mystery of mercy tour...

tuesday...

hey everyone,

today was a BIG travel day for the youth choir. we headed on down south to miami. lots of time in the bus. fun fun fun. lots of card games, singing, and i even led everyone in the good ole' baptist sword drill. congrats to the ablordeppeys who totally rocked the sword drill. they did all search for the book "hezekiah" for a while (ummm, in case you are wondering, that is NOT a book of the Bible). 

we had one concert today at guardian care assisted living center in orlando, fl. the residents LOVED our sing-a-long to their favorite hymns. 

we just arrived at the hotel and the kids are having a chance to swim and jump on beds. we have to go and stop this latter activity so that is all for the blog today. pray that we can eat somewhere other than mcdonalds tomorrow, one day of fast food is more than God intended for me to have.

for God's glory,

lea marshall (extra special chaperone and official trip blogger)

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wednesday...

whew, it is HOT down here in miami. yes, that is a new revelation to some of the students. we learned yesterday that miami is the same latitude as the sahara desert... yeah, we felt that yesterday. we started out the morning with 6:30 wake up calls. ummm, i just have to say that some of these lovely children do NOT like being woken up at 6:30 by my lovely voice. i don't know what is up with that... but i will say that no one said any bad words to me... hang ups... but no bad words. 

we had a worship service at the united cerebral palsy center in the morning... an outdoor worship service... in the miami sun. and we had an audience of over 100 (maybe even 200 patients and staff, it was PACKED out there on the patio). several patients sang along or tapped their feet. after the service, the students had a little talk from the head of the unit as to what the center did everyday for the patients.

we met a woman who works there whose husband is a pastor and she knew judy dortch. they did a rental car tour in san fransisco a few years ago. she said that they NEVER let church groups come in and sing at the center. she was AMAZED that they had allowed us to come and was so excited!

we then went to south beach and had lunch and took the duck water and land tour of miami. we saw celebrity homes and even saw the 7th most expensive house in america (i would have made an offer but it isn't for sale right now....) we also learned about miami's history and the art deco look to the city. see how educational this whole thing is? though the students seemed a bit more interested in seeing p. diddy's house than the reasons why the train was brought through miami....

we walked around biscayne market and had dinner. then on to the downtown homeless center. from the GREATEST in american society (celebrities) to the LEAST OF THESE (the homeless). and the worship service was amazing. the choir had never sounded better. their voices were so strong. even after an entire day in the miami heat and our second outdoor concert of the day. they brought the glory of the Lord to that place. and they smiles and shook hands and hugged children after the service. 

during the service, i wished that EVERY parent could be there to see their child sing to certainly what must be the GREATEST in the Kingdom of Heaven. the children, those without homes, the lonely, the ones that we look over everyday and walk right by on our busy ways... i am so glad that we serve the "God Who Sees" because so many times, i am so blind to this segment of our world. i cannot even imagine the stories that surrounded me in that place, stories every bit as important as my life story, stories every bit as important to God as my story. the kids were so focused and i hope that they caught a glimpse of how blessed they are, and how blessed they are to be able to minister and serve God Himself, when they serve the ones that are the least in our world, the ones that only He sees.  

one of the men at the homeless center said to carol cartee how thankful he was that this group of kids would come to them and show all of them the love of God that they had in their hearts and that if more people in the world were like these kids, the world would be a better place. so many of the people there were so appreciative. two of them even helped my daughter, millie, practice her spanish and encouraged her to keep working at it and to do well in school. i tell you, church family, i could NOT have been prouder of our kids if they had sung in the white house for the president himself. THIS was truly serving right at God's feet and i have no doubt that one day as we enter our Heavenly Home we will meet some of the people that we have ministered to on these trips and realize that THIS was some of our best work here on earth.

we then went out for some ice cream to try to cool off. and then back to the hotel for the night.....

i do have to send a special message to susan and mark byler... i have pictures of your baby boy that you will be able to use to blackmail him the rest of his life. you are welcome....

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for His Glory and Fame...

lea marshall (chaperone and trip photographer and blogger)

thursday...

good morning beautiful people. after 3 days with mrs. pam, i am starting to sound like her.....

yesterday was in one word.... AWESOME! we started the morning with a worship service at community habilitation center. the clients there were so loving and SO happy to see us. it is a wonderful facility and you just felt the love of the workers there towards their clients. the director of the center asked us to pray for them because with budget cuts their funding could be cut at any moment.

after lunch we went to harmony hills, a nursing home with a strong cuban heritage. we had a huge crowd and though they may not have been able to understand our words, i am sure they understood the smiling faces. our favorite moment was when one little old lady walked SLOWLY through the worship movement students who were performing their worship movement piece and she walked up to suboe ablordeppy and kissed her hand and then placed that hand on his cheek. so precious.

the students visited with the residents and used the little spanish they knew or had been taught on the bus to communicate. except for mrs. tina mason who for some reason decided to say "merci" to everyone (instead of "gracias" for thank you), forgetting that they spoke spanish and that "merci" was a french word. it wasn't until the evening when she realized that the reason they all looked at her so strangely because she wasn't speaking spanish..... we have officially changed the name of our tour to "mystery of merci" instead of "mystery of mercy" in her honor.

then back to the hotel for a much needed little rest and dinner time. and then onto homestead homeless center. when the students began the worship service there were about 5 people watching them. and we all wondered if anyone else would come...

