St. Louis Blog
Co-written by Jim Bitner and Nate Rupp, NCCS Upper School Faculty
Hello and welcome to our last blog from St. Louis! This was our last day of service, and it was a busy one!
We started with a devotional from Ms. Kimberly Norfork. She encouraged the team, "Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God" (Hebrews 13:16). She talked about remembering who we represent (Christ) and provide more spiritual uplift with verses from Gen 1:27, Ecc.3:1, and closing it out with Galatians 6:2-4,9, and 10. Beautiful, spiritual and practical way to close out our devotions for the week!
After that we had our daily debrief with Send Relief's Traci Byrd. She led us through a simulation of what it would be like to be a refugee who had to leave their homeland on short notice. The exercise broke us up into 4 teams of families with 5-6 members. Each member had to pick 6 items from a list to bring with them. As the simulation played out, different hardships hit the families, and they had to lose some of those items. Some had their families split up. It was an eye-opening exercise. While it's difficult to replicate the horror, sadness, desperation, and fear a refugee actually feels, it certainly gave us time to reflect on that reality.
After that we started our sevice day - the plan was to tackle four areas in St. Louis - two in the morning and two in the afternoon. The teams spent time in South St. Louis, Hazelwood, Florissant, and Jennings, MO. Pretty cool being able to touch those areas today, as Ms. Norfork's devotional mentioned, to reflect Christ!
Half our team headed to the city of Florissant to help do some yard work for a sweet elderly lady. The team trimmed trees and bushes, raked bags and bags of leaves, and cut up piles of vines. Afterwards, we were graciously treated with cookies, donuts and wonderful conversation and prayer with the homeowner.
After lunch at a local pizza place, we headed to Faith Community Bible Church to help prepare for their block party. A huge area was cleaned and raked in preparation for all the kids. Our other teammates canvassed the surrounding homes with information pertaining to the church.
The other team hit two spots that the other teams had visited this week: Oasis International and then Hazelwood Baptist Church and Saturate USA. At Oasis, we did similar labor work and childcare like the previous trip, but this time the labor included going to their off-site storage space to help clean that up, load chairs onto the racks we built on Tuesday, and move a large grill and bouncy house back to the main facility. In addition, we were able to load up furniture to be delivered to some Afghan refugees homes. We ate lunch on the bus as we headed to Hazelwood.
The Saturate USA program in the afternoon was similar to the day before, and we delivered Good News packets to homes. Today our team was able to handout 500+ packets. Lots of footwork and sweat on the first warm day we've had. Great spririt by the 11 team members working that project.
We reconvened at the Ministry Center we have been staying at and prepared for our evening. At 5 pm we headed to Union Station in downtown St. Louis. It's a refurbished/repurposed facility that had multiple food options, a large ferris wheel (a la Atlanta's Ferris Wheel), a small midway, game zone, and some spectacular sights, including exploding gas water lilies that were timed to music. (You actually have to see it to believe it!)
Finally, we got back and started the cleaning/packing process, so we can be ready to go in the morning. We are grateful for the prayers of support this week. The week can be long and the work taxing and tedious, but with your prayer support, we were able to reflect Christ to the best of ability. Lots of seed planting that we may never see bloom and grow - but we know we did it with Christ at the heart of it, and God will provide the growth, in His Time.
Thanks again and good night from the West side of the Mississippi River...
Grace, Peace, and Love, from the St Louis Spring Term Team!
Co-written by Jim Bitner and Nate Rupp, NCCS Upper School Faculty
Greetings from St. Louis, the "Gateway to the West!" Today was our third day of service and it started with an inspiring devotion from Coach Rupp. He drew inspiration from the book of Titus and encouraged the students to be "zealous for good works (Titus 2:14)" as they serve the St. Louis Community. After that we had our morning debrief and plans for the day meeting with Traci Byrd - which included a fun game of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" based on St. Louis trivia.
Our first stop as an entire team wasn't a service project for others, but more of a service project for our souls. Kale Uzzle, our lead Send Relief contact, took us to the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, also known as the Saint Louis Cathedral. We were encouraged to tour the basilica and partake of a "Lectio Divina" or Divine Reading of Psalm 121. It consists of reading the verse 4 times, each time with a different approach, and finishing with silent reflection and prayer. It was an amazing hour of beautiful architecture, paintings, sculpture, and worshipful ambiance! The pictures on the St.Louis Team Facebook page only capture a portion of the beauty of this cathedral. Quiet reverence was certainly in ample supply by our team and other visitors.
