2018 Youth Mission #5

Background: On Sunday, August 5, a team of young people and adults from the The First U.P. Church of Crafton Heights journeyed about three hours north to the community of Irving, NY, where we will spend the week in relationship with our friends from the Wright Memorial Presbyterian Church. This tiny congregation is located in the midst of the Seneca Nation of Indians and we are eager to not only come alongside these folks in service, but to also learn more about what the world looks like from this perspective. This is the final update from this year’s trip.

For as long as I can remember, if someone asks me “What is the purpose of Youth Group?”, one of my top three answers has been “making memories”.  When I say that, I don’t mean to imply that spiritual growth is not essential or that passing on the faith is unimportant.  To the contrary, I am deeply convinced that the Christian Faith is, in the words of the late Dale Milligan, “better ‘caught’ than ‘taught’.”  We help form the spiritual lives of the children we love by enculturation – by helping them not only to know the story, but to see how they can fit into the story.  And so each mission trip provides us with an amazing chance to create both individual and shared memories of sacred space, time, and stories.

One of the ways that we did this on Friday was to spend a few hours in the morning tending to some last-minute details on our work site and then taking advantage of our proximity to Niagara Falls by visiting one of the great wonders of the world together.  We drove through the heart of Buffalo (remembering several mission trips to that fair city in previous years) and then sailed on the “Maid of the Mist”, hiked up the steps, pondered our own insignificance as well as the amazing power and majesty of God (no surprise that Marla opted to read Psalm 29 in our devotion), and laughed an awful lot.  In the process, I trust, we added to our storehouse of shared experiences and celebrated the connections that place us in each other’s memories.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m not convinced that too many of the young people at whose sleeping forms I’m now staring while I pen these lines will process this in this way – but I am sure that they will at some point.

The reason I’m sure of that is because of what happened after we got back from the Falls.  We enjoyed some wonderful tacos, and then sat together for our final debriefing time.  It is a tradition for us to invite the seniors to address the group at the end of each mission trip.  There are often a lot of tears, and Friday night was no exception.  It was wonderful and humbling to hear Tommy, McKenna, and Lindsay  talk about the ways in which connection with this group has been formative and life-giving over the years.  Each of them chose to speak of Youth Group as a place of safety and joy in a world that is often thin in both of those places; each pointed to stories of previous trips or experiences as evidence of God’s willingness to meet them in this context.  I was filled with pride and joy as I watched them share with their younger sisters and brothers – and as the younger ones soaked in the affirmation, challenge, and gratitude that was shared.

Each morning I wake up at the old-man-ish hour of six and write this.  This year, since we’re all in one room for our sleeping, eating, and recreation, I am watching them sleep each day.  It’s not creepy.  I look at the young person who was paralyzed with fright earlier this week, but worked through it; at a girl who found the bravery and the courage to step outside her comfort zone in service or speaking; at someone who is here for the first time but has, I hope, developed some bonds that will last during a difficult future; at several young people who go to great lengths to be a part of the youth group experience each week; at the one who has been told every day that she/he is insignificant and doesn’t matter; at the one who is always measured by what she/he achieves or does, but finds in Youth Group a chance just to be and be loved anyway…  I am filled with gratitude for my brother Tim Salinetro, who has come on more trips like this with me than I can even count, and I marvel at the ways that he opens path of joy for young people… I celebrate the gifts of Marla Barrett, who thinks, “why wouldn’t I spend a week with these kids two months before I get married” and does so with great humor and deep passion… I’m glad for Josie Miller and her willingness to dive into this craziness as she offers herself with joy and encouragement each day.

I say, not as often as I should, that it’s a good life, and we ought to be grateful.  Today, I am deeply grateful, and also hopeful.  Thanks for your prayers and support on behalf of these young people!

Maddy and Lindsay taping the drywall while sharing a smile…

Marla sealing the joints

Evan helping to supervise the clean-up at the church

Our team on the finished wheelchair ramp

One view from “The Maid of the Mist”

… and another…

We were told that “niagara” is derived from a native word meaning “the water thunders”. I believe it!

This is an inadequate photo of a sacred circle – a place of trust, confidence, joy, hope, gratitude – and now, for some – memory.

2018 Youth Mission #4

Background: On Sunday, August 5, a team of young people and adults from the The First U.P. Church of Crafton Heights journeyed about three hours north to the community of Irving, NY, where we will spend the week in relationship with our friends from the Wright Memorial Presbyterian Church. This tiny congregation is located in the midst of the Seneca Nation of Indians and we are eager to not only come alongside these folks in service, but to also learn more about what the world looks like from this perspective.

Have you ever planned a large meal and set out to cook four or five different things, hoping and planning for them to all be done around the same time, but then you discovered that your oven wasn’t large enough, or the fruit wasn’t quite ripe so you had to make another trip to the market, or whatever…and the end result was that the veggies were ready at 3 and the main dish was still in the oven at 7?