God had such a wonderful plan for this concert. as the service continued, more and more little children started coming up and standing WITH the students on the risers. children from the ages of one year to about 10 years old all came forward to the risers. they stood by or were held by one of our students. almost EVERY student had a child in their arms as the sang or one sitting right beside them. it was amazing. the little kids danced along, sang along, and loved on our students. the sight of some of these really cool high school boys with a child sitting in their lap was enough to make almost every chaperone CRY. some of the beautifully coiffed high school girls who had children in their arms who delighted in messing up the girl's hair and those teenage girls just let their hair be mussed! alden enlow had a little boy in his arms who was fascinated with alden's nose and kept sticking his fingers up alden's nose. alden held the boy, sang all the songs, and tried to keep his dignity. after the students were done with their service, mrs. tina led all our students AND all the kids from the homeless center in singing some children's songs. even the residents joined in on "jesus loves me".

we stayed for about 30 minutes after the concert and our students RAN themselves ragged in the field with all those little children. there were piggy back races, ring around the rosie, and tag games going on everywhere. i don't know who had more fun, our kids are all those children! all i know is that i pray that EVERYtime one of those children hear the word "God" or "Jesus" that they remember the time that they heard that word sung by a young person who was holding them and loving them in His Name. 

when we boarded the bus, i read this portion of Scripture to the youth....

matthew 18

at that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a little child and had him stand among them. and He said, " I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." and whoever welcomes a little child like this in My name welcomes Me...

... see that you do not look down on one of these little ones. for i tell you that their angels in Heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

we had welcomed Jesus Himself in that place, we had held Him, we had beheld Him and we had been blessed beyond belief. as you sat there and listening to the children all running around laughing, the teens all laughing and the adult residents all so pleased with the games going on, you felt like you were in heaven and not a homeless center. God does dwell with man indeed, even those with no home...

i was so proud of our youth who forgot themselves for a moment, who forgot how tired and hot they were, who forgot to try to look cool and who loved these kids with a wild abandon that was truly from the Lord. i know that God was smiling down and we all felt His presence in this place.

we came back to the hotel for a time of reflection with the students and they told us what they had learned through the worship services about mercy and about God. they all had so much to say, they were full of wonderful thoughts and observations. God is working in their lives in such real ways. 

then it was bedtime. i have it on good authority that jonathan mason and ian pitts are competing to see who can sleep the least. that should be fun for their roommates...

today is an airboat trip through the everglades. i will try not to feed any of the students to the alligators.... but jill nichols, i can't make any promises about matt...

friday...

today was our fun day in the hot sun of miami. john mccain wasn't the only one touring the everglades in an airboat yesterday. we started out with our own airboat tour of the everglades. and mccain may have his own photographers following his every move... so does youth choir tour! we have some lovely photos of alligators and our youth holding those alligators (i do not have a photo of one alligator taking his potty break on ashleigh davis, but i wish i had captured that moment). the everglades is MASSIVE and such a beautiful area of our state! several alligators came right up to the boat and stared us down. all of them were female alligators and they must not have liked the look of our guys on choir tour because they stayed right in the water and didn't jump up on the boat. they must have been scared of all us seminoles! or they were all democrats and were waiting for john mccain's boat to come through and they didn't want to fill up on baptist youth...

we had a lovely and LONG lunch (don't ask why but take some advice from us... if the place takes you on airboat tours AND has a small cafe, DON'T stay and eat. most places only do one thing well, and the airboat tours were GREAT and the cafe was NOT). we did have the opportunity to eat some gator tail and frog legs. tastes like chicken....

we then went to the BEACH. it was BEAUTIFUL. several guys found coconuts on the beach and opened them and gave us all a taste. someone pointed out that in the islands if a boy gives you a piece of coconut that he opened it means that he wants to marry you. i am one popular gal on this trip and i had to tell many of our youth that i was already taken...

the kids stayed in the water for most of the time at the beach. not too many sunburned shoulders. we then took the bus back to the hotel and cleaned up for dinner. 

on to south beach for dinner. south beach is like a cross between new york city and las vegas (thank you gale neal for that analogy). bustling and busy and bright lights. we all went with class groups to eat. i was with the middle school boys and they are some kind of fun! though they would have rather been playing video games than listening to mrs. marshall's commentary on south beach's art deco decor (thanks luke scarboro for pretending to be interested in my ramblings). we had to board back on the bus before the night life becomes really crazy down at that area to the disappointment of many a youth and the delight of every chaperone. 

when we came back to the hotel. i was able to sit by the pool and talk to john isaacs for a while before curfew. every time i have an opportunity to chat one on one with a youth, it is always so great to get to know their heart and learn a bit about their lives and what they are going through and share a bit from my life to hopefully help them on their journey. you wouldn't think a 40 year old woman's advice would be well received from a 15 year old middle school boy who is also a rapper... but as we got ready to head upstairs, john said, "thanks, that really was helpful. that makes me think about some things in a different way." so sweet and sincere. if only he writes a rap about me then my life will be complete.

it seems like 2008 is a difficult time to be a teenager (not to mention the parent of a teenager). i am so glad that my kids have this youth group, these other parents for encouragement, and this choir group for some support on their journey. more than that i am THANKFUL that Jesus came and lived and died and was a teenager at some point and can sympathize with our every weakness. it is hard to imagine that Jesus was once a teenager. of course, He was perfect and these kids are not (and i could list names here, but i think i would have to list my own name on the imperfect list). 

today will be spent on the bus coming back home to tallahassee! i can't believe that another youth choir trip is over. what an amazing week! what an amazing God we serve. He has been so evident in so many ways this week. i know that He is working in the lives of these youth (and we just cling to those moments we see Him at work to get us through those moments where that growth is NOT quite so evident). i know He is working in our church and this is just one small piece of the big picture that He is putting together. i am just so blessed to be in on that plan in a small way and i cannot wait to see what happens next. i hope that the parents of these youth and our entire church see the fruit that has been planted, pruned, or grown in this week in out youth. thank you for reading and praying and supporting our trip! 

have mercy...

lea marshall

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