Who Am I? Part 6

In the last two articles in this series, I talked about the great times I had being a part of Teen Mission’s Fall Travel Team.  You can read about them here.  That three-month period of traveling from city to city, church to church, home to home and presenting the outstanding ministry of Teen Missions International was such a great experience for me.  It helped me to grow up, being away from home, and it taught me a lot about trusting God.

In fact, the experience was so great, that when our team returned to Florida again, and I was approached by the TMI staff about the idea of coming back, joining the Staff and going on a one-year tour (which would include being an assistant leader on a summer team overseas), I knew immediately that was what God would have me do.  And so I became a member of the 1980 TMI Staff Travel Team.

What is interesting about this team is that it was the first time TMI had decided that it would have a full-year travel team.  So that made it unique.  But even more so was the fact that our team was truly an International team.  Of the seven members on the team, five were American, one was Mexican and I was the Canadian.  And although this brought out some cultural differences from time to time, it was wonderful to see that our unity in Christ made us one family, regardless of our origin of birth.

We did a lot of work and a lot of traveling in that one year.  You could say that there were five distinct blocks of activities for us as follows:

East Coast Tour: After some training and orientation in January of 1980, our team went up the east coast of the States.  We toured through Georgia and the Carolinas, we went though Virginia and managed some sight-seeing in Washington, DC, and did a number of presentation in Pennsylvania.  We lost count of how many churches and schools we visited in that three-month period.

One of my funniest moments was when we got close to Bill’s home town area in Pennsylvania.  For weeks he had been telling us, “Wait till you see the beautiful Pocono Mountains.”  So on that chilly morning, as we drove more into the state, suddenly Bill exclaimed, “There they are!  Ain’t those good-looking mountains?”  To which I innocently responded, “What….those hills??”  (He forgot I grew up in the Canadian Rockies.)  And for that comment I was given a strong head “noogie”. : )

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Boot Camp Work: By May, we all had to be back in Florida to help get the Teen Mission Boot Camp ready.  You can read about the fascinating training that TMI gives to all its teens and leaders in my article “Get Dirty for God!”  But before the teenagers can get dirty in the Everglades swamps, our job was to fight back the undergrowth again, set up tent areas, erect the big top tent, repair Greyhound buses for their pickup routes, and much, much more.

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Summer Mission Team: So now that the “Lord’s Boot Camp” was ready, close to 1,500 teenagers and leaders descended upon our camp in Florida and trained for two weeks before being commissioned into the mission field to about 50 different summer projects in about 30 different countries.  I was assigned to be an assistant leader on a team to Honduras.

At the time that we went to Honduras, I was only 19 years old.  And here I was, along with four other leaders, taking charge of about 20 other teenagers to build an extension wing to a small, rural mission hospital that was a concrete block building that had about 20 beds for patients.  An appeal had been sent the year before for Teen Missions to help enlarge the facilities.

The location of the mission was quite a few hours up into the hills away from the nearest city.  So there were always way too many patients for this clinic to manage, and after a procedure, or during recovery days, the poor patients were housed in a run-down building, with grass and bamboo beds and dirt floors that crawled with all kinds of bugs and critters.

You know, it is amazing what teenagers can do, if they are given the challenge to reach out to others beyond themselves, and are given some good guidance and leadership.  So in about 5 weeks of hard work, mixing concrete with shovels, laying sun-baked bricks for walls, and building trusses according to a blueprint, we were able to double the size of this rural clinic.  What joy and pride we all felt when the last nail was pounded and the cement sidewalk was poured.

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West Coast Tour: Once our summer overseas mission teams were finished, our Staff Travel Team gathered back together in Florida.  Then we set out in September for our two month tour which took us up into the Midwest of Missouri, Illinois and Kansas, over through the arid states of Nebraska and Wyoming, and ended with presentations in California.

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Good Ol’ Scotland: to round off a very busy year, our team headed over to Scotland.  Unfortunately due to a serious family health matter, one member did not go with us, so only six of us went on this last part of our TMI experience.  Teen Missions had an old estate there (purchased for very little due to being run down) where they were starting to train European youth each summer.

Our main job there was to repair the rotting roof of the one building so it would not fall apart over the winter.  (Have you ever tried working on a corrugated roof in near freezing temperatures with a constant daily drizzle?  Yikes, it was dangerous, but no one got hurt.)  In a month it was all done, and then time to head home.

We all said goodbye to each other at Heathrow Airport in London.  But we have kept in touch with each other.  And in fact, we just got together last summer for our 30 year reunion.  But that my friends, will have to wait until another day to tell that story.

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