Saturday, July 15, 2017

2017 Mission Trip - Gatlinburg - A FEW LAST THOUGHTS

Each mission trip, we leave proud of the progress we made at the worksites and the relationships throughout the group that were strengthened. This is just as true or maybe even more so for this trip. What set this mission trip apart from the others was our experience with our site leader Evan and the home owner Tee. They are both incredibly strong people who made a big impact in the little time we had with them, with their strong faith, work ethic, and inspirational anecdotes. Some of the specific highlights of the trip for me include working on the fence frame with Connor, teaching some of our songs to Evan, wading under the waterfall at the top of our hike, going to Waffle House, each car ride through the mountains, and as always, our final devotional session (where we read our letters and say goodbye).  The trip was a fine conclusion to my S.T.A.G.E. career.
-Andrew Bourgeois

Being the busy traveler I am, I was in Finland (and spent a night in Paris) before the mission trip and didn’t get back into the states until Tuesday afternoon. When my mom dropped me off at camp Wednesday morning, I was a little discombobulated. We tried to trick our site leader, Evan, that I was there the whole time and that he just didn’t remember me, but someone messed that up for us. I ended up throwing myself into setting posts with Sam and Nathan. The atmosphere that was established before I got there, despite weather, bug bites, injuries, and sickness, remained positive and incredibly loving. As we drive home now I feel as if I’ve been here the whole week. Personally, I had lots of favorite moments on Thursday: I’m so proud of Sarah, T, and myself for finishing sealing the roof in under the hot sun. I loved the hike, the absolute beauty of the waterfall once we FINALLY made it up there, and the laughs I had with the people on the way up and down the mountain. I loved the vibe of happiness and appreciation as we arrived at Waffle House late that night, filling our bellies and dancing while waiting for the bill. I’m so grateful that God gave us these happy memories to remember with the bittersweet goodbyes of last night. We are all so incredibly blessed, and I couldn’t be more excited for next year.
 ~ Ruth Butters

As I reflect on this unbelievable week of service, ministry, and fun as we drive home, I realize just how meaningful STAGE is to all of us. This week has been far from perfect. There was an abundance of bug bites, sickness, hot days, and injuries, but somehow whenever we all tried to come up our lows for the day nobody felt like there were any real lows because the amount of fun we had drowned out all of our stupid problems. I think we all knew this was going to be a special week when we arrived at the school we were staying at and started playing Frisbee in the grass. Almost immediately this lanky, southern camp counselor approached us and joined in. It turned that from that was the moment that we met our perfect site leader Evan. I think that I speak for the whole group when I say that we all feel like we have known Evan for our whole lives despite just meeting him a week ago, and that he has become an honorary member of STAGE and is welcome to visit any time. I think the true moment we realized just how special this trip and Stage was when we were sitting in our circle around our little torch and someone through tears said, “I don’t want Nathan to leave”. At that moment everyone broke down into tears, but through all this sadness we all sat together and talked about our best memories from STAGE. I think that night God truly spoke through us, and there was no better way to end the perfect mission trip with the perfect group.
~ Connor Barash

2017 Mission Trip - Gatlinburg - FRIDAY


After a late night at the Waffle House we were all very tired in the morning since we had to be up and ready by 7:30 am for breakfast. Right after breakfast we said our goodbyes to our awesome TeamEffort leaders, Evan, then hit the road. We spent the morning in Gatlinburg and split into smaller groups and toured around. I was with Shannon, Ava, Sam, and Mari and we had such a good time together. We all got many treats and good food as throughout the town. My favorite part about Gatlinburg was its old town feel, but yet it was still so cute and quirky. Around lunch time we packed up the vans again and made our way to Cincinnati for dinner. We ate at Dewey’s Pizza, and everyone devoured their food. Finally we ended up at Wittenberg University for our last night together. Nathan gave some of us a tour of the campus which was really cute. 10:30 pm came around and we started our nightly jam session that was followed by a huge cry session. We shared our highs and lows and seniors (me) shared our many memories with STAGE. It was also emotional because we all had to say goodbye to Nathan. It was all bittersweet, but by the end of the night we were all playing games and laughing together again. I even lead some of the girls in a yoga session!

