June 9-16, 2019
Friday June 7, 2019
Pre-Mission Trip Musing
Getting ready for a mission trip is always exciting. It is amazing how it can take so many months to prepare to leave home for a week. We have meetings, we plan, we ask questions, we pack, and then….we set off on well thought out, well packed for trip. There is always excitement about the planned activities and usually the destination; maybe a little stress in preparing to be in a new place, with new people, with a new schedule, but mostly an anticipation of a great experience. I have purchased all my mission trip supplies: long shorts, sunscreen, bug spray, flip flops, bathing suit, etc., and tonight I will be filling my suitcase getting totally ready to leave at 3:30 AM Sunday morning.
The idea of going to a beautiful place with students to do awesome mission trip stuff is extremely exciting to me. Mission trips are the highlight of my year, but what I am most excited for is difficult to communicate sometimes. I am most excited about what God is going to do. Lately I have observed in my personal bible study how many times someone had, what I will call, a divine appointment. Jesus was just walking around doing his ministry and he had a divine appointment with the woman at the well. Elijah was just being a prophet and God told him to go to Zaraphath to meet a widow. David was just tending his sheep when he was sent to take food to his brothers during a stand off with Goliath. The word of God is full of story after story of divine appointment.
I cannot help but anticipate in excitement about who our divine appointment is with on this trip. Who is God going to have us cross paths with? What will they look like? What will their name be? I just find it so amazing how God weaves our lives together. Here I am a Midwest girl from St. Louis, traveling with girls from the Low Country, to an island in the Bahamas, to serve refugees from Haiti. Who else other than God could orchestrate such a unique group?
This week I am anticipating nothing less than seeing the divine awesomeness of God through the divine appointment we have. Please pray with us for the people we are getting the privilege to love.
Monday June 10, 2019
On Sunday we left for the Savannah airport at 4 am. It was a short journey, and we arrived at the Miami airport in about an hour. I (Kelsey) was nervous for the plane ride because I had never been on a plane before. It was scary, but I had Jordan next to me so everything was fine. That experience brought me to the realization that being on a plane is way less fun then anticipated. After we arrived at the Miami airport we had about a 3 hour layover, when it was finally over we were set on the way to Marsh Harbor in Abaco. It was a very short flight (30 min) and we arrived in the Bahamas by 11:30 am. Upon arrival we met the missionaries helping us Jan, Gabe, and their daughter Grace. We were the first group to arrive for the missions so we were given the opportunity to have lunch with them, following lunch we went snorkeling in Mermaid Reef. It was so beautiful; their were so many different kinds of fish, and they were so close that we felt like we wouldn’t be able to swim anywhere without touching a fish. After snorkeling, we got to take a 2 hour nap which we desperately needed. We are staying in a place called Friends of the Environment. It looks sort of like a cabin and there is a long hallway with rooms that have bunk beds. At about 7 pm the rest of the group arrived to Friends of the Environment and we had dinner and orientation.
Mark was worried that we wouldn’t have enough strength for the roofing work, but with the combined effort of our group and the Myrtle Beach church group there is no doubt that we will be able to put. New roofs on homes that need them. There are about 11 teenagers here and we are all going to be painting and doing roofing work today. I’m excited to help some of the single mothers in the community who desperately need help. One of the woman, Stacy, is a single mother with three kids. She is living in a house that has a lot of mold and it is very unsafe. I am grateful for this opportunity that I have been given to help out and to let the Lord use me in beautiful ways. I am praying that through this experience I will grow closer to the Lord and truly realize how lucky we are to have what we do. Thank you for your prayers and please continue to pray for us as we set out to help do god’s work in the Bahamas!
Kelsey Brandt and Jordan Wilhelm
Tuesday June 11, 2019
What an interesting life experience yesterday was. We arrived early in the morning to a tiny newly sided yellow house with the assignment of finishing a bathroom project. The blue front door to the adorable little house was open not in anticipation of guests but as an attempt of catching a breezy break from the stifling heat and humidity. A 2 bedroom, small kitchen/living room, and bathroom shared by two single moms and 4 children was already busy with awake toddlers. The 5th grader was busy playing Fortnight while looking up YouTube videos to help, and everyone else had their own personal iPad playing videos and music. All electronics making competing noise simultaneously together.
Mark, Kelsey, Jordan and I were sent to patch dry wall holes, plaster, and paint the bathroom which had just enough space for exactly 3 people. The owner of the house graciously pulled out two fans to try and help move some air around so everyone could breath. I quickly realized I was going to be on baby patrol because the fans did not have the front safe guards, and both toddlers were interested in trying to touch the moving fan blades. I started the unsustainable game of “1…2….3….” where I would throw the giggling babies in the air 100 times. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was a sweaty tired mess after about 5 mins and we had 8 hours left to go….but I digress.