Welcome to the Youth Mission Trip, Thursday edition.

Yikes.  We started the day with a plan to divide and conquer – we’d finish up the railing, and then we’d hang a little drywall and even start to tape and mud it.  We’d do some cleaning and be ready to face our last day with a ton of energy and time.

uh-huh.

Some of the group went outside and worked hard to complete the deck construction.  The railings, steps, and a few other support pieces were installed and finished, and wow does it look good AND functional.

Some of the group stayed inside and discovered a few things:

  • rehabbing an old building is always harder and longer than starting from scratch
  • there is no such thing as a 90° angle in this building
  • Dave is not as good at electrical work as he might lead himself to believe
  • 4 x 8 sheets of drywall are really heavy when you’re trying to hold them over your head
  • You can step out of your comfort zone and live to tell the tale
  • even hard jobs are way better when you are working with people who demonstrate grace and encouragement

The end result was that some of our team finished up in the early afternoon, and they were able to get in some pool time or some nap time.  A few of us, however, were working until 6:30.  It was wonderful to see how the young people encouraged each other, and those who stayed were gracious in their sending off of those who swam, while those who swam were encouraging, realizing that you can only fit so many people into one bathroom at one time anyway…

I was really proud of all of our kids today.

We enjoyed a delicious meal of barbequed chicken and corn on the cob (thanks Josie!) and then Tim led us in a discussion about having the power to make choices for ourselves concerning the ways that we speak toward and treat each other.  It was particularly moving because he rooted that in a story of when he was on a Mission Trip and some key adults helped to shape his thinking.  Our day ended with a screening of the recently released Lake of Betrayal (trailer below), a documentary about the impact of the Kinzua Dam project on the Seneca people.

Here are a few images of our day.  Thanks for the prayers!

Tommy hangs the ceiling board

Lindsay and Maddy make sure we put the screws in the right place!

Marla trims the next piece

Wait, the black wire goes where?

This photo was taken at around 5:30 pm. Look at that smile!

This is what it looks like when the final piece is in place!

Setting the steps in place

Rachele and Karlena make the cut

Evan adds some finishing touches to a great project

Karlena and Josie making sure the railing is safe.

2018 Youth Mission #1

On Sunday, August 5, a team of young people and adults from the The First U.P. Church of Crafton Heights journeyed about three hours north to the community of Irving, NY, where we will spend the week in relationship with our friends from the Wright Memorial Presbyterian Church. This tiny congregation is located in the midst of the Seneca Nation of Indians Reservation and we are eager to not only come alongside these folks in service, but to also learn more about what the world looks like from this perspective.

We arrived on Sunday and set up shop in the church, which is where we are going to be sleeping, eating, and working all week. We inflated our mattresses, set out our tools, and met our hosts.  Prior to bed, Marla led us in a devotional, we did some singing and talked about our hopes for the week.

Monday morning dawned clear and sunny, and it only got hotter as the day went on.  Half of our team began the work of demolishing some deteriorated walls on the inside of the building in preparation for a CHUP-esque makeover.  It was messy work to be sure, but our team tore down drywall and ceiling tile with vigor.  The rest of our group started work on a small porch and a wheelchair ramp in the rear of the building.  In both instances, we had the opportunity to learn new skills and practice some which have been dormant for a while.

The day got hotter and hotter, and by four pm we were delighted to be able to knock off work and drive a little further into the reservation to take advantage of the swimming pool operated by the Seneca Nation. In addition to providing us an opportunity cool off and play, this is the site where we’ll be showering all week as well.

Our evening included a delicious spaghetti dinner, an exploration of Ezekiel 37 with a discussion about the nature of hope, and some amazingly appropriate ice cream cones.  It was a great beginning to what we hope will be a great week!  Here are a few photos…

Removing old wallboard

Hey, Tim, that must weigh 80 pounds. Let me show you how to carry it…

Show us how it’s done, Evan…

Who ARE those people?

A refresher on the workings of the power saw…

These four young women installed the decking on our 6 x 8 platform essentially by themselves… Tim…um…”helped”.

Alyssa setting up the framing.

Making sure it’s all square…

Does this guy do ANY work?

Now THAT’S what I’m talking about…

What a great way to end the afternoon!

So thanks for all your prayers – we’ll keep you posted in the days to come!

Youth Mission 2015 Update #2

 

I sat with John, the Farm Manager here at Deep Roots, as the young people from Crafton Heights were buzzing around us engaged in a variety of tasks. Several members of the team were caring for children whose parents were on job or housing interviews; many were distributing mulch throughout the compound; still others were engaged in a variety of small repair jobs. John smiled at me and said, “So Dave, the first thing I did when we finished work on Monday was to call in some help from the members of our board. I said, ‘Ed, you’ve got to get me more supplies. We’ve got a group here who gets it. I mean, they really get it. We have to be ready for these kids because they are moving.’”

The mulch pile seems to have grown overnight!

The mulch pile seems to have grown overnight!