-Sarah Hart  

2017 Mission Trip - Gatlinburg - THURSDAY


Wow. What a crazy day. As a rose at 7:15 I had the mindset that today we be a good easy day. We would go work with T, kill the fences butt, then have a good hike in the afternoon, and then come back for chapel. Man was I wrong! The day started off pretty normal, as we jammed to Neil Diamond and Queen on the way to the worksite. As soon as we got there the hammers started swinging, we were like a bunch of John Henrys. We were able to make immense progress on the fence and the only reason we weren’t able to is because we ran out of pickets to hammer. But with some scrap wood, handyman future project designer Nathan and couple others built our friend T a flower box painted in the volunteers colors. We all painted our names on it and it was a really cool way to close our week. After that though, the day took a crazy turn. We decided to go for a 3 mile hike in the Smoky Mts., at least we thought it would be 3 miles. Little did we know it was actually 3 miles one way!! People started to realize that once we saw the sign, but we couldn’t go back now. We all decided to hike to this cool little waterfall and the icy water was very refreshing. Already short on time some of us rushed back the trail trying to speed up the group pace. Other members of our group decided to take the wrong turn and get lost, we took even more time! So by the time this whole ordeal was finished it was about 7:30 and we had an hour drive back to chapel which started at 8. Now math isn’t my thing, but those two numbers didn’t really add up, even with Nathan driving we wouldn’t make it in time. So we arrived at chapel at 9, just in time for the end and then we did this really cool thing that was great way to end the week. Finally after all of that we still hadn’t eaten dinner and since it was so late, we got to a fulfill a lifelong dream of mine which was to eat Waffle House at midnight. What an incredible way to end a incredible day.

-Jackson Berger 

Friday, July 14, 2017

2017 Mission Trip - Gatlinburg - WEDNESDAY


This morning on the bus ride we had a groovy time heading to the work site. When we got to the work site we had a lot to do, some people were filling holes and other were putting up pickets and various jobs. We were on the picket line crew. We got 207 pickets done in total throughout the day. We had a good four person system down, and got a lot done. We thought a couple more people got ivy poisoning, but it turned out everyone was safe. We were so efficient a lot of people didn’t have jobs. A couple people were sick, but got better as time went on. We wrapped the work day up with another water balloon fight and headed back onto the bus. When we got back to the campus we all hit the pool to cool off before dinner. After chapel we sang some typical S.T.A.G.E songs and finished with highs and lows. Then some of us came back to the cafeteria to have a euchre tournament with peanut butter sandwiches.

-Mari Ahern and Lauren Koch

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

2017 Mission Trip - Gatlinburg - TUESDAY

                This morning, we headed to breakfast with a little better idea of what to expect, seeing as a couple nights at camp had already acclimated us to the atmosphere. We hopped in the vans for our 45-minute commute to the site to see our favorite girl, T. When we arrived, the job that some of us had been working on the day before was already finished, so we searched for some new projects to dive into. Anna and I helped out with filling holes with dirt that had set concrete in them, and the 4 of us attempted (but didn’t exactly succeed with flying colors)  to nail some boards that became the supports for the pickets, and finally found that weed whacking would be our project for the majority of the day.
-Lydia Blakely

The next activity we began today was weeding. We used weed whackers, saws and clippers. They were definitely a challenge but it was a good challenge to take on. The plants were short but feisty, some even the same size as our height. A lot of them did have thorns, but we worked as a group and attacked the thorns with all our might! As I got deeper into the weeds I somehow ran into some lovely poison ivy that got me on the leg, but it’s a new experience to add with this week!
-Mari Ahern

                After weeding, we started digging holes for the fence poles. We had holes that had already been dug but we needed to dig a little further so everything lined up. We had to use post hole diggers which were a little complicated to use at first, but T taught us the correct way to use them and it made digging the holes a lot easier. It took some hard work and muscles but it was overall a very rewarding process. There were a few tough holes that took a long time to dig but we trekked through and got all of the holes dug pretty quickly!
-Anna Gawel