After that we journeyed to the Apotheosis of St. Louis. It's a statue of King Louis IX of France, namesake of St. Louis, Missouri, and it's located in front of the Saint Louis Art Museum in Forest Park. We ate our lunches there and Kale surprised the team with two St. Louis food specialities: St. Louis pizza and toasted ravioli from Imo's. We'd like to tell you how good it was but the three pizzas and ravioli disappeared quicker than three blinks of an eye! We've really been able to have tasty treats on this trip.
After lunch our team split into two teams again: A team with Mr. Bitner and Ms. Norfork and the B team with Mr. Rupp and Ms. Turnbough.
The A team went to the Hazelwood Baptist Church to help with their participation in the Saturate USA program. "Saturate USA is a God-sized vision to take the love of the Gospel to 120 million households by the end of 2027. The hope is to spark true repentance and revival in our beloved country." The team distributed approximately 200 Saturate USA materials to a targeted area in Hazelwood. Each home received a bag that contained information about the Good News, a DVD with a story about Jesus, and contact information for Hazelwood Baptist Church. The ultimate goal for the church is to deliver these to all 60,000 homes in the Hazelwood zip code. The B team will return tomorrow to expand on today's work.
The B team worked tirelessly on fixing up the future office space for Send Relief. We spackled hundreds of holes, cracks and tears and then sanded everything down to get the rooms ready for paint. Multiple doors were installed and walls and window frames painted.
Directly afterwards the team quickly changed and was off to Sin Fronteras Ministry located in Fairmont City, near a very large Hispanic community. Upon arrival we were blessed with a delicious and authentic Honduran dinner. Homemade pico de gallo, rice, beans, pork chops, tortillas and tea was catered for us. After we ate as much as we could, the mothers and children arrived for their English lessons.
Currently, Sin Fronteras is reaching out to mothers, specifically those with children under the age of 2 by providing necessities such as diapers, wipes, formula, etc. These moms have access to English classes to help improve their skills. Our team did an outstanding job implementing the lessons they had so creatively planned and prepared. Maddie Valero led the adult lesson with a handmade Spanish to English Bingo game lesson with prizes. Megan Justice took the reins with the little ones and organized a ton of fun activities, including drawing, dancing and the fan favorite Easter egg hunt! The eggs were filled with original drawings made by Gabby Kern, and the children were challenged in naming the drawings in English and were rewarded with candy afterwards! The entire evening was a highlight for all of us.
Whew, thanks for sticking around to this point of the recap! We are ready for our final day of service tomorrow with at least 4 ministry opportunities. It's been a full week in three days and we are hoping to put an exclamation point on our service with our "zealousness for good works" tomorrow! Your prayers are gratefully appreciated!
Grace, Peace, and Love from your St. Louis Team
Co-written by Jim Bitner and Nate Rupp, Upper School Faculty
It was a dark and story night...wait, that's been way overused...how about it was a cold and rainy Tuesday? That accurately describes the start to our Tuesday in St. Louis. After a great morning devotional by one of our leaders, Moriah Turnbough, on Matthew 25:34-46, we had a debrief with our Send Relief contact Traci Byrd (as well as a preview of our day), we broke into two teams: One who stayed local and another that went to the south of St. Louis.
The team who stayed local (lead by Coach Rupp and Ms. Norfork) stayed at the Send Relief Ministry Center and helped move around a dozen pianos for Pianos for People, a mission which provides free access to the transformative power of music to those who need it most- children and families with limited resources, and the organizations that serve them. A few of our students shared their piano skills, as well - thanks to Jamane Tong and Dai Mendoz for playing, and Megan Justice providing singing support!
Then they made a trip to pick up some art supplies and materials for the English lessons they will leading tomorrow with the Sin Fronteras Ministry. The students created and organized a lesson for Spanish speaking children and adults. After a brown bag lunch, they completed their workday by painting two rooms in the ministry center that will soon be used as offices and classrooms for First Baptist of Ferguson.
