Praise God with us for the work and blessings during First Fruits this year. Last Saturday, November 21, we had 32 teams composed of 659 volunteers completing 133 jobs. This day raised $43,490! The teams used some of what was raised to buy groceries and bring gift cards to 32 families with financial need that night. An additional 40 or more families will also be receiving grocery gift cards in the next few weeks. Five local high schools will be participating in a Perseverance Scholarship for seniors as they prepare for college. Teachers will also be nominated for a gift from us. All of these opportunities to exemplify God’s love to our neighbors is only possible because of the many people who sacrificed their time, energy and finances. Thank you!
To learn more about how First Fruits has an impact, read First Fruits: Beyond the Leaves.
We have had an awesome last couple days. We spent 2 days running a summer camp for the kids at the children’s home. Tuesday evening we did another street meeting and went to see the huge sea turtles! We even got to see baby turtles hatching! Wednesday we did our second day of summer camp and left for the team debrief in Port of Spain. Last night we heard from Ronnie and Meela. Today we spent the day on a boat swimming and fishing. Then we returned to the church for a farewell dinner with the church (A very touching experience). We will give you much more detail when we see you late on Saturday.
Our flight is scheduled to land at Dulles at 11:20 pm. We are planning on students being picked up at the airport.
Thank you for all your prayers! God has definitely answered them and many more.
Summary of the weekend:
On Day 8 (Sat), we went to Toco Beach, ate Fish Broth which is a stew that they cooked using a propane tank right on the beach, played football, and climbed trees.
On Day 9 (Sun), we went to an Evangelical church that Bob had helped out when he came here last with an RBC missions team, Ryan and Dan spoke, Emily gave her testimony and then we repeated our “package” at Hope Community Church at 5:45 pm and Joseph gave his testimony. We finished out the night having some fun with our Trini friends, especially our awesome maxi taxi driver Dale (last picture with Dan).
Blog from the weekend:
DAY 8: Well, it was bound to happen. We got roasted. The team spent much of our day Saturday on Toco beach. It was the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. I think at times we all felt like somehow we had been placed into a post card. We spent our day running around having fun, spending some time with the local Trinis we have come to know and love, some who we are growing beside and some who we are witnessing to, and just praising God for his beautiful creation. After our time on the beach we stopped briefly at a lighthouse that was unlike anything we had ever witnessed before. Beyond a small beaten path we found enormous boulders and cliffs that at this moment I struggle to even describe. Aggressive waves plummeted toward us, crashed onto the walls of the cliff we sat on and flew up upon us in the form of this delicate mist. God is so beautiful. We went back to the Heerah’s house to find an abundance of awkward tan lines and crazy sun burns. I have never felt so white before in my life. After changing and showering, we headed back to Hope Community Church to lead a parent/teen event. There, we were given the opportunity to meet with community members and discuss with them what the Bible says about what a parent-teen relationship should look like. Courtney shared her testimony with the ladies and Bob spoke for the men. The turn out was certainly smaller than other events we have hosted, but we praise God for the intimacy that comes with that.