                Throughout those times, others were setting the posts for the fence or hammering down the pickets. However, we eventually ran out of wood/supplies to complete those jobs, so we all tried to help each other tackle smaller projects. Finally, we had worked hard enough to throw in the towel early that day. Our group leaders had a secret group meeting to plan something for us. Instead of going back to our dorms, they took a different turn and we got ice cream! It was a wonderful treat after our blazing hot day. When we got back, a few of us went swimming again, or we had some free time to shower and chill before dinner. After dinner, our S.T.A.G.E. group gathered to go through our Tuesday (technically morning) devo, and then we played an intense game of wrestle. Then we had some free time and we headed to chapel. We ended the day with some S.T.A.G.E songs and our highs and lows.

-Sam Bourgeois

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

2017 Mission Trip - Gatlinburg - MONDAY DAY 2

Monday 7/10/17

                We left for the work site shortly after meeting for breakfast at 7:30. We arrived to find the outline of a fence winding down one side of the property and holes surrounding the rest, marking how extensive the fence was to be. We set to work moving concrete to be poured into the post holes and nailing ply wood to extend the fence. A lot of brush had to be moved to clear the area as well. The homeowner, “T,” was extremely appreciative for our work although she contributed to almost every project we worked on. She managed to consistently motivate us and prove that she was stronger than all of us. More holes had to be dug because they were originally put in the wrong place and T patiently taught everyone how to use post hole diggers while also commenting how she loved that all girls were digging the holes. A water balloon break was taken and after finishing the fence along one side of the property and setting posts along the back side, we went back to where we were staying and went swimming. After dinner, we went through devotionals as a group and then went to chapel with the rest of the camp. After chapel, our group stayed and sang a few songs together and shared highs and lows to end out the day.

-Shannon Schafer

2017 Mission Trip - Gatlinburg - SUNDAY DAY 1

Sunday 7/9/17

                Today we all got together in front of the church for a small meeting and prayer and after that it was off to the busses to get to Tennessee.  The trip was long but we made it and had a good time in Knoxville and had amazing pizza at The Tomato Head, a pizza parlor at the visitor’s center.  When we got to Gatlinburg we unpacked and played some games. After the games, everyone met up in the auditorium and we were given a presentation on the rules, had a small church service, then we got to meet our counselors for the week.

-Christian Touchton and Will Fanelli

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Day 1 Gatlinburg Mission Trip

Departure: Today we leave.  We leave behind sleeping without alarm clocks in comfy beds for sleeping bags and waking early so we can snag some hot water in the shower.  We leave behind our families and the group that meets just once a week for 90minutes becomes family. We leave the lazy routine of our summer day, apps on our phones, our netflix accounts, and all the things that pull on us for attention and replace it with a long long car-ride, sweaty-hot days outside, and the challenge to do something a little helpful for someone we'll never meet again.

A mission trip is fun and its hard, its about friendship and its about discipleship, and its about us and its not about us.  There's no doubt that God goes with us on this trip.  Keep us in your prayers this week that we all have moments of awareness of  those "yay God" moments where his presence and purpose is made known to us.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

