For decades Ebenezer has taken an annual trip into the woods for a summer camping retreat.  It’s been called names like Deliverance and Survivor.  Sometimes these trips have included crazy games and competitions – and other times it’s just been a fun camping trip.  Youth Group trips and traditions change over time, but the purpose is always the same.  The purpose of a great youth ministry retreat is to get time away with students to give them the space they need to spend time alone with God.  Our lives are so fast and so full, that often we don’t leave space for the Lord.  I love serving churches that see the value in sending students and volunteers away on retreats.  It gives teenagers space to worship and see more clearly the glory of our risen Savior.  My prayer is that the things they learn while away on retreat will translate to making more time for the Lord when they’re home.  Whether we call it Survivor, Deliverance or Wildlife – the purpose is still the same: students…out in nature…enjoying Jesus together.  Check out the highlight video from this week’s trip to the Nolichucky and Green Rivers in Tennessee & North Carolina.

This summer Ashley and I had the opportunity to return to Honduras for another summer serving on our church’s medical mission team. This was my fifth time in Honduras, but our first time serving with our son. It truly was a joy being able to take our teenage son on his first foreign mission trip after seventeen years of taking other teenagers. This is the highlight video of our 2018 trip. Check it out.

Well, maybe not paradise to some… but to our team and the people of Honduras, this is a very special place. It’s a beautiful country filled with gorgeous landscapes and postcard worthy mountain scenes & beach skylines. Like many third world countries though, the landscapes don’t always match the living conditions for some of the locals. There is much poverty in the areas where we serve in Honduras. Today we traveled to one of the remote and poorest areas of this region. We traveled an hour up the mountain today to the town of Bell’Aire. The people call it the cloud forest. There we work at a clinic that was built by an American woman who has planted her life and family in one of the hardest areas. She has created a fantastic space for ministry and she personally knows nearly every one in the community and she ministers to them in many ways. Today’s blog will be a compilation of stories from people’s experiences today in Bell’Aire and on the trip.

Brad Kempson (Children’s Ministry)

Working at the schools is amazing. We have two programs that we do, based on if we have elementary or high school kids. You never know how the kids are gonna be until you get there. It’s a learning process trying to communicate with the kids.

When we have elementary kids, we do a program based on a rainbow. We tell the story of Noah and the Ark with a skit, and we explain the story of salvation with skittles and their colors. The kids always love our skit and everything we do. After the program is done, we pass out bags with coloring sheets and crayons and skittles to the kids, along with a copy of the New Testament.

At the high schools, we do a skit called Agnus Dei. It shows how Jesus helps people with their problems. It is really powerful. After the skit, we pass out bandannas with the plan of salvation in English and Spanish and we give them a full bible.

In both schools, some youth give their testimonies, and we play games. Whether they are “cookie face” or the skittle straw game where you move skittles with a straw. The kids love watching their classmates play the games with us. After everything is done, and we finish with all of the activities, we pass out the gifts. The kids’ faces really light up when we give them their Bibles and their gifts. We put bandannas on with them and we just have a lot of fun. Even though we don’t speak the same language, we all have fun together.

Nancy Gatewood (Family Ministry)

Here in Honduras our family ministry team has a very special blessing as we worship with local churches. Seeing the true joy of the Honduran people as they worship always touches my heart. Even though there is a language barrier when we are speaking, when we are singing the same song in two different languages simultaneously – we discover that worship songs transcend the language barrier! Yes, we may share a message from God’s Word with the people but we are the ones who are blessed.

Camryn Gardner (Children’s Ministry & Home Visits)

Today and yesterday I was able to go out with our team and deliver food bags to some families throughout Honduras. Yesterday one of the things that touched my heart was that as we were approaching a house when Mrs Ashley said, “Camryn it’s your turn to pray at this next house.” So, as we handed this family there food bag and asked them what it was that we needed to be praying for, the mom of multiple children tells me that she has a 17 and an 18 year old that grew up in church, but have now become bored of it and she wanted me to pray that they would turn back to Jesus. I was extremely humbled in that situation because, I know exactly how those kids feel being an 18 year old myself. It showed me, that even though we live in different countries, we have the same struggles. Today’s home visits were extremely tough. I have always heard very traumatic stories about the people in some of these areas , but I have never been able to put faces with the stories. Today, that changed. We went around to people that were living in mud huts, people that had been attacked to the point of being disabled and that resulting in not being able to find work…even to kid’s houses that had been sexually abused. These people are literally struggling to survive. I met many families with backstories I couldn’t even imagine. As I said, today was a very hard day for me, but one of the most eye opening ones I’ve had in my 3 trips to Honduras.

Jordan Guffey (Pharmacy Team)

Today was our clinic in Bell’Aire. This is by far one of my favorite clinics that we do. The people that come to this particular are much poorer than the other two places we see people. We are the only team that is going there this summer. When I picture the people of Honduras, these are the people I see. They are so kind and gracious for the care that they are receiving. The first 30 minutes of this clinic is always what I like to call “organized chaos”. Everyone on the medical team is running around trying to figure how things are going to be set up and there are tons of people, everywhere you look. There was so much going on today, but one case in particular I remember involved an infant that needed a spacer for an Albuteral inhaler. Russel and I are running around trying to find one for the baby. I ran up to the main clinic to ask one of the nurses where they are. I found one in a respiratory trunk. I ended up needing a mask to attach to the spacer, so that it could be correctly used. I fashioned the spacer up and closed the holes on the mask and had the opportunity to show the family how use it and dispense the rest of the meds to them.

These are just a few of the stories of our day in Bell’Aire. It was a long, but wonderful day. We began our day with devotion time at 7am and didn’t return from clinic until after 8:00pm. Though it was a long day, every patient was seen and all of the people received the help they needed. The best news of all is that two people received Christ as their savior today.