DAY 9: I cannot even tell you how fun it has been spending a full Sunday in Trinidad. We spent the morning at a nearby church that still had strong connections to the Heerah’s. Ronnie used to pastor there before being led to start Hope Community Church and many of the Heerah’s relatives are strongly tied there. It was a church
flourishing with life and life in abundance. Every face we saw was welcoming and loving toward us for no reason other than the fact that we are all truly members of a single body. We were given the opportunity to run the morning service, but we were blessed in that we did not take over their church for that day, but rather we walked
beside them that day. The worship they provided for us was beautiful and motivating. I was so encouraged to witness such a lively congregation. After their worship, our group sang a few songs, performed “In the Light,” and spoke before them. Emily Mooney shared her testimony from the pulpit in a way that genuinely seemed to capture the hearts of her audience. After Emily, Bob Shull, Ryan Swisher, and Daniel Shull tag-teamed a sermon, which was absolutely saturated in wisdom and in truth. It was encouraging to see our men step up to the plate into such a role of leadership. Not a single person, Trini or otherwise, left the building uninspired. After the church service, we were given lunch as a team as well as some awesome “meet and greet” time, where we were able to really speak with any church member that was willing to share with us. Little girls in dresses played hide-and-go-seek with our members and little boys played “ninja” while everyone else seemed immersed in conversations varying from the basics of getting to know each other, and deep discussion over what we all believed God was at work doing. After lunch, we met back at the Heerah’s house for a bit of liming, encouraging, and team time. Our time was good and reviving, but not long lived because we were soon off to Hope Community Church to prepare for the evening service ahead of us. As always, many songs were sung, and as strange as it is to stand on a stage and sing worship songs at a congregation, it is incredibly rewarding to see how the congregation began to worship along with us. Even witnessing one person worship with a heart full of adoration for God is enough encouragement to uplift us all. After worship, “Silence” was performed, and Joseph Choi gave a heart-felt testimony. We then all dispersed between the adult service and many children’s classrooms to teach Sunday school. Everywhere the team served was blessed. Our evening ended on a high note when we ate a late dinner with the community around us and simply spent some time in fellowship. The love we have developed for one another, within the team and within the community, never ceases to amaze me.
Please pray for our ministry at the Bridge of Hope Kids Camp. We will be hanging out with 45 kids and will need lots of energy and enthusiasm.
VIDEOS FROM WEEK 1:
DAY 6: Thursday was an incredibly full day, which is something we were all thankful for. It is always neat to have days just full of opportunities. The morning consisted of going to a high school with a reputation of being full of troubled teens or teens that ended up there due to doing poorly elsewhere. The students we talked to were
far more interested in getting to know us than I had anticipated. I think we all expected for them to be “rough around the edges,” but at the end of the day, whatever they seem to be, they are all simply people, just as relational as the rest of us. Worship songs were sung, “King of Hearts” was performed, and Tucker shared his testimony with the students in a way that was conversational and relatable. After performing there, the team headed back to our work sight to finish the house we had started earlier this week. Lots of priming, painting, and sweating took place as well as the unexpected opportunity to meet and speak with the single mother who owned the house we were working on. In the midst of that work, three of the guys left early to dig a trench most diligently at the Heerah’s house. Naturally, their work ended with a massive mud fight that could not have been more fun. The team spent the rest of the afternoon in the word and preparing for the evening we were about to spend in Vega, a more rural area that is about twenty minutes away from the Heerah’s house. Once there, we broke up into groups and walked through the area meeting locals, attempting to stay away from stray dogs, and inviting the people we met to our upcoming street performance. Our street presentation in Vega was worlds different from our presentation in Sangre Grande, but we saw God at work nonetheless. Our crowd was in no way enormous, but they were certainly a crowd in need. After some worship “In the Light”
was again performed (giving me goose bumps, as always), Emmy Weeks shared her testimony, and Ronnie Heerah shared his testimony and the gospel. The response was overall very positive and we all enjoyed
spending the rest of the evening dining with the locals in Vega getting to know them, sharing with them, and never ceasing to pray for them.
DAY 7: Today was a day that we have long been anticipating. We have been advertising an upcoming free car wash to the locals since we arrived here and finally, today was the day. Every person had their job, be it washing, waxing, rinsing, or absurdly jumping and screaming “free car wash” to cars that passed by. All morning we worked with strange flows of one or two cars at a time or tons all at once. The single commonality between every person we saw, whether or not they agreed to get their car washed, was that none understood why anyone would give up their time to serve the community with no strings attached. Most did not understood why some American kids would give up their summer to serve. God truly seemed to make an impression on the people we came across. After the car wash we had a late lunch of…wait for it… pizza! Granted, pizza here is certainly different from back in the states, but either way it was pretty great to have a taste of America again. We spent our evening at Hope Community Church running an outreach that we called the “Minute to Win it Youth Rally.” It was fun to see a mixture of new and old faces showing up knowing nothing of what the night would hold. We started off the night by splitting into groups led by each of the RBC team members, who each shared a condensed version of our testimonies as well as attempted to get to know the Trinidadians on at least a basic level. Daniel Shull emceedthe evening, keeping the event full of fun and excitement by running the games and interacting with the Trinidadians. They all adore him. For the first time the skit “Silence” was performed, and Joshua Johnstone shared the gospel. I am thrilled to write to you that five hands were raised in indication of accepting Christ when Bob ended the event in prayer. And just like anything in Trinidad, the evening ended in “Trini” time. We had no real schedule for the end of the evening, so we all just “limed” (hung out) playing games and conversing with everyone we could. It was, most certainly, a successful event that was full of truth and love.
