Question: What happens when you take 40+ senior high youth to a Southern Presbyterian Church for 8:30am worship to hear a guest preacher from Oxford, Mississippi in his pinstripes and bowtie?
Answer: They come walking out asking if they can have copies of the sermon, tell you how they are disappointed that they didn’t have a pencil to take notes on it, and about how relevant and awesome the message of the sermon was.
That friends, is how the day began. Could you ask for anything better?
Well, I guess you could, but it might not turn out t be as awesome of a day.
After early morning service at Idlewild Presbyterian Church in Memphis, TN, we circled in the gym there and hashed out the sermon. What was it about? What were the points? How has the church failed? Where has the church succeeded? Who have been left behind? Where is the hope? (These sounds like terribly negative questions I’m no realizing but they were the ones brought up form the sermon…)
One by one, the youth spoke up about some of the failings of the church that they thought about during the sermon. But then, they began to speak about the hope in the church. They talked about why it was important they were on this trip. They talked about the hope that was in the church and how it was their job to share that hope. They were adamant that they were not the “nones” that we hear so much about.
Man, they make my job easy.
After claiming their status as those who were not “nones,” we came to the realization that we needed doughnuts. We did. Obviously.
After doughnuts, we took some time to rest before lunch.
(Oh, we ate a lot today. A lot of good food.)
Now, it might sound to you like, “hey, their day sounds easy so far. Church and doughnuts and then lunch?” Oh no, my friends. The day was just getting started. We did eat quite a bit. But if there’s a trip in our 5-year rotation that we can get some amazing food in before going to work in the hot, Southern sun, this is the trip to do it. So, I took a note from my niece and we went to Huey’s Midtown. Not only are the burgers good, but they have fried pickles. And if your name happens to be Carrie Stern or Shelley Donaldson, chances are you’re going to eat a basket of fried pickles without hesitation. Oh, and they have this thing. We were also the recipients of a pretty great surprise: Linnea, one of our adults, met us in Memphis (well, we knew she was coming…). Just arriving back from her service work in Haiti with David Nelson’s “I’m Me” organization, Linnea joined us for our trip. If you think that the rest of us will be tired at the end of this week, talk to Linnea when we get home!
I know, you want photos, so here you are:
Then we made our way to the National Civil Rights Museum & Lorraine Motel. Part of our trip, as you might be aware, is a learning part of the trip. Granted, we learn on all of our trips, lots things. But this trip is different. It’s meant to be a trip of reflection and thinking. We look more like tourists sometimes because we essentially museum hop for a few days to learn about history, then we hit the manual labor side of it after that. Out first major stop of the learning section of the trip was the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis at the Lorraine Motel, the site of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I’m going to save my thoughts on this place for another entry where the youth can tell you what they thought about it. The discussions that followed about it at dinner were amazing and while I want to share those with you, you need to hear it from the mouths of babes.
After the NCR Museum, we headed back to the church for a lecture from Dr. Steve Hayes from Rhodes College in Memphis. His book, The Last Segregated Hour: The Memphis Kneel-Ins and the Campaign for Southern Church Desegregation, covers some of the untold history of how young people were working hard to faithfully teach the churches in their communities that desegregation was something that should not only happen in the public sector, but something that should happen in the churches.
At this point, our brains had turned to mush. I am sure that you are well aware of the fact that on youth trips there is lots of time to sleep. Oh, wait, you didn’t know that, did you. Of course you wouldn’t, because that might be the most false statement ever.
Sleep on a youth mission trip?! Get behind me satan, that is ridiculous.
So, after lots of food already, lots of heavy stuff at the NCR Museum, and learning about the history of segregated churches all over, our brains were pooped (Still are, but now we have coffee). We napped and devoted in our journals, and then we headed out for dinner. Now, in the past, the groups have gone to places like the Commissary in Germantown, TN. This time, I felt the need to do as my lovely spouse would ask to do on Christmas Eve, and go to Central BBQ. And go we did.
There was polled pork, peanut butter pie, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, greens, baked beans, coconut cake, sweet tea & BBQ sauce flowed like milk and honey. And we gladly sopped it all up with some white bread buns and rolls. Could you ask for much more?Now, obviously this trip isn’t all about food, but that’s what you’re seeing because this is what we noshed on as we debriefed the day in our small groups. Again, I’ll le the youth fill you in on it. Look for that soon.
Now, we are on the bus to Selma, AL.
I know, internet on the bus?! No, we didn’t go that fancy. But thanks to the marvels of modern technology and a cellular wifi hotspot, here we are. Driving through Mississippi as the bus is silent with sleep because I made everyone get up at 5am so we could get to Selma in plenty of time so that we could then get to the Southern Poverty Law Center Museum in Montgomery, AL after that, and then on to Birmingham to settle in for the night.
It’s been amazing so far. Personally, I’ve learned the whip (they tell me its a dance move but I am hesitant to believe that…), had late-night conversations with youth about life, found strength and energy in the adults who are with us, seen more hope in the youth of the church than I could have ever imagined in one day, learned more about the men and women of the Civil Rights Movement than I could have ever imagined, seen people in our group moved to tears at the sight of the museum and what lies within it, that Mark likes strawberry Gatorade, Ronnie doesn’t dance, Peter is quite the singer, Linnea only wears blue & orange (clearly a Gator fan…), Meghan can successfully curl her eyelashes while the bus is moving, that Annanda has more energy than some of the kids, and that Carrie can sleep anywhere, anytime.