“They get it.” I was so proud to hear someone say that about our group. As we rolled into Maryland, I asked some of our team what their hopes for the week were. I heard things like, “I hope that we don’t run out of work”, or “I hope that this year we get to meet the people that we are working with”. The work ethic that these kids display, by and large, is admirable. Their willingness to engage those with and for whom we serve is a mixed bag (it’s not everyone’s cup of tea), but for some of our young people it is a real highlight.

Today, our team spent the morning weeding and mulching the remaining garden beds, exploring solutions for a water condensation problem, and playing with children. Afternoon, we had two main teams: one was crawling through the foundation of the education building removing a problematic insulation system and the other was beginning to paint the dining hall. Throughout, the group was encouraging, helpful, and eager to serve. I am delighted to be associated with this team.

Ricky with a couple of the children from the Deep Roots community.

Ricky with a couple of the children from the Deep Roots community.

Each day we take our meals in the dining hall with the families and volunteers who form the Deep Roots community, and with each meal, I’m more likely to see tables in which CHUP-sters have integrated with others.

After dinner tonight, we played another round of exciting and unusual games led by Tim, and then Karen facilitated a discussion on the parable of the sower and the seeds as found in Matthew. We sang a few songs, we talked about important things, and then we split into groups for a little free time and relaxation prior to bed.

 

Caleb  is clearly in control of this group of kids!

Caleb is clearly in control of this group of kids!

I am as tired as I have been in a long, long time. But there is no place else I’d rather be right now. CS Lewis might say that “Aslan is on the move” amidst this group of young people, and I’d agree. Important things are happening in them, and perhaps through them.

 

Here are a few images from our day:

Solving the insulation and condensation problem...

Solving the insulation and condensation problem…

I'm not entirely sure what is going on here, but trust me, safety is our first priority!

I’m not entirely sure what is going on here, but trust me, safety is our first priority!

Noah shows off the largest slug I've ever seen.

Noah shows off the largest slug I’ve ever seen.

The team begins to "cut in" on the painting of the Dining Hall.

The team begins to “cut in” on the painting of the Dining Hall.

Painting progresses...

Painting progresses…

Jake sets the pace in a game that left us in stitches.

Jake sets the pace in a game that left us in stitches.

Ricky attempting to collapse the cups into a stack.

Ricky attempting to collapse the cups into a stack.

 

Youth Mission 2015 Update #1

The 2015 Crafton Heights Youth Mission started off in a big way on Monday. We arrived at Deep Roots on Sunday to a phenomenal dinner on Sunday night and got settled in the “mission house”. Regrettably, we only needed 20 of the 21 bunks that were set up for us, as a last-minute illness prevented our friend Lindsay from joining the team. We’ve already missed her smiling face and servant’s heart.

The first thing we saw upon arrival at Deep Roots was this mural, painted by young members of the CHUP community in 1998!

The first thing we saw upon arrival at Deep Roots was this mural, painted by young members of the CHUP community in 1998!

We were warmly welcomed by members of the eight or so families currently residing at Deep Roots as well as some of the volunteers in residence. We awoke early on Monday and were faced with an opportunity vastly different that that of last year: more work than we could do in a day. Whereas in 2014 we struggled with the results of an administrative mix-up that left us idle for a few hours, today we were able to divide into five teams and work at various sites throughout the compound: Karen’s team put the door hardware into place on the Education building, Tim’s group was working on the vinyl siding, Marla’s group and Dave’s group were working in the gardens, and Brad’s group was able to spend some time with a group of children that needed care.

This truck contained half of the mulch we used today.

This truck contained half of the mulch we used today.

After lunch, we tackled the big job of the day: placing a truckload and a half of mulch on the large playground area. I was thrilled to see how the team came together to plan out and execute this project. It involved measuring and cutting the plastic landscape cover and mobilizing a fleet of wheelbarrows to put the mulch into place. Those who know me well will understand how much better the experience was for me once Tim started quoting lines from Cool Hand Luke.

After dinner, Marla led us in a discussion centered on the reminder that Moses gave to the people in Deuteronomy. God’s intention was for the people of Israel, who had known enslavement, poverty, and homelessness, to offer the stranger and traveler in their midst a more sustainable reality. It was a great opportunity for the folks on this trip to reflect on the stories that they’d heard earlier in the day.

 

Evan strolls through the playground as we prepare to lay down the mulch.

Evan strolls through the playground as we prepare to lay down the mulch.

Rachael with a young friend.

Rachael with a young friend.

The siding team at work.

The siding team at work.

"If we pull all the weeds, then maybe Pastor Dave will let us out of this holding pen..."

“If we pull all the weeds, then maybe Pastor Dave will let us out of this holding pen…”

The wheelbarrow caravan.

The wheelbarrow caravan.

David setting the pace.

David setting the pace.

How I think I look when I spread mulch.

How I really look while I spread mulch.

How I really look while I spread mulch.