Please continue to pray that we help represent the church in this area and ultimately our God in ways that encourage the community.
(by Hope and Ashley)
DAY 5: The beautiful thing about being a part of the kingdom of God is that any risk we take is not really a risk at all. No matter what the outcome of our actions, as long as we are following His will, God is in control no matter what. It was a blessing and a privilege to be a part of the risk and the will of Christ on this day. We started off the day with every intention of returning to our work project, but God clearly had different plans for us considering He sent heavy rains upon us all morning. We took the time he gave us to dig deep into his word and explore the internal fruit that comes from within a missions team; a fruit that is rarely the cause of a mission trip but its outcome is just as vital as any outward work being done.
After some great Bible time, all the while waiting to see what the rain would do, a plan B was created. The weather lightened up enough to be outside but was still too damp to do the painting we had originally hoped to do, thus we went into Sangre Grande with gospel-oriented surveys and spent most of the afternoon sharing with locals about the life-altering love of Christ. It is difficult to sum up an afternoon like that, because every individual had such a different experience, but I can tell you that despite the differences between our conversations, Christ was a clear part of every one of them. It does not cease to amaze me the way that the culture here allows us to openly evangelize in a way that would never be so well-accepted back in the states.
After lunch and more surveys the team got ready for an evening of hard-core evangelism. A friend of the Heerah’s graciously allowed our team to put on a program in front of their store in Sangre Grande so that we could share the gospel to the streets of Trinidad. Crowds gathered from across the street in front of stores, in front of our space on the side walk, and packed around the area that we performed, all curious to see what the crazy Americans in matching yellow shirts were going to do.
The crowds were not massive, but they were consistent and we considered ourselves blessed to have any listening ears at all. For the first segment of our program the team sang two worships songs together, Hope Ruffner shared her testimony, and the skit “Decision Time” was performed.
After about a half hour of talking to the listeners on the street, getting responses, and handing out tracts, we started all over again. This time the team sang two different worships songs; John Shull shared his testimony (beautifully, I may add), and the skit “King of Hearts” was performed. An eloquent, but ultimately welcoming and clear presentation of the gospel by Ronnie Heerah followed both segments.
Naturally, we did hit some bumps in the road, but every one of them was extraordinarily handled. For example, when drunk and mentally unwell men showed up hoping to become best buds with some of us, the men on our team (leaders and students) swung into super-protection mode making sure that every person felt completely safe the entire evening. One drunken man yelled that he was “vexed” at one of our college leaders because he would not allow the man to marry one of our team members. It was honestly hilarious and handled in a way that allowed us to laugh rather than feel uncomfortable or unsafe. I could not, and I think I speak well for all of the girls here, ask for a better group of guys to protect us and work beside us.
Our time on the streets today was really incredible. We saw a huge interest and spoke some real truth to many people we had never met and may never see again. God was in every detail, every word, and every moment calming and guiding hearts. We left Sangre Grande with joy in our hearts and a thirst to seek more opportunities to share in the same way that we had this evening. We have tasted and we have seen that God is good.
DAY 3: We started off the day as a team walking through the streets of Sangre Grande exploring the culture, the stores, and the over all feel of the town in which we soon hoped to connect with. In our groups we attempted to speak to the people we saw, understand the things around us, and connect with each other.
It is always a blessing to be able to multi task the way that we do here by, at it simplest, fellowshipping and worshipping while we complete the tasks at hand. Our pale skin has been a major give away these few days. Everywhere we go we get looks but of course we have loved it and have taken that attention as an opportunity to connect with and relate to the locals.