2015 MTrip Final Day (Dave)

Final Day: Saturday, July 25, 2015

We're in the final stretch. Granted, we're still about 3 hours away and have to pass through Ohio (the armpit of America) and with our luck you never know what car troubles we'll encounter. Looking back on this week, I'm glad that I got to have an experience like this as my last mission trip. This was a week full of defeats and triumphs, challenges and ingenuity, difficulties and teamwork, and lots and lots of sweat. We were able to tackle any obstacle throughout the week with unmatched enthusiasm and teamwork. We took any situation that God gave us and worked with it. When the luggage truck broke down, cooler heads prevailed and we ended up playing frisbee while waiting. When we couldn't shower for a couple days, we decided that it was okay because we all smelled bad, together. When it seemed like finishing Castella's porch was impossible, we all pulled together and worked an extra 2 and a half hours to not only finish her porch but give her a railing as well. This week isn't supposed to be about us, it's supposed to be about doing God's work, but it's hard to not feel a sense of accomplishment when we saw Castella's smile as she stepped on her new porch for the first time. It took a while for me to realize that we don't go on mission trips just because Jesus was a carpenter. We came down to West Virginia because we are called to love, and we made an impact on someone's life. Castella is going to have that porch for the rest of her life, and we as a group were able to make that happen. As Nathan's dinner prayers go, 'thank you God for this food. Thank you God for everything we have.' I'm thankful that God has given us an opportunity to love. I'm thankful for all the silliness that happened this week. I'm thankful for all of the reflection this week. I'm thankful for all the love that we have shown each other this week.  I'm thankful for all of the parents that are supportive of this. And I'm thankful for STAGE. Rock on.
~Dave Bluhm 

2015 MTrip Day 6 (Bethie & Sam)

Day 6: Friday, July 24, 2015

Today we woke up at 5:45 in the morning and we packed our bags and started driving to River Expedition that was about two hours away. We went white water rafting and it was my first time, at the beginning I was terrified of falling out of the raft during a rapid. There was a class four rapid and the raft almost flipped over but we were ok. After the almost flippage the raft was filled with water up to our knees and once the water drained, part of the raft landed on my foot and I couldn't get it out. After all of that fun we had we got back to the POG and got changed. We then went on to Subway for lunch. I had Italian bread with turkey, American cheese,lettuce. I also got two chocolate chip cookies. Then we drove for about three to four hours to Nathan's aunts house for dinner and dessert which was amazing. Then we went on to All Shepards Lutheran Church in Ohio to spend the night there.
- Bethie Stinson

Today we woke up at 5:45, earlier than most of us had the whole week. We packed our bags and cleaned our rooms at School For Life and took off for good. We stumbled upon a flat tire on our way, setting us back about an hour. We arrived at New River for white water rafting a little but later than expected, but they just put us on a later adventure: the lower river expedition. After white water rafting we all changed and got back on the road to go to Nathan's Aunt Jean's house for dinner. She prepared a wonderful meal for us and we were all extremely grateful. A bunch of us started a soccer game in her backyard as well, which was really fun even for those that didn't normally play. Then we went to a church in Columbus about 5-10 minutes away for the night. The first thing we did was sit in a circle in the sanctuary and go through our highs and lows for the week. We also read our letter from our parents and really reflected our time together. There were a lot of tears involved there. After that, we regrouped and played games; including a STAGE classic "aliens," and sardines. Then we cleaned up a little bit and went to bed.
- Sam Bourgeois

2015 MTrip Day 5 (Sarah H. & Emily)

Day 5: Thursday, July 23, 2015

Today in my group, after a french toast breakfast, we headed out to Castella's for our last day of work. As usual I went to greet her in the morning and watch some old game shows. I always enjoy watching the smile appear on Castella's face as we come in to talk to her. We worked really hard today, probably put in the most effort. We stayed until we got the job done which was probably until 4:30. We were so determined to finish the porch and when we did she was so happy. It was really sweet when she prayed for us. When we got back, all the local kids, teens, and parents were there as well for the cook out and performance from the little kids. We ate good hamburgers and watermelon outside with everyone and then had to clean kitchen and bathroom (ew). The little kids showed off their dance moves and then there was basketball games to watch and ice cream to eat and shirts to buy. We ended the night with a quick jam sesh and got ready for the early morning the next day!
-Sarah Hart

Today we all woke up early and my group hurried to the Powells house to finish our project. We came to find that our helper Joe was already there, which was a great surprise. Most of us stayed to finish up the floor, and some of us went to Debbie Powell's sister's house to wash more siding. At around 2 we said our goodbyes, took pictures and went back to the school. When we got back, we had a cookout with great burgers that Ted made. It was our chore day, so we cleaned up after dinner, and we cleaned the gross bathroom. We watched a performance the little kids from the community set up, and then had ice cream. Some of the people in our group participated in the 3v3 basketball tournament, and everyone watched. One group lost in the first group, and the other got in second place. We ended the night late with a quick group worship before we went straight to bed!
-Emily Bourgeois