I was fascinated to watch Mark meticulously measure and cut dry wall to fit in the oddly shaped holes. Kelsey and Jordan took so much care to measure and cut plaster tape to cover and patch cracks. They worked so well together as a team despite the tremendous heat and tight quarters. I played motorcycles with one of the toddlers and attempted to help feed the other (it’s difficult to hit a moving target).
I did get a chance to have a conversation with one of the single moms while we sat and played with the toddlers. She told me about how big her family is and how many children each of her family members have had. She talked about how much she loved her parents and how good they were to her and her siblings. Then she shared how both of her parents died at very young ages: her mom at 40 and her dad at only 30. She has been responsible to caring for other people since she was barely in high school. She her self has 4 children spanning from 20 years old to 2 years old. She works as an office assistant at a local school and very proudly talked about a family member getting ready to graduate.
I was so humbled to be a witness to their lives yesterday. They invited us in and treated us like family. We were there to serve them, but the single mom wanted to do nothing but help us all day. She took over all of the door painting responsibilities and thanked us many times for our help. We have so much in the US. It’s almost hard to describe what it’s like to be in a country so affected by years and years of poverty and little to no industry. Their way of life is just completely different than ours. However, their sense of community seemed to be different from us too. The kids all helped each other, many neighbors and friends stopped by the house to chat and bring food, and they talk about their families all the time. I feel like I could learn a thing or two about community relationships from the Bohemians.
I believe that God weaves our lives together in a really special and beautiful way. I got a chance to hang out with 4 bohemian kids and play all day. Tensions with race are very prevalent here and just maybe God can use this experience to bridge some of that gap in these kids lives. I am committed to praying for these young ones and their futures. I have been praying for a strong Christian male to help mentor the boys. I have been praying that each one of them would fall in love with learning. I have been praying for them to receive age appropriate books to help their imaginations. I have been praying that God will build them into strong leaders to change their culture for His glory. I trust that God has a beautiful plan for their little lives.
Please continue to pray for us and we have the honor of loving the people of Abaco this week.
Here are some photos of our time, so far.
Wednesday June 12, 2019
We have spent the last two days working on putting a roof on a house. One of the main goals of our missions group that we are with is to put roofs on people’s houses so that they can stay dry. We did not meet the family that lives in the house we are working on, but she is adopting her sisters children as her sister was a single mother who recently passed away.
We worked with the mission group from Myrtle Beach and due to the heat we have worked from around 8 am to 1 in the afternoon. Being able to see the progress on the roof is rewarding because we know we are contributing to providing a safe place to live for a family.
Wednesday June 12, 2019
We also went out for some beach time after work yesterday and visited the village of Cherokee. It was a small little secluded area with a little elementary school, and about ten tiny houses. Behind the village was a beautiful sight to see. There was an enormous beach with a dock so long, that it was hard to see how far it went and when it actually stopped. The water was crystal clear and we had a great time swimming with the group. We brought a cooler out in the water and ate watermelon. Once the watermelon was all gone we were skipping the rinds across the water. At one point we were all on a mission to find the shark that Hannah said swam in front of her. At the end of our swimming adventure we floated along a stream under a bridge.
This trip has been such a good experience so far, not only for the physical work, but also for the relationships I have built. Getting to know these individuals I’m working with to make a greater difference is truly amazing. These young adults are so passionate about Christ and serving others. It is so fun and inspiring to be around other Christians who love the Lord as much as me. We have done so many crazy things from trying to do pull ups on the dock to playing would you rather while putting shingles on a roof. The love for the Lord and these people is real.
The relationships that we have made with the people we are serving is also very inspiring. These individuals are so thankful for what they have even though they have lost so much. Just talking to them has helped us to become more of servants and disciples of Christ. Leona, a single parented mother has continued to say that she is grateful for what she has because she knows that there are so many people that have it worse then her. I think that we should all think with this attitude in life. The Lord has blessed us and no matter what tough times we go through, there is always a light in this dark world. We are blessed to have what we have and there are always people less fortunate then us. Think about that today, and pray that you will realize how blessed you are to live in America with the people and things you have in your life.
Thursday June 13, 2019
It is hard to believe we are more than half way through the week. It has been incredible to see how much we have been able to accomplish. Our team of 21 has been able to finish projects on one home (that houses 6-8 people), and we will finish the roof today.
I need a whole paragraph to share what Mark Brown’s team has been working on because it is almost unbelievable. Mark’s team has a small home with some unique features. The most noticeable being the open floor plan where the toilet is in full open view of the living room and kitchen. Mark and some guys from Myrtle Beach have been tirelessly cutting and building walls out of sheet rock to enclose the families’ bathroom so they can simply have some privacy. The Bathtub and toilet are now enclosed despite some very difficult obstacles. Another part of crew has been working on the home’s kitchen. They started just trying to fix some shelving. However, God had some other plans. They got an opportunity to get to know the home owner. Miss Lionna is a faithful Christian who has had just a snow ball of tough life. She is responsible for a lot of people, while she her-self is grieving. The team saw she is just overwhelmed so they decided to help clean her kitchen which led to some discoveries. They painted her kitchen shelves a beautiful blue color she loves. While they were moving things around they discovered all of her lower walls in the kitchen were completely moldy. They had extra sheet rock from the bathroom project so they just started cutting the old stuff down only to find the whole wall was full of cockroaches. They cleaned them out and sprayed with as much grace as they could. When I arrived to help load the truck I was met by all the children who live in that house. They were full of life and joy. They laughed and talked about all the things they love to do. It was a sobering experience and one that is hard to describe.
Psalm 3:3 says, “But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head”. Dignity. That is the word that keeps coming to mind this whole week. We have been working on restoring these dilapidated homes, but God has been restoring people. God has been restoring these families’ dignity. Every country is different. Ever culture is different. There are unique challenges with jobs, housing, education, etc, but one shared human experience is the need for love and dignity.
I am praying today that these families hold their heads up high. We have a God that loves us and is in the business of restoration. Whatever has been lost, whatever has been taken, God can restore. The best part of the whole story is Miss Lionna has said many times this is an answer to her prayers. Whenever we serve someone we get to witness God answer their prayers. God is so good and oh so very sweet.
Today I am praying continued prayers of dignity on Miss Lionna and her family. Would you pray with me?
Thursday June 13, 2019
Today we finished the roof on the house we have been working on. The weather was not ideal for roofing as it alternated between sweltering heat and heavy rain. Despite the weather, we spent the morning and the afternoon working until we were finished. The project was completed just in time for the children to move in on Saturday. Before we left, we were able to meet the residence of the house and pray with them. After the completion of the roof, we had planned to play with Haitian refugees in a part of the island called The Mud, but were not able to follow through with those plans due to the previously mentioned rain storms because the children would not come out if it was too muddy.
Thursday June 13, 2019
It was pretty amazing to see how much we could accomplish in only three days. It was so hot at some points that the tar from the shingles was melting onto our clothes, and it was raining so hard at some points that we were soaked through all of our clothes. It was fun riding back in the back of the truck all huddled together while getting pelted with rain. We joked around and had fun during a miserable time. Today I did something I never thought I would ever be able to do. I now get to say that I have put a roof on a house before. Being able to provide for this family gives me a great feeling and I know I’m doing something meaningful. I Can’t wait to see what else the Lord has in store for me and the plans that may come in the future to serve. Thank you for praying for us throughout the week.
Saturday June 15, 2019
Since the roof was completed on Thursday, we (Kelsey, Hannah, and Jordan) spent yesterday doing smaller projects at the place we were staying while others continued helping fix Leonas kitchen and bathroom. We cleaned and organized the tools we had used throughout the week and put together some parts of bunk beds so that they would be able to be easily assembled upon delivery. The building of the bunk bed pieces did not go as smoothly as hoped. First, we were working outside but sudden rain forced us to stop working and seek shelter from the rain. After gathering the tools and running onto the porch to complete the assignment we assembled all of the pieces to the bunk beds, but when we were moving the finished product to the side, a board fell off. We then went to place the entire board on the ground and all of the boards fell out of place. Later we found out that we were using the wrong drill bit so the screws did not hold. The trials of the group ultimately brought the group closer together and gave us something to laugh about. The completion of the project was rewarding and it is awesome to see how positive we can be when doing Gods work.
After our work in the morning we went to a beach. We ended up playing beach volleyball most of the time. It was really fun especially because we met some other guys from Indiana and got to chat with them. It was a great end to an awesome week. Throughout the week I saw a sea turtle, a pufferfish, and a stingray.
The entire week was a very rewarding and amazing experience. I met so many incredible people and had a great time serving with them. I am so glad that the Lord has enabled me to go on this mission, and through it all I have taken some very big lessons out of it. Gabe Swing repeatedly talked to us throughout the week about our gifts, and passions. What makes us different, and how can I serve with my gifts? I have gained the knowledge that throughout all my talents and gifts, my main purpose is to serve the Lord and serve others. While I still may not know what I want to do for my future or college, I know that I always want to serve the Lord. Wherever I go my mission field follows. Thank you all for your contributions to this trip. Thank you for allowing me to have this experience (Kelsey) and to grow in my faith and my relationships with fellow believers. And thank you for the prayers from you all. This is an experience I will never forget and will always hold with me. I have learned so much and I will continue to learn and use that information to serve and move forward in not just a life I have settled for, but a life filled with serving Gods purpose and doing what truly matters.
Kelsey Brandt and Jordan Wilhelm