After our prayer walk we ate a delicious home cooked meal at the Heerahs house and soon changed into our swimwear. We spent a few hours on a local beach and had a grand old time. I have been personally so encouraged by the way that in whatever we do, we do it as a team. We played Marco-Polo the majority of our time there and I so appreciated the participation of the entire team as well as some new friends we made that day.
After some major fun and fellowship we began an evening of sharing in the community. Our American team split up into groups of three or four including some extraordinary Trinidadian help. We went our separate ways within nearby neighborhoods and went house to house asking locals questions from a survey with the intention of not only having a greater understanding of the needs around us, but also to interest people in Hope Community Church and ultimately the gospel. These kinds of surveys were very different from what most of us were used to simply because the Trinidadians here typically enjoy sharing with us and getting to know us, whereas in the states most of us are used to being brushed off.
Talking to strangers with thick accents and strong opinions was certainly enough to stretch most of us, but at the end of the day we all took joy in what God had done in us and through us. God gave us the chance to be bold and to lead for the sake of the gospel, for which we praise Him. We ended our day sharing about our experiences sharing at a local Chinese restaurant after which we ended our night exhausted and ready for some sleep.
Please pray for the families we talked to: that our conversations would encourage them to seek out the one true God. Ronnie was so encouraged to see us talking to the neighbors of the church. We really are hoping to be an encouragement to the church and the community.
DAY 4: Tuesday morning we woke up earlier than days past, frantically getting ready for the busy day ahead of us. Skits were being practiced, things were getting packed, and much prayer was taking place as we headed off for Guaicu Presbyterian Elementary School, where we were given the opportunity to put on a program for the children attending there.
Ryan Swisher passionately led some worship for the kids, followed by Ronnie to sang children’s songs including Jesus is a Winner, Man, a personal favorite of mine. We performed King of Hearts and maybe it was just me, but I believe that we all felt the spirit of God strongly in that room as every character and idea was depicted. The children laugh, gasped, and erupted in applause (most graciously, I may add) as we performed and later explained what the skit meant and how God had reached us personally just as he reached the characters in the skit.
Considering the room was enormous and packed tight with various aged children, the attention overall was focused in on us and our message for them. After performing the team was given some time to get to know the kids and simply show them the love Jesus would have us show. Many kids begged for autographs, compared us to Disney characters, and asked if our eyes were real. We could not help but laugh at the silly things they said to us but when we left something in our hearts stirred. We barely knew these kids, but each of us was sincerely sad to go.
After our time at the school we headed out to a work project where a house was being built for a single mother who Ronnie was connected with. I doubt any one of us had ever sweat that much in our entire lives. Every team member worked like crazy digging trenches and priming walls in the heat. It was encouraging to see the progress of our labor as time went on. Our work there is not yet finished, but we plan to return tomorrow to finish painting what was primed today and help assemble the roof for the house. After eating some traditional Trinidadian roti for lunch, we hoped to work even longer on the house, but frequent rain showers prevented us from being able to do any real work, so we took that as God calling us elsewhere. We had some team time back at the house followed by individual and group Quiet Times. Although it rained off and on all evening, nothing could stop us from doing more surveys! Because it was our second time around, conversations seem to run smoothly and go further than they had the day before, and for that we are thankful.
We ended the day with perhaps the most fun activities in the world: eating food and singing karaoke! The restaurant we ate at is called Sound Bites Caf and is owned by a Christian family, who we thoroughly enjoyed spending the evening with. The food was delicious and the company could not have been better. We were encouraged to sit by team members we knew the least and from that grew some real friendships, or rather deepened the friendships that we have already formed. Karaoke also brought us closer together. Anyone willing to put themselves out there for the sake of bonding and fun is worthy of respect. The evening could not have gone better. We rode back to our living areas singing songs with contentment in our hearts; ready for whatever God will have for us tomorrow.
Please pray for our Street meeting tonight! We will be sharing our package and witnessing to those passing on the street from a small parking lot. Pray that Gods message is communicated clearly and that He will be working on hearts to the benefit of His kingdom.
