April 1, 2009
Dear Supporters of the Champion Christian School Mission Trip to Denver,
We, the CCHS Mission Team, wish to thank everyone who helped make our trip to Denver possible. It was one of the most amazing and life changing experiences we have had. We want to recall just a few of our experiences to give you an idea of some of the activities in which we participated. There were thirty-five of us on the trip and the following letter has been compiled by excerpts from each of us to share our experiences and our hearts!
When the subject of this year’s mission trip came up, I was excited to hear that it was to Colorado. I instantly wanted to go. I’ve always wanted to see the beautiful mountains and, of course, visit another part of the country. When we first arrived, I got there with the attitude of just wanting to have fun. After only a couple hours, I found myself upset over the fact that we weren’t having “fun.” I complained, whined and just focused on getting through the five days and getting back home. On Friday morning we went to a worship service at YWAM, and God really spoke to my heart. I realized this mission trip wasn’t about me. We went all that way for something completely different than sightseeing. We went there to impact people and to spread the glory of God. When I focused on the true purpose I found not only the people around me changed, but myself as well. The whole experience has changed me and further developed my relationship with God. It’s something that has truly helped to develop me as a person and I wouldn’t change my decision to go for the world. Some of us that went as freshmen thought it would be good, but boy, were our expectations surpassed!
At first I wasn’t sure if I was going to go on the trip. It was like an open window into the real world. It made me realize how not everyone in America has what they need. Some people get everything they need but still aren’t happy. In Denver, some of the homeless children were happier and more grateful for the little things they have than wealthier people in other areas. One of the things we have been talking about as a high school is the importance of understanding what God is saying to us through these kinds of experiences, how that builds after going several years, and the importance in seeing such a variety of mission experiences. I think that the ninth graders next year should go on the trip because it really gives them a good experience, and it allows them to try something new. Going, however, should be about a decision to serve God on the next level. They may be challenged in different ways, but for me, I stayed calm and I think I learned more about God by going.
The Denver Mission Trip of 2009 was the very first mission trip I had been on in my life. My main motive for going with Champion Christian School was to serve the Lord by serving the homeless who inhabit Denver, Colorado. I want to strengthen and nourish my relationship with God by serving Him in all of the days of life He has given me. I figured that this mission trip was a good way to do just that. Most of the big trips that I’ve taken in my life were basically vacations, but never had I been on one where the main intention was to serve God. I was expecting to see the unexpected and things that I had never seen before such as a large group of homeless people who we would be serving food to on our adventure. I wanted to be on this mission with a heart of God so I would be a cheerful servant that had the Fruits of the Spirit in him and also so that I could reach out to those who were suffering and unfortunate from the current recession. But I even realized as we got closer to the departure date, the people we would meet were probably also on the streets because of rejection, abuse, poor choices... I could go on.
My prayers for our mission came true when we first arrived in Denver. The first thing I helped with was cleaning out the kitchen at Open Door Ministries in a ‘mean’ part of town. Since I always help my mother clean our house, I helped clean the mess in the kitchen with good experience. I moved objects from the kitchen, wiped things down, and put things back all without complaint. I even got to know Andy and Maggie who were in charge of things there. As I worked, I felt great because I knew I was doing the right thing in cleaning with a cheerful attitude and I was doing this for God! I love to do the right thing and that feeling just continued to grow like a flower as the days went on. When we went to go serve food to several homeless families staying in a motel (made into temporary shelters), it felt wonderful to prepare the hot dogs and I thought to myself that all the people who were going to be served would be blessed with God’s love! That good feeling was only short lived as the people started to come up to us, though. It saddened me to see so many people without a home, but when I saw that their children were playing in the yard and having a good time, I felt joy return to me at once! We got to personally know the families we were serving and though their stories of how they ended up the way they were made me sad, the joy of the children and the smiles on everyone’s faces made me see that a person can indeed have joy in the midst of hard times! God was there motivating everyone to interact with each other and we all had a great time! I had such a fun time that I didn’t even want to leave! I had fulfilled my desire to serve God and bless others through Him by serving them and I witnessed firsthand the Holy Spirit in action!
Serving People was the highlight!
During the mission trip on Friday, we all joined together and had a cookout for the homeless. We held it in the yard of an old motel where they allow homeless people who are looking for a home and a job to stay. When we arrived, there were children who were staying in the motel playing in the yard. This was heart warming because these children were obviously homeless. We started playing with them and teaching them new games. They were craving the attention from us. When we started serving, the line forming was extremely long. It was filled with people who were ready and willing to make conversation to acquire their food. We gave them each a hotdog and potato salad. They were thankful – most of them anyway. Some of them were bitter towards us. We tried to make them as comfortable as possible, but they still felt ashamed. During this time, a man came up to the line with a baby carriage. He seemed thankful and happy. He took his food and went to sit down at the tables we provided for them. When we finished serving, we went to sit down to speak and have fellowship with the people. The man with the baby carriage still stood out to all of us. We walked over to him and started casual conversation. We eventually got into life stories. He told us he was raising his seven month old baby by himself. His wife had left him a few weeks before. She was very abusive to him. We asked him if he knew the Lord and he said yes! It was so exciting that it brought tears to our eyes. We prayed with him and it was simply amazing to see how happy he was even with the specific circumstances he was currently going through. This experience was so much more than a mission trip to Denver. It was a truly life changing experience for all of us. We can ALL agree that this trip is worth so much! If you are wondering about taking such a trip, take the time, pray about it, and GO! There is no reason why high school students (or anyone) shouldn’t go. We all enjoyed it and I guarantee you will, too.
We have been learning how research is telling us that the vast majority of people who go on short term mission trips are changed for life. Our group almost without exception has felt the Lord has confirmed this truth in our hearts. For all of the sacrifice, for all of the commitment, it was worth it.. As much for us as for the people and ministries we helped.
On our third day on mission, we did a job which was kind of scary to me. We worked for a organization that was going to hold a meeting for the neighborhood. There were 12 people divided into three groups, and each group was assigned to three streets to hand out some flyers out to each house on the streets. There were many kinds of people in this neighborhood such as Jewish, Mexican and even some gangs. I was kind of scared because these were the kinds of people that I have never seen before. We walked down the streets and handed out the flyers and I was so nervous, but our group did well.
While I was doing this job, I was not sure whether I was really working for the mission trip and for God because nothing seemed related. But now, I know that what we did on the mission trip is for God, even though some of them weren’t related to the mission directly. We learned from several ministries called to work in Denver, that a key feature of serving Christ is finding out what is important to the people you are serving. We learned practically how to help the church in Denver do this. Sometimes those things are hard to figure out, and we have to think carefully about them to understand the important connections.
One of our most practical helping jobs was to work with Youth With a Mission at their Denver headquarters and at their mountain camp, Eagle’s Nest. We were able to build a small building for them to store firewood, to help use a mulching chipper to clean up piles and piles of branches that had accumulated, and to paint several rooms. These days provided us with real experiences in practical mission helping work that will help them accomplish more at their facilities. Those of us that like to build really enjoyed this part of the trip.
From handing out some Christian pamphlets to the neighbors, I felt that not all the neighbors were strange and scary. The people that I talked with were very nice and friendly. As an international student from Korea, we do not usually talk with strangers. But here when I went to the house and said “hi” they were so nice to me. I think that is so different from Korea. Also we picked up the garbage around the area. There were lots of papers around there, but I felt very glad after I picked up the garbage as the area looked cleaner. It seemed to make a difference to the people there.
On the Sunday of the mission trip we were in Colorado Springs and visited a church called New Life. The church consists of close to ten thousand members. While attending the service we noticed that the worship itself was very uplifting, contemporary, and moving. It made some people feel the actual presence of God at that very moment. After the worship the senior pastor came on stage. The first thing he did was greet everyone, and made us feel very welcomed. He started off by making a joke, a kind of ice-breaker that put a smile on our faces. The pastor talked about Elijah, King Ahab and the false god, Baal. The pastor related this to today’s generation and how we have combined two gods, and although we have not abandoned God as a nation, we are welcoming other “gods” to bring us things. His message focused on helping the church there understand that God only provides rain on people that depend only on Him for rain. He also talked about a spiritual rain, and how we all need some to nurture our lives. At the end of the service he prayed for a physical and spiritual rain, and in fact, it did rain in Denver later that night.
After church on Sunday at Colorado Springs, we began our afternoon and morning of free time by going to the Garden of the Gods and Pike’s Peak. Both places were so beautiful. The Garden of the Gods was our first stop. We pulled into the parking lot and could already see some of the wonders of the Garden. The rock faces seemed massive from where we stood and the colors were brilliant, shades of red melted with orange hues. The most prominent rock we could see was crested with a formation named the Kissing Camels. After checking out the gift shop we drove in the vans through the Garden. Everyone was amazed by the sheer brilliance of the rocks. (P.S. Check out our mission website at www.champion.org and see our picture in front of the Garden of the Gods, which we photoshopped out the “s” in Gods, and noted it was the Garden of the One True and Living God.)
When we finished the trip through the Garden we took a break for lunch at a park in a town at the foot of Pike’s Peak. Then we loaded back into the vans and started our ascent of the peak. The trip from top to bottom is nineteen miles along treacherous roads, all the while ascending 14,110 feet above sea level. The van drivers deserve congratulations for their courage in making the ascent in vehicles not made for switchbacks. When we got to the summit the view was astounding. It was worth the nervousness that had been felt on the way up. The air was much thinner than usual, but some of the group tried their hand at running which left them feeling light headed. The mission team took a ton of pictures from the summit. Both sights were magnificent experiences. By seeing the wonders of the world present in Colorado we were shown some of the natural unaltered beauty of God’s creation. Mr. Skinner kept noting that even these spectacular and wondrous beauty is still a “fix” by God, and that the original creation (and the new heavens and the new earth) was and will surpass this beauty immensely.
On Monday morning we went to Focus on the Family’s building. Focus on the Family is an organization that is designed to help protect families and encourage biblical family values. Our helpful tour guide was originally from Pittsburgh! She had a lot of information and helped everyone get a better understanding of Focus on the Family. One very interesting thing that I did not even know about was that in the past a man took hostages in the building, but miraculously everyone walked out unharmed. There were several things that pointed out to us the dangers that are very real in serving God. The church that we went to on Sunday, and one of the ministries that we worked in were the places that only a year ago, two girls were killed by a gunman, and two staff members were shot at their headquarters before.
After that we went to the headquarters of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and they were very welcoming. One of the tour guides there was also from Pittsburgh. (We decided that it really was true, that there were Steeler fans everywhere!) Although it was just an office building, our guide, Britta, was very good at keeping the tour interesting. She was such a nice and friendly person that I felt like she was a great Christian that I could look up to. She told us many interesting facts about the office as well as how the second president made all the woodwork and liked to hide a Bible in each piece. To this day, there are still Bibles hidden in that office. ACSI provides some of our textbooks and also our achievement tests as well. Overall it was a great learning experience for us all. We even found out where Christian schools are growing across the world.. Did you know that there are more Christian schools in one of the countries in Africa than in the US?
For some of us, It was our first time flying so we were kind of nervous. Our first flight from Pittsburgh to Chicago was nice because the weather was really good. When we landed in Chicago it was kind of windy so the plane rocked a little but nobody was really nervous. Then the plane ride from there to Denver was smooth. When we were in Denver and waiting to take off for Chicago ,our plane was delayed because of bad weather . When we took off it was very rough. We hit several air pockets which made the plane jolt which was really freaky. When we were landing in Chicago the wind was very bad but thankfully we had a good pilot.
Why should you go on a mission trip? There are many things that you experience while on a mission trip. Going through your everyday life you do not always realize how much you truly have. You have the comfort of a home, a family that loves you, and all the material comforts that you never realize are there -- until they are gone. Some of the people I met during the mission trip were not always homeless. Some of them had homes and families and everything that we have now. They now sleep in the cold streets and long for the things that we have every day. While on the mission trip I was able to see these people, and give them some of the comforts that they no longer have. A simple hot meal gave these people joy, and relieved the stress of constantly focusing on survival. Even if it was only for a little while, young children were able to act like children, running and playing, without worrying about if they were going to go to sleep hungry that night. This mission trip showed me that here, where I have a bed and a shower, and food when I am hungry, there are people in the streets with nothing. They don’t even have a roof over their heads at night. Spending time with these people showed me that even though they do not have much, they are still happy with what little they do have. Looking into their faces when I served them food, there was nothing but pure happiness and thankfulness, which is almost impossible to find in today’s world, with spoiled people used to getting what they want, when they want it. Being able to bring them the simple comfort of a full stomach made everything -- like the discomfort of my first plane ride, altitude sickness, and a few headaches – worthwhile. Coming home from the trip tired and irritable, I was thinking of how selfish I had been. I went there for myself but came home with the satisfaction of helping others. Although I didn’t accomplish things I had wanted to do for myself on this trip, I came home with accomplishments I never would have imagined. More importantly I got closer with God and helped less fortunate people. I didn’t have any idea that this trip would change my life in such an amazingly positive way.
While on our trip we got to hear how people in missions get to a point where they understand how God wants them to serve Him. We got to hear how the “church” in Denver is meeting needs on a practical level, and becoming active parts of their communities. We got to pray for people with broken hearts, share our perspectives with people who don’t believe there is a God, help blind men find a place to eat a hot dog, be there so that a homeless woman would make a connection for a place to stay for a while, to play with some children who just needed to play for a night, to be the arms and legs to help churches serve their community when there weren’t enough arms and legs to go around, to encourage some people who just needed to have an extra “boost” of help, and to learn more about life in the city. But most of all, we focused on “God Sightings”, and listening to the Holy Spirit speak to our hearts, to learn how to work together, renew and redeem relationships among ourselves, and for many of us...fall in love with God in a deeper way as well as some more of His wonderful Creation. Thank you for helping us to go!
In Christ’s Service,
The CCS High School Mission Team