Wednesday, March 28, 2012

when spring break offers a different type of vacation experience

I am blessed to be a part of a church that values missions outside of our town and inside of our town.  With this dual focus, so many people in our church community are able to participate in Jesus' call to serve those who need help (physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc), whether they are around the corner or across the ocean.

Each day of this Spring Break vacation, our church, St. Luke's on the Lake, partnered with organizations in the Austin area who needed help in various forms.  Parishioners took part in as many or as few days as they could, but each moment given produced fruit for the Kingdom of God.  Sometimes we may have had the amazing opportunity to witness with our words to those who may not know Jesus, but we always had the opportunity to witness with our actions, with our gifts, and with our smiles.  I am struck by the fact that task that are not normally considered heroic or herculean are so incredibly appreciated.  And I also appreciate that entering in for the long haul can really assure someone else that God just might be in for the long haul, too.

On the day that those who could help the Refugee Services of Texas, our team literally showed a new refugee (from the Hutu tribe of Burundi) how the bus system of Austin works.  This means that they all waited.  A lot.  However, what we may view as mundane, is life to another.  To know and understand where vital resources are in this city is of utmost importance.  And in the waiting, a relationship was built, the heart of Christ lived out.  Our team leader, Barbara, received this email from the head of the organization:
Thank you again for St. Luke's generous day of service.  Bus orientations are not the easiest task to conquer, however they are valuable for both parties as they give a great inside perspective on the challenges refugees face upon arrival.  It is also very demonstrative of refugees' incredible ability to survive, overcome, and learn new skills in this country despite having faced years of oppression, violence, and displacement. 
I am confident that those who traveled around with this newcomer learned as much from him as he did about Austin that day.

At many of the places we visited, there was a lot of gardening, of cleaning up, of beautifying.  Those who need help usually don't have a lot of time to focus on the external growing of things -- God is so busy at work at the internal, there is not a lot of time for the other realm (plus, there is often the issue of funds).  Or, perhaps their bodies have failed to keep up with the desires of their hearts and they just cannot do the things they long to do anymore.  But even though physical labor was a great need, time spent building relationships with the people within these organizations, perhaps produced even more beauty and fruit.  After the crew that helped one of Mrs. Josephine, one of elderly ladies that relies on the FarNorthwest Caregivers, this happened:
Ms. J's personal attendant came out with tears of gratitude in her eyes.  Ms. J cannot walk and her health is deteriorating.  Her attendant said that she gets so much pleasure from looking out the window at her garden and the birds, but that the garden had become run-down and unkempt.  She called us "angels."
Not only did we enrich them, bringing kindness, smiles, and fun, but they enriched us, often without even knowing they were doing it.  Our team leader writes, after she returned from Elderhaven:
I saw God in the tenderness and unspoken connections the Elderhaven clients have one for another.  One man held the hand of a woman he has only known a very short while (I'm pretty sure he thinks she is his deceased wife) and they were both happy and content. In the end, maybe it's not about shared experiences, memories or words, but just simple, loving gestures.
freshly prepared beds at Elder Care
Hard at work at the Glory House.
Fence Repair at the Glory House 
Mowing down weeds at the Glory House 
Basking in a hard day's work
Kitchen Repair at the Glory House 
Weeding and bed prep at Armadillo RV Park
Abby does crafts with some of the kids who live in the park (many of them have started attending our church, too)
A puppet show!
A task for any ability level.  Hannah took such pride in cleaning the picnic tables at the park. 

Fr. Parker comes to lend his gardening expertise, too.
Fellowship and celebrating a great day's work with Sno Cones!
This one says it all - so much fruit!
A bit about where we were this week:

Refugee Services re-settles legal refugees to the U.S. who are fleeing persecution in their home countries.  Refugee Services is the entry point for most refugee families, who generally do not know anyone where they are relocating.

Faith In Action is an organization of volunteers that provide rides for elderly folks living independently in their homes, but who cannot drive anymore.  Faith In Action also helps clients with general cleaning and landscaping projects they are not able to do themselves.

They have a diverse clientele; some Spanish-speaking participants, and about half of the clients have some form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s.  Elderhaven is an adult daycare center for folks who cannot stay home alone while their caregivers are at work.

House of Glory is a half-way or sober house for women after drug/alcohol rehabilitation or coming off the streets/homeless living.  House of Glory provides a safe place for them to live while working on daily living and job skills.

Friday - La Palabra/Armadillo RV Park
Armadillo RV Park is a community of working poor families, mainly Spanish-speaking.  We work together to help improve their community and make connections.  

Are you interested in doing something like this at your church?  You are welcome to contact our team leader, Barbara ( to ask her questions on how to get this started in your area.

Linking with Kim for Painting ProseTracey for Winsome Wednesday, and Jennifer for God Bumps.


  1. This is beautiful. Our church does something similar quarterly, and we call it "Love Out Louder Day."

  2. What a really neat project. I keep forgetting you are in Austin. I will be there in four weeks, visiting friends. I do plan to talk to them about your retreat in October and begin to see if maybe another trip could work for me then. Excited to be in your area soon.

    Our church did something like this in the past but not this year. I do miss it too.

  3. Ah... this is so inspiring. Sometimes I can get trapped in my world here at home, but I love that this reminds me that God wants us to serve the least of these.

    I love this "However, what we may view as mundane, is life to another." I must remember that God can multiply what seems like so small an offering, into something that blesses someone else's life in big ways I never dreamed.

    Thank you for this...

  4. WOW that is awesome, What a great way to teach children service. There is so much emphasis on leisure and entertainment in our society. I am often guilty of wanting to relax in free time.....thanks for the reminder life is short we only have so long to serve the Lord and others.

  5. That is so wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing your story :)

    Blessings to you!

  6. Fantastic! We have so many opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus right in our own neighborhoods. Inspiring post!

  7. I just love seeing all these people working together for the glory of the Lord. That is going to be one beautiful garden. Have a wonderful day!

  8. This is great Jen!!!

    I just nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award...feel free to check out the post here: Feel free to participate if you wish...or not. I just wanted to let you know that I think that you are doing a great job!!!

    Erin @ Chronic Christian Crafter

    1. Thank you, Erin! You are so amazingly sweet. I am honored you thought of me!

  9. I love this! Can I reblog over at my other blog What In The World R U Doing 4 Christ's Sake? next Friday? Or would you like to write a different article about this project? It's up to you! Let me know! You are such a shining light. I love you.

  10. What a great spring break you all had...I love it being right where you live...thanks for sharing this...blessings~

  11. Jennifer - this is just fantastic, fantastic. Beautiful hands and feet and hearts - thanks so much for writing and for taking those great photos. I've forwarded this to our associate pastor who has such a heart for outreach. I'm guessing you must have the majority of your students on ONE particular spring break. In our much smaller town, we have about 5 different spring breaks, depending on which school you attend, so we'd have to adapt this. But I love, LOVE the idea. Thank you!

  12. Awesome! Our church (Menlo Park Presbyterian) does this, too, called Compassion Weekend. Love all the photos!

  13. Jen, I LOVE this!! How incredible!!

    Thanks for linking up your SERVE post with Woman to Woman!


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