Our second team (lead by Coach Bitner and Ms. Turnbough) went to South St. Louis and worked with two ministries: Oasis International, an Afghanistan refuge ministry and then the Bosnian Cultural Experience. At Oasis, the team performed multiple work efforts: assembling carts for moving large amounts of chairs; reorganizing a large collection of computers and their peripherals; child care with babies and toddlers (special shoutout to Sydney James, Payton Ripley, Avery Meyer, and Bella Stephens for providing that service!), and one other service that was a complete God Moment!
That God Moment went like this: we came down in our bus shuttle and had completed a lot of our work, but still had time available. The director was going to have us move some other items but thought we had a truck. Once he realized it was a bus, he said he would have to figure out something else. About 15 minutes later he came to Mr. Bitner and said we wouldn't believe but they had a large extended family that had come in and needed a ride to their two homes and asked he they had any kind of shuttle that could bring them home. Both the director and Mr. Bitner instantly realized this was God's timing! A team of students helped transport 10 family members and three bicycles to their homes. God is good!
After that, the team had a quick brown bag lunch and headed to the Bosnian Cultural Experience. The team learned about the original Bosnian refugees who had come to St Louis due to war and conflicts in their homeland.
We then went on a prayer walk through the local community and finished our walk at a bakery/market called Zlatno Zito. They split a delicious meat pie, made of phyllo dough and seasoned ground beef - and it tasted wonderful! They washed it down with Fanta drinks from Macedonia! We reconvened at the Ministry Center and had a super yummy taco bar, provided by our Send Relief chef support. A young married couple (Dustin and Cherith) have been spoiling us with some delightful dinners. An extra surprise guest was their young son, Asaph - lots of smile and laughs from him.
Lastly a group headed out to Doozles, a local custard business. It was a sweet treat to finish out the day! There are a lot more small and big moments that happened during the day, so this was a sampler of our day. Please continue to pray for us as we branch out on new mission adventures on Wednesday. Praying that today has been blessed for you - it certainly was for us...grace, peace, and love from the St. Louis team!
MONDAYWRITTEN BY JIM BITNER, NCCS FACULTY
Hello from St. Louis! It’s Monday and we’re wrapping up the day! A quick recap from Saturday and Sunday: we journeyed from Atlanta to St. Louis with a quick stop in Sikeston, Missouri, so Coach Rupp could reunite a dinner roll he got there 16 years ago from Lambert’s Cafe, with some of their fresh rolls today. Pretty cool nostalgic moment for him! You can see some of the photos in the Facebook album for our team.
After that, we got up to St. Louis and arrived at our housing at the Send Relief Ministry. It’s a four-story building, and we are the sole occupants for the week! Our students have been enjoying the building since they can go play games like hide and seek and manhunt, as well as take advantage of a game room area, and an expansive library of Christian books and literature. The Send Relief team supplied us with a delicious spaghetti dinner, and we turned in for the night.
Sunday was our “free” day. We were able to attend church at First Baptist Church of O’Fallon on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River. Coach Bitner was saved through their church ministry and baptized their 43 years ago. He was even able to find the old baptismal tub that he was baptized in!
After that we journeyed into St. Louis and went to the zoo on the most crowded day of the year, and an art museum nearby the zoo. We then went downtown and toured the St. Louis arch. Everyone squeezed into the tiny compartments and took the ride up to the top for an amazing view of both the east and west side of St. Louis! We topped it all off with a late night meal at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Laclede‘s Landing in St. Louis.
And today, Monday, we started our mission work with the Send Relief team. Our whole group first journeyed to the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home where we organized and stocked diapers, cleaned out a sports pavilion, cleaned out a crisis center building, and finally cleaned out a dining hall cafeteria area for the MBCH. Half our team departed after lunch to go to a church called Journey Tower and put in a good afternoon of landscaping and furniture assembly.
After that, we all reconvened at the ministry center for a delicious barbecue homemade dinner. Today was one of those days where we did a lot of seed planting, realizing we won’t see the fruits of those labors, but the people we served were so grateful and thankful. It was cool to see God working through that. The Baptist Children’s Home said that we were able to do a month's worth of work in one day for them, and they were really impressed with the students.
We are asking for your continued prayers, as well as we will be praying for our fellow teams out in the field. Hoping you all had a blessed Monday and we will check back in tomorrow…Good night from St. Louis!