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

2015 MTrip Day 4 (Sarah S. & Lauren)

Day 4: Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Today my group was split up doing all kinds of things around Debbie's house and her neighbors. We finished painting a room for her, we are almost done fixing her kitchen floor that was sinking and washing her neighbors siding. After a long day at work we headed up to miracle mountain which was absolutely beautiful. We roasted hot dogs for dinner and had a blast playing capture the flag with other youth groups (we won three times in a row). We had a nice service overlooking the mountain side and then s'mores to end the night.
~Sarah Stephenson

Today after breakfast and devotional time, my group started and finished repairing Castella's front porch by hammering in new boards. While a part of the group was working on that another  to be small group put together the new stairs for the back porch. Also, two or three people would keep Castella company inside, enjoying 80's game shows. After returning from the worksites and having some free time, we all headed to Miracle Mountain which revealed to have breathtaking views, especially with the sunset. We roasted hotdogs for dinner, played frisbee and capture the flag, and just hung out. We had a different worship session than the other days where we got a little time to just relax and think in the gorgeous setting of the mountaintop. When it got dark we came back to the school for a short group recap and meeting to end the day.
~ Lauren Koch

2015 MTrip Day 3 (Lydia, Owen, Max and Christian)

Day 3: Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Today the group that is working on Castella's house with the unreliable porch got right to work cutting the wood that will soon make up the new one. We all split into groups that learned how to and used the saws, hammers, and electric drills. When one or a few of us did not have a job to do or finished a job, we went into the house and chatted with the homeowner. While at times we may not have had a hammer and nail in our hand, we were still building a relationship with Castella and breaking boundaries formed by society. It has only been the second day working at her house and we have all immersed ourselves into a world we have never known by getting to know someone who knows it better than anyone else. By the end of the day we had the steps that would lead up to the porch measured and cut and had constructed the deck for it. We were also given a blessing today with overcast and light rain for most of the work day which kept us cool. Today our team didn't just divide and work, we divided and composed the pieces that will later come together to form a gift from God delivered by our power to another child of God.
~Lydia Blakely

My group went to a neighbor of the lady we were helping and scrubbed her siding.
~Owen Molloy

My group had some issues because the lady's house was too small so we did three different things, we painted her house and scrubbed her neighbor's house so we could all help God in different ways.
-Max Smith

My group picked up a bunch of trash on the side of a river and the garbage ranged from nasty sweatshirts to bottle caps.
~Christian Touchton

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

2015 MTrip Day 2 (Connor & Sam)

Day 2: Monday, July 20, 2015

Today we split into two groups to do work. One group went to a house where the kitchen floor was sinking and the other went to a house to rebuild a deck. My group had the kitchen floor project. We had some difficulty today, the biggest one being that when we got to the work site the owner didn't want us to fix her floor. She was under the impression that the contractor would be there to review our work. So after learning that we weren't going to start the floor today we decided talk with and get to know the owner and her friend Nick. We really got to know the people and we bonded as a group a lot. After talking for a while we decided to pick up trash around the river. We are very excited to start on the floor tomorrow.
~Connor Barash

My group went to a house with an unreliable porch. We spent the first half of the day demolishing the porch, running into some possibly poison oak in the process. We also set up a game plan for the new porch; which we will be working on the rest of the week. After lunch, we headed back to the school and got set up for kid's club. Although we were attempting a scheduled day filled with games, an arts & crafts project, a skit, and a snack; we were lucky enough to be with a group of kids that went with the flow. We did a little bit of everything. The kids were very loud and energetic, but I think (and hope) they enjoyed themselves. We had trouble earning their attention at first; but by the end of the time we had together, I think we had them pretty much under control. We're excited to get back to the home tomorrow and start building the porch!
-Sam Bourgeois