decided to go. She leaves July 30.

It really isn’t that I talked her into going. It was more about teaching her not to be afraid and talk herself out of things that are both scary and amazing opportunities. I often have defaulted into limiting myself and my kids based on my own experiences and anxiety, but that’s not what the Bible says I should do.

Philippians 4:13 reads I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

It doesn’t read “normal things” or “easy things.”

It reads “all things.”

With that in mind, hope I can also make my ceiling the floor for my girls. I want them fearlessly to take advantage of every opportunity that is part of God’s plans for them.

And maybe one day, I’ll even get my own passport.

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Rebuilding after Disaster

Colorado. The word conjures images of the majestic Rocky Mountains and herds of Elk roaming freely … thoughts of relaxing in the outdoors … and feelings of awe that we have been blessed by God with such beauty.

Peaceful, isn’t it? In September 2013, however, the region of Weld, Larimer and Boulder counties was anything but peaceful. Heavy rains prompted flash-floods across some 2,000 square miles, destroying or damaging more than 7,000 houses. Miles of roadways were gone.

This spring—thanks in part to Diakon’s Love of Thy Neighbor Fund—I made my eighth trip as a volunteer with Brethren Disaster Ministries—this time traveling to the Loveland and Estes Park areas of Colorado to assist in recovery efforts.

The work is often tiring, reminding me of muscles I didn’t even recall having. My job with Diakon Family Life Services’ Specialized In-Home Treatment Program involves driving, sitting and talking with people, not hammering, dry-wall sanding and painting. Yet both jobs are enormously satisfying as you make a tangible difference in someone’s life—just in different ways.

I enjoyed the time spent working on the homes and learning skills new to me—on-site project leaders instruct volunteers in such tasks as mold-remediation, wall-framing, roofing, plumbing and even cabinet installation. Often, I worked side-by-side with the home owners and listened to their life stories.

The residents told stories of being stranded for days and wondering when or if they were going to be rescued. Of course, with flash-floods there is no warning, no time to prepare, and little chance to gather any possessions or photographs you may hold dear. In fact, I heard stories of people who had to be airlifted from their mountain homes or climbing into trees that towered over their homes because a roof just wasn’t high enough.

A particularly rewarding experience came as we helped a man who consistently had redirected volunteers to his neighbors’ homes “because,” he always said, “they need your help more than I do right now.” Yet he was nearing the end of his approval period for funding, his home still in need of significant repairs. So, in May, my fellow volunteers and I spent time painting ceilings, breathing in more drywall dust than I ever thought possible, finishing interior edges around recently re-installed windows and gutting a bathroom that was breeding mold inside its walls.

By the end of the week there were plans in place for kitchen cabinets to be installed and the homeowners were able to move out of the temporary housing they’d been in since 2013 and into the functioning portion of their home.

We did have time when not working to enjoy some of Colorado’s scenery. I enjoyed a few hours of hiking, as well as falling down a snow-packed hill in Rocky Mountain National Park, walking around a nearby lake and learning some new card games.

Mostly, however, we worked to aid those whose lives had been turned upside down by the flooding. With support from Diakon’s Love of Thy Neighbor Fund, I hope to take more such trips, possibly even another one this year.


—Erin Bell

Case Manager
Diakon Family Life Services Specialized In-Home Program (SPIN)

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Mission possible

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.

I am not what you would call a “skilled worker” when it comes to any kind of home repair. I thought maybe I could stay behind to prepare meals or oversee teens doing some painting.


I was assigned to put a metal roof on a double-wide trailer for an older woman named Mary. My team did not actually include my daughters, but consisted of a jewelry-store owner, a biochemist and several other teenagers. I didn’t know any of them before that week and none of us had ever done roofing.

We basically learned about roofing and one another as the week went on. And to make the situation even more challenging, Mary had a plumbing problem so her water had been shut off. We borrowed water from a neighbor’s hose as we needed it.

As the week progressed and temperatures rose, we became roofers. We shared lunches, tools, stories and sunscreen. Lots of sunscreen. We joked that we would start our own roofing company when we got back to Pennsylvania called Close Enough Roofing because as the day wore on, the measuring tape became a little more subjective.