Below is a post of our first two days. There are more pictures on yesterday’s post and attached to this post are two videos…enjoy!
Our day of travel was indeed a long one! The team piled into Dulles Airport around 4am half-asleep, but one hundred percent eager to begin our adventure ahead of us. We praise God for a day of nothing but safe travels and blessings. Not a single piece of luggage was lost as we flew from Dulles to Miami and then to Trinidad.
How incredible is it that we serve a God who not only got us where we needed to go, but He got us their quickly, safely, and with everything we could hope to bring. I must say it has been neat to see God’s fingerprints so clearly marked over every individual that makes this team a team. It is so obvious to us all that God chose this team (every member included) for His great purpose and we have been able to accurately rejoice in that as we have begun to work alongside each other and get to know each other. Every plane ride was taken as an opportunity to get to know each other on a deeper level as well as sharing with other passengers about our mission ahead and our great desire to see God work in us.
We landed in Trinidad around 1:30pm and were soon greeted by a joyful and welcoming Ronnie Heerah. We spent the remainder of the evening moving in to our living spaces for the next two weeks. While the guys brought their things to Hope Community Church (an excellent name for a church, by the way) the girls moved into the home of the gracious and hospitable Heerah’s. (The family includes two boys and a girl under 14.)
The team then joined up for a get-together at Hope Community Church to meet some of the people we will be walking alongside this trip as well as eat some fantastic Trini food for dinner. It has been an honor spending time with everyone we have met thus far. Hope Community Church is not flashy or edgy, but its members are filled with more love, life, and joy than I can even describe to you accurately with mere words. Their love has overwhelmed the hearts of this team and not a single member left the church last night without excitement in their souls.
One incident in particular reminded us of God’s provision: After the Maxi Taxi (our daily transportation in a bus/van) dropped everyone off at their locations, we realized that there was some key items left behind in the vehicle. In the process of retrieving it, we got to meet the closest neighbor to the church and show an interest in her family’s lives (her daughter is miraculous alive after having spinal bifida for years. The doctors say she should have died when she was 5… she is now 14!) The family is not connected to the church but we are hoping this interaction, along with others will show her God’s love and the love of the church she lives next to.
The team started its day off today heading back to Hope Community Church for a bit of “Trini Culture Training.” As a group we listened to a well-put together presentation by about the history and culture of Trinidad so that we may be able to reach out to the community in a relevant way. Ronnie spoke to us briefly about the missions statement of the church and spoke profound truth into the meaning of God’s hope, leaving us encouraged and excited about beginning God’s good work here. We went over, in detail, our plan for the next two weeks so as to be prepared for everything that is coming our way. We are learning to be flexible and roll with the punches, because the Trinidad culture is not a rushed or planned one in the way ours is in the states.
Our new favorite phrase is “Trini Time.” For example “you can have a five minute break…Trini Time,” which meant that fifteen minutes later our break ended. After discussing our game plan, the team set up the church for a discipleship time and regular church service that happen Sunday evenings. We ate lunch together as a body of Christ and continued to use our time wisely by practicing skits, worship songs, and taking the time to encourage and exhort one another whenever there is down time. Finally we ended our time at the church today by having a quiet time together as a team and fellowshipping in all that God shared with us. After a nice refreshing couple hours back in our respective “homes” we arrived at the church for the services. We did one of our skits and sang a couple of our songs. Allison shared her testimony and Bob gave a message. Eight of us had chances to help with childcare. The guys also got to build friendships with some younger guys that have been checking out the church. We had a great dinner and fellowship “liming” with the Trinis from HCC.
Another area we hope to see God working is in our driver’s dad’s life. His dad once said he would never step foot inside a church. God has definitely been softening his heart. He is going to take on the transportation of us with his son and has been in the church since we got here! Pray that he continues to be receptive to God’s work.
(by Hope and Ashley)
We made it to Trinidad safe and sound and all of our luggage made it too!! Thank you for your prayers…we really appreciate them!! We are exhausted after a long day of travel but will hopefully post more fully tomorrow morning. We are definitely not in Kansas anymore but we are excited for what God has planned for us during these next two weeks!