Mission to Memphis: Wrap Up

Can I brag on my Lord? Seriously – He’s awesome!

When you get the chance, watch this video about me and Mary’s mission trip to Memphis, TN.

Sorry for the length…it was just such an incredible week!

Grace and Peace,

Mer πŸ™‚

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Mission to Memphis: Day 6

“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” -James 1:2-4

As I’m writing this, it’s 1:38am and our crew just finished playing sardines and signs throughout the church. My alarm is set for 5am to pack and head back to Tejas…it’s going to be a struggle to wake up, but that’s beside the point!

Another phenomenal day has come to a close in Memphis. Today we served at a church organizing rooms, libraries, wiping down walls, picking up “spiky balls” in the front yard and conversing with people who stopped by for the free lunches provided by our partners in crime from Iowa.

The highlight of the day was a conversation I was blessed to have with a mother and daughter. As we began to talk, the pair opened up about their lives and how they got where they are. My heart broke as the mother recalled being beaten by her boyfriend causing her to become disabled and miscarry her child. It took just about everything I had to hold back tears and continue listening. I couldn’t get past the pain this beautiful woman of God had endured.

When the pair left briefly, Jenny turned to me and pointed out how joyful the mother is despite many trials. That struck a cord as I recalled her finishing the tragic story and immediately following it by singing one of her favorite Beyonce songs. While I was consumed in her misfortunes, she had already moved on to discuss how much she loved music. What a beautiful display of JOY!

To top the conversation off, the daughter revealed her plans to attend college to study science and also shares her mother’s love for music. Hope and joy abound from two lovely ladies.

I’ll forever owe the two women a huge “thank you” for giving me a whole new perspective on what it means to be joyful through trials!

Grace and Peace from Memphis,

Mer πŸ™‚

Mission to Memphis: Day 5

Laughter – such a joyful noise.

For those of you who know me, I’ve been blessed with an interesting laugh to say the least. You never know which one your going to get or how long it will last. Sorry I’m not sorry for the obnoxious sounds God has blessed me with. πŸ˜‰

Today’s journey in Memphis was filled with laughter and it was absolutely beautiful. Our crew of 15 continues to grow together and become more of a family with every passing moment. So many inside jokes have surfaced and brocabulary is contagious. It’s absolutely amazing to see how God can throw together a diverse group to glorify Him and grow His Kingdom. We may have our different quirks but we have the most important thing in common – Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. Above any relationship, we are each other’s brothers and sisters in Christ and that is the strongest bond possible.

This week has certainly been “a time to laugh.” (Ecc. 3:4)

Grace and Peace,

Mer πŸ™‚

Beautiful Things – Gungor

These lyrics couldn’t possibly be any more fitting for what was experienced today in Memphis:

“All this pain

I wonder if I’ll ever find my way

I wonder if my life could really change at all

All this earth

Could all that is lost ever be found

Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of the dust

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us

All around

Hope is springing up from this old ground

Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of the dust

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of the dust

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new

You make me new, You are making me new

You are making me new

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of the dust

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of the dust

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new

You make me new, You are making me new”

Beautiful Things, Gungor

Mission to Memphis: Day 4

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” -1 Corinthians 15:55

I was served a slice of Humble Pie today as our group worked to clean Zion Christian Cemetery. And when I say clean, I really mean chopping down trees and brush with hand saws, axes, machetes, and loppers while digging up tombstones that were buried a foot underground. It was labor intensive work, but the Lord’s strength prevailed.

Here’s a little background information about our location: The cemetery is one of the first African American cemeteries in the country. The last person was buried there in the 1970s. Since then, those buried across the 17 acres have been disrespected tremendously. The cemetery has been used for drug deals and as a prostitution site. The project to restore the cemetery began in 2005 and over 100 groups have served on site.

My experience was capped off when I began clearing out some low brush with loppers. At first I thought I was going to chop down a few bushes and move onto the next grouping until I hit concrete. Underneath all the shrubbery was a tombstone. The Spirit took over as I was digging and I kept thinking “O death, where is your sting? O death, where is your victory?” Despite all the evil that has taken place on that soil, it was being destroyed. Those who’s bodies laid to rest were being dignified again.

My beautiful sister, Claire, eloquently stated her view on the Cemetery as follows:

Looking at the cemetery for the first time, the task seemed daunting. Only five acres have been cleared since the project began (in 2005) and there are at least twelve left to go. It’s easy to become disheartened by the task facing us. It’s only when we started to uncover the gravestones, one by one, that we realized that the mission is not simply to clear land. Every time a headstone revealed the name of someone who was laid to rest ages ago, that person springs alive, into the minds of a generation that had no knowledge of how time is simultaneous to God. Those who lay in Zion Christian Cemetery are now brought back into the lives of the living, and their families will no longer see an empty space in history where their ancestors were lost. One uncovered headstone is a victory for God and all of His children, those living and dead. THAT is the point of our mission, and it will be fulfilled, no matter how long that may take.

Grace and Peace from Memphis,

Mer πŸ™‚

P.S. We celebrated God’s victory with Sonic Happy Hour!

Mission to Memphis: Day 2

“The word of the Lord came to me:Β I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born. I appointed you a prophet to the nations. But I protested, “Oh no, Lord, God! Look, I don’t know how to speak since I am [only] a youth.” Then the Lord said to me: Do not say, “I am [only] a youth,” for you will go to everyone I send you to and speak whatever I tell you. Do not be afraid of anyone, for I will be with you to deliver you. [This is] the Lord’s declaration.Β Then the Lord reached out His hand, touched my mouth, and told me: I have now filled your mouth with My words.”Β -Jeremiah 1:4-9

God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.

This has been a reoccurring theme in my life the past year and today as we were introduced to Memphis.

This morning started with an awesome worship service led by Alex and a devotional led by John, two of the guys on the trip. It couldn’t have been more appropriate. The Spirit was moving as we made a joyful noise and talked about the ministry of Jeremiah. In 42 years he encountered pretty much everything you could imagine. Although no one responded to his ministry, it wasn’t an accident. Despite his youth and feelings of inadequacy Jeremiah happily served our awesome God.

Mark followed the devotion with his testimony – it was awesome! It’s so amazing to see how God writes each of our love stories and that each is absolutely perfect.

Our next stop was at Fellowship Downtown. The message was on Jesus’ transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-13. The message was absolutely incredible. What stood out the most was that Christ’s transfiguration must lead to our transformation. If you’ve accepted Christ and nothing about your life has changed, something’s wrong. Talk about powerful words that call for a gut check!

And of course there was a tie in to God calling the weak and unequipped. History is proof of that. God’s used murderers, youth, and prostitutes to show his strength in those who are weak. His majesty is manifested in our weakness. He uses our brokenness as a platform to show His glory.

Next our day included a talk on Jesus calling his disciples. During Christ’s time, becoming a Rabbi was the highest honor that all Jewish men ultimately desired. Those who didn’t make the “cut” for Rabbi school were sent home to learn their families craft. Here’s where it gets super awesome – when Christ called Peter and Andrew to follow him, they’d already been sent home. They didn’t make the cut, but Christ changed the game. He said they were worthy to spread the Gospel and that’s exactly what they did. Absolutely incredible.

Still having doubts about God’s ability to use you? Cast them aside, they’re lies from the enemy. God calls you where you’re at. All you have to do is say “YES”! Nothing God does is an accident. He’s ordained you to be exactly where you are to serve as His hands and feet.

Grace and Peace,

Mer πŸ™‚

P.S.

After spending time at the Civil Rights Museum, playing a little Wah and Ninja outside the church, eating an amazing dinner homemade by our team, learning how to play signs and recounting how our lives have been impacted today, you’d think we’d call it a night – WRONGO! Worshipping again and loving it!