We never got to meet our homeowner because even though we arrived between 6 and 6:30 each morning, she was already at work. She left her back door unlocked for us to go inside—where she had her window air conditioning units turned on full power for us. It felt like heaven when we stepped inside to take a break.


On our last day we had to request help from another group that had finished a different roofing project close by. Our roof was 80% covered in metal at that point and the heat index had risen to 104 by the afternoon. Moreover, we had reached a point on the roof where the final section required more-extensive repair than simply screwing on metal panels to the fascia boards we had installed. We needed someone with a little more roofing experience.

About 2 p.m., the other group showed up—and its leader happened also to be a professional roofer. It was like seeing the cavalry ride in! The group dropped off additional volunteers to stay with us and because leaders knew we had already put in a full day on a hot metal roof, they yelled up to our group, asking who wanted to leave.

Nobody left. The mission was too important.

We had become too invested in our team and that roof to abandon each other for the showers, dinner and air mattresses awaiting us at the air-conditioned church. We would work until dark if we needed to but we weren’t leaving until the roof was finished. Thankfully, about 10 hours after we had arrived, we pulled out of Mary’s driveway, having completed the project in time to be back for dinner.


We never did get to meet Mary, but I did get to meet her sister during our last night there. She was a member of the church that hosted us and she had added Mary’s name to the list of those in need of some much-needed home repair.

She hugged me and cried, telling me we were an answer to her prayers. I thought to myself, God is quite creative. He picked me, a jewelry-store owner, a biochemist and some compassionate teenagers from Pennsylvania to answer the prayers of a dear older woman in South Carolina. And because of that strange, but perfectly orchestrated encounter, my life has been changed, too!

Many of the people our group helped that week could not understand why we would take a week to travel 10 hours to help their community. I couldn’t help but wonder why wouldn’t we do it?

We certainly gained as much as we gave that week: Fresh perspectives, friendships and a better understanding of God’s faithfulness.

I can’t wait to return next year.

By Melissa Kindall
Social Media and Special Communications Project Manager
Corporate Communications & Public Relations

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Experiencing “church” from here to Africa – part two

(Part 1 of this story is posted here)

As I boarded the flight to Tanzania and an orphanage there, I knew all of us—three representatives of Diakon Youth Services—were eager and excited to experience a part of the world new to us, while also—in some small way—helping children in need, just as we do daily in our work within Diakon.

The experience was one we will never forget—one we continue to process.

Experiencing “church” from here to Africa – part one

As I write this, wrapped in a Massai blanket successfully bartered for at the market yesterday in Mto wa Mbu, I am drinking strong Tanzanian coffee and listening to the early-morning chirping of birds outside the window mixed with the soft sounds of a light rain.

As the sun continues to rise, the darkness of night giving way to a pallet of natural colors that seem to be unique to this particular part of the world, I can’t help but be awestruck and humbled by the many ways I have experienced God’s global church the last 30 days.

As often occurs when we truly sit back and ponder the meaning of God’s love, grace, and mercy in our lives, words are hard to come by and experiences difficult to capture and convey in a way that truly reveres our Father. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to share.

Taking Flight to Haiti

Earlier this year, participants and staff of the Flight Program had the opportunity to participate in a Haiti mission trip. They took care of the needs of orphanage children and spent time playing, coloring, writing letters to sponsors, opening gifts, making bracelets and assisting the nursing staff with the kids’ annual physicals. They stayed very busy in the hot, muggy weather! Along with working with the children, Flight participants had the opportunity to work alongside other missions team members in a variety of ways. They assisted the nurses, worked with the builders and even went door-to-door in a tent city to hand out supplies and pray with families. The Flight participants were moved outside of their comfort zones and, through that process, learned a lot about themselves. They learned how strong, resilient and capable they are. They left a lasting effect on Haiti and with the kids of the orphanages, and Haiti left a lasting impact on all of them. One of the participants shared about his experience: