The long awaited ECC Youth Group “Community Live-In: 2023” took place on July 5-11. The group consisted of seven students (Laila K., River L., Renea P., Reina S., Adrienne S., Ben W., and Nate W.) and three leaders (Pastor Chuck, Jo Kincanon, and Ben Teninty). In short, the trip was everything we had hoped it would be. And while we want to save some of our highlights for a ministry spotlight that will take place this coming Sunday (July 30) during the worship service, I did want to go ahead and share a few things about the trip here.
First, it’s important to say that no matter how much planning and preparation goes into a trip like this, there will always be things that will happen that will require quick thinking and flexibility. The big one for me took place on the Monday before we left. That afternoon, Jo stopped in my office and asked how I was feeling, and I remember telling her that I was excited but nervous because everything was in place, and I was just hoping it would all happen without any problems. I even said to her that I was going to be checking in with our housing to get the details for how we’ll get access to our rental home in Orlando. Just a few hours later, after communicating with the rental house’s property management company, I got a notice out of nowhere saying that there was an error with our rental home and that we were being refunded our entire payment. I, of course, began to panic. I remember texting Jo and Ben the following words: "I’M FREAKING OUT!!!". What I had feared would happen… happened.
Somehow the rental management company had double booked this house and we were cancelled. Luckily enough, we were traveling to one of the biggest vacation spots on the planet, so within just a few short hours and after LOTS of stress, I was able to book another house that was even bigger for only a slightly higher price than we paid for the first one. It ended up being a blessing too, because this house was bigger, and it made it so almost all of us had our own bedrooms (which was really nice).
That wasn’t the only hiccup to the plan. We had a tough time getting our rental vans because the church business card was being tagged for “fraudulent charges” because we had forgotten to let them know we were heading to Orlando. So we had to work that out over the phone while everyone waited around in the airport for our vans to be ready.
I tell you these two big wrenches in our plans because at the end of the day, those were the only real troubles we faced. The rest of the trip was incredible!
Our theme verse for the week was Philippians 2:1-11, but mostly verses 1 and 2 that say, “Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” We focused our conversation on what it means to being of one mind and to be intentional in uniting ourselves to one another as we both lived together in Christian community but also served together along the way.
For the service projects, we had three primary opportunities, but they were not all the same. The first was with “Clean the World”, which is a sustainability non-profit organization that works with the tourism and hospitality industry to recycle the mini soup bars and plastics from shampoo bottles, and to use the recycled materials to provide hygiene and cleaning products to areas of the world that have limited-to-no access to such products. The hope is that it would reduce the mortality issues among those experiencing homelessness and among kids in third-world countries that are related to improper hygiene. Not only were we giving our hands and our time to help, but we were learning about what it could mean to care for our “neighbor” and redefine who that “neighbor” might be.
The next project was at Audubon Park Covenant Church, which is our sister church there in Orlando. We did a variety of cleaning projects that this small church needed to get done, and we took time to tour the church and learn about the mission and ministry focus’ of the church from Pastor Sarah Robinson. In talking about the churches efforts to provide locally grown food to their community, Pastor Sarah also challenged us to re-define our word for “Community” to include all that God cares about… from people, to wildlife, to plants, and to the ground itself.
This theme continued in our third project, where we met with a Marine Biologist, Dr. Bob Sluka, from a Christian international non-profit organization called “A ROCHA”. We learned about what scientists like Bob are doing to care for the earth and the sea, especially in how we can prevent our human footprint from endangering the lives of the wildlife around us. A part of this time together was where we became scientists for a 10-minute activity called a “nurtle” hunt. “Nurtle’s” are small plastic biproducts that are make their way into the oceans and wash up on shore. Seeing how many we can find helps scientists document how these plastics are getting into the environment and what we can do to help reduce their effects.
While there are many more stories and parts of our trip to share, I hope this gives you a broad view of the trip and what we did. We look forward to sharing more during the worship service this coming Sunday.