I was 16 when I attended UM Army for the first time. For those who don’t know, UM Army is a summer mission trip that does service projects in cities around Texas. That year, we went to Silsbee, Texas, a small town about 100 miles northeast of Houston.
I’ll never forget our first project on that trip. We were building a set of steps for the back of a house, and my job was to cut 2x6 lumber for the stair treads. About halfway through the first cut, the saw stopped. I looked down and realized I had cut straight through the saw’s power cord! Fortunately, my work team adult, Jim, was an electrician who had some electrical tools in his van. He grabbed them, spliced the cord back together, and we just went right on working.
It was a small event, but I’ll never forget how it just rolled off Jim’s back. I was in awe of his ability to lead our group of high school students to complete projects which at first seemed impossible, and I was amazed that a grown man would want to spend a week of his hard-earned vacation time with high school students and serving others.
His example has been one I’ve tried my best to imitate. This July, I completed my 11th trip with UM Army, going with our students to Bryan, Texas where we tackled a range of projects: building porches and a wheel chair ramp, installing gutters, and doing yard-cleanup and beautiful landscaping at several sites.
My favorite Bible verse is Philippians 4:13, which says, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength,” and I definitely saw that in action at the work sites in Bryan. During the heat of the day, we wanted to slow down, but seeing the joy that we gave to people and knowing we were there to share God’s love with them is how He gave our group the strength to keep going.
That was especially clear at one of the larger sites we worked on for a woman named Dorothy and her 8-year-old son, Lebrawn. We installed new siding on the front of their house, repaired some fascia boards and built two porches so they would have a little more outside living area.
At Dorothy and Lebrawn’s house, we started every workday with a group prayer, often times led by Dorothy herself. She was extremely grateful for the work we were doing and spent all day loving on us. One day during lunch, Lebrawn grabbed his Bible and wanted to share a verse from the daily Bible study with us. Seeing an excited 8-year-old read from the Bible to a group of teenagers and adults was worth our whole week of hard work, all on its own.
Every year I serve with UM Army, I realize again how powerful God is when He’s able to use a group of teenagers and a few adults to accomplish big things, and how His love is showered on the students and the people they’re serving.
I’m already looking forward to serving again next year.
This story first originally appeared in The Point, Fall 2013 edition.