Wednesday, July 18, 2018


Today Crew 7 headed over to Porch Light, an organization that provides low-income housing to families. Our job was to clean out recently vacant apartments for new families to move in to. We quickly scanned the two apartments we were assigned to clean, split into teams and got to work. First, we had to throw out all the furniture and odds and ends still there, where we discovered some interesting at best items. Second, after our lunch break, we dug into the deep cleaning which consisted mostly of scrubbing walls and sweeping the floors, which we did for the rest of the day. This experience really allowed us the opportunity to work together as a team and show our strong work ethic as a group. No one complained, and everyone was willing to do their part, and it felt like we made a huge dent in the workload for the organization, while getting a new perspective on a different environment than the ones we are used to.

-Lauren Koch

As we have the past two days, Crew 2 headed over to Glacier Edge Elementary bright and earl(ier than everyone else) at 7:45am. We did our morning devotions in the car (Mandy and I are the Devo Masters, so we led). At approximately 8:17am, we headed out to our classrooms for an 8:30 start. There was a Books on Bikes program where every kid got to look through 10 boxes full of books and pick their own to take home. Now that we've seen the kids for 2 (now 3) days, they are even more comfortable and smiley around us (they're the cutest:))))). We helped our teachers through reading and math. I personally made some breakthroughs with my kids; teaching them is such a learning experience for me, and finally getting the point across and seeing them smile is SO REWARDING. We are all going to miss the kids so much, and it's hard to grasp that tomorrow is the last day we will ever see them and our teachers. At the end of our morning together, we headed over to the Fitchburg Library for our first day without Liz the Librarian (we were left to lead the activities in the park on our own, without the regular volunteers). We were really excited to take on the responsibility!! Unfortunately, it was a pretty slow day, so not many kids came. However, we made the most of it, further bonding with each other and hanging out with the few kids that did come. We colored, played some soccer and Duck Duck Animal, and made stuff with Play-Doh. We topped off the work day with some Dairy Queen, making it an overall relaxing and pleasing day.

- Sam Bourgeois

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Madison, Wi - Tuesday

Wednesday began with a rousing performance from the band and a sense of enthusiasm. The groups gathered downstairs, tired, but ready to start the day. We enjoyed a glorious breakfast of biscuits and sausage, courtesy of the staff. Group seven was assigned to clean up breakfast and did a fabulous job. Group seven made its way to the Catholic Multicultural Center, and group two went to a summer school program which serves to help students retain their smarts when school is not in session.

In the first part of the day, group two worked with a wide variety of different children from many different backgrounds. Not only did the experience of interacting with the children impact us, but we made a difference in the life of the kids, whether it was teaching someone the rules of kickball, or helping with a particularly difficult problem. In the second half of the day, we went to a public park. We played games and had fun with the kids for a while until it was time for the evening's activities.

Group seven started off the morning by driving to the Catholic Multicultural Center, a place which provides a culinary education for individuals who had previously been incarcerated. We did various odd jobs, such as weeding and rearranging tables. When we ran out of work, the group was treated to a long and interesting talk by the overseer of the worksite, Tom. He talked about a great many things, including the importance of faith and the benefits of communication across different denominations, even when it is uncomfortable. We ate lunch in a field full of mosquitos. To pass the time, the group, to the chagrin of Matt, decided to play a game of Wrestle. Despite his initial doubts about the game, which mainly concerned the potential for injury, Matt eventually agreed to play a few rounds. This turned out to be a mistake. Matt hurt his arm, thus confirming his own fears. Truly, there is no better example of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Due to complications with the terms of volunteering, we had to stop going to our regular second activity. We instead opted to go on the prayer hike. After a beautiful experience, our group headed to our last activity.

Both groups met up with each other in the same park for dinner and games. Dancing, eating, and fun was had. Unfortunately, some people were still hungry, so later, after showers, several people decided to take the arduous journey to the Subway across the street. The evening finished with a wonderful service which helped every single person's connection with God.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Madison, WI - Monday

After an exhausting 6 hour drive, we arrived in Wisconsin on Sunday at around 4pm. We settled into the church, had dinner, and met the other groups we would be staying with. At our nightly church service, STAGE was divided into 2 groups and given our work projects. Group 1, led by Paul and Cydney, worked with an elementary school in the morning and with a library outreach program in a park in the afternoon. The other group, led by Matt, Stephany, and Kyle, weeded at a squash farm in the morning and did community outreach with kids from the Madison community.
In Group 1, I was a little bit hesitant at the beginning of the day because I learned we would all be split up. However, I was assigned to a classroom of kindergarten and first graders who struggle with reading and writing and fell in love with their energy and compassion immediately. Working through a reading packet with them, many of the kids were unsure and insecure in their reading abilities, but after some encouragement from not only me but their classmates, I saw their attitudes change and they actually started to volunteer to read for their peers. In the afternoon, we worked in a library outreach program with super energetic kids with so much joy. I worked water games. We set up a kiddie pool, two sponges, a sprinkler and some watering cans and the kids had so much fun. They ran around with me attacking me with sponges and watering cans full of water and I loved seeing their smiles all day. I also had a great conversation with our leader, Emma, and Lydia and Mandy where Emma told us her story about coming into her faith and continued to encourage us to reach out of our comfort zones and recognize God in our lives in the highs AND the lows. When we came home, we all broke into a rendition of a song we used to sing together and it was so fun to connect with each other in a way we hadn't connected in awhile and really just see God in the faces around us.
-Kira Hegdal

Saturday, July 14, 2018


In less than 12 hours we will be on our way to Madison, WI. The 2017-2018 S.T.A.G.E year has passed quickly and our summer mission trip is now upon us.  As I am sitting here attempting to fit everything into my bag, load up the van, and work on finalizing details of the trip I can't help but be grateful for all of the support, encouragement, and guidance I have received since beginning this job in October.  (I was an English major for some time in college until I realized that I am no good at it, so please excuse all grammatical errors)

During a sermon at my previous church in Ann Arbor, our pastor read a prayer by Sir Frances Drake titled "Disturb Us, Lord." The first time I heard this it struck me and I have spoken about it since during STAGE (The story of his life is pivotal for this poem so look it up). It is even hanging on my refrigerator at home. It says,

"Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true,
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
here storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ."

My hope for this trip is that we are nudged and even disturbed by God. It is so easy to be complicit in our life. We wake up, go to work or school, get home and do the same thing over and over again. May we be disturbed to do what is right, not only when it is comfortable, but more so when it is uncomfortable. May we strive to do what is right and not necessarily what is easy, and may we show who Jesus is not only through words but through actions.

It is not easy to leave home for a week. It is not easy to leave behind our routine, family, and friends. It is not easy to spend time with 24 other people, but when did Jesus ever say that following him would be easy.

As a S.T.A.G.E. community, we value building relationships with others, helping surrounding communities and organizations, and living out our faith as Christ lived his life. This means that we will ask the difficult questions, interact with those we don't agree with, and take a step out into faith knowing that the Holy Spirit will guide us.

I hope that all who read this will follow along with us on our journey during this trip and beyond. Please keep us fervently in your prayers.


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