OG Mission Trip 2015 to San Antonio, Texas, March 21-28, 2015

by Cindy Ziegler

Some of you may remember that Skip Masback used to sign his letters “with you on the journey”.  I always thought that was so reassuring – a sort of catch phrase that you don’t have to go it alone.  I had to put those words to the test 10 years ago when I was grieving the sudden passing of my dad and the unfortunate and sad unraveling of my marriage.  What did Skip mean by “with you on the journey”?  I knocked on the door of his office and he invited me in.  Such a busy man but he had time to sit down with me and listen.  He made me a cup of tea and comforted me with the words of Jeremiah 29:11 “For surely I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

He then told me I had two choices, I could let this period of my life define me or I could see it as a new beginning filled with wondrous lessons and possibilities along the way.  I would have to be brave but I didn’t have to do it by myself.

What does this have to do with an OG mission trip to San Antonio you might ask? For me – everything, because it was a beautiful piece of my healing on this journey.  Both of my children had gone on every YG mission trip they could.  They came home with amazing stories and friendships that will last a lifetime.  I thought – someday  – I want to do that.

The timing had never been right for me until this year – so I said yes and I’m so glad I did.  At first I was nervous – most of the people on the trip had done this before.  The most I had ever done was maybe hammer a nail or paint a bedroom but everyone was so encouraging and by the end of the week, I was hanging sheetrock and up on scaffolding.  I learned to use a nail gun and an electric drill but never got over my fear of the circular saw – maybe next year.  I met the most amazing group of people from this church and was privileged to live and work with them for a week.  Chris Delmar had told me that I would feel transformed and she was 100% right.

Our team was assigned to help Frankie, a paraplegic in his mid-40’s that needed help converting his home to make it more handicapped accessible.  We built him a closet and widened his doors, put on a new French door to his back yard and Fred – our contractor – moved his entire heating unit to give him more room.

What we didn’t know on our first day there was that Frankie’s father had just passed away the week before.  He was very quiet and stayed outside and kind of to himself.  On the second day, he opened up to all of us.  He came in the house and talked to us and we ate our lunches together and prayed with him.  He told us that at first he wasn’t sure he had wanted us to come this week because he had just lost his dad and the funeral was in a couple of days.  He told us how it had turned out to be such a comfort to him to have us there that week.  He didn’t have to be alone.  Frankie was transforming us and showing us that through some simple acts of kindness and work we were helping him through a tough time.  We were also watching him transform.  At the final worship service on the last night, Frankie pushed his wheelchair to the front of the church.  He thanked us, but most of all, he thanked God and talked about how his life had changed that week.

I don’t think any of us on that team will forget the experience of working with Frankie and how much he taught us about resiliency and faith.

What I didn’t tell you at the beginning of this reflection is that after my father passed away, a bright red cardinal used to appear in my yard.  In my own way, I kind of thought it was my dad checking in with me.  I still see him in my yard from time to time.  Driving up to the work site on that first day of work in San Antonio, when Kelly Morrissey and I drove up to the job sight, I saw a bright red cardinal perched in the tree.  What a sweet surprise and gentle reminder that we’re all on this journey together.

by Neil Swanson

When Marianna asked me if I would say a few words in OG Reflections I willingly said “yes”. Not because I relish standing in front of a packed church on such a special day—I can assure you I do not.  But I did agree to speak because of my wonderful personal experience on this OG trip to San Antonio and this lets me share it with you.

I have been on several OG trips, and each time I feel the same way at the end.  I am happy and thankful               that I participated. I am spiritually enriched, I feel the Lord was with us the entire time—using  us—using me, and I am closer to my fellow OGers than I was at the beginning of the week. For some it is a reconnection, for others a newer and closer relationship. And you get so much more back when helping others.

We are a community of faith. We may be in different places in our faith journeys, but as a community we lift each other up, we support each other. The feeling of community was very evident on previous OG Mission Trips, and San Antonio was no different for me.

Jesus wants us to love others, to serve others, to help those less fortunate, and to be his disciples. For me personally OG trips bring it all together.

In San Antonio I loved the fellowship, the deepening friendships, the laughter, the community feeling and being part of a mission outreach project to help people in need.  Our group of 25, including contractors Jimmy, Fred, and Sarah, connected with Blueprint Ministries—a non-profit  organization in urban San Antonio.  Blueprint’s mission is to provide servant leadership training for youth and adults, restoring homes for the elderly, the disabled, and the low income residents who cannot afford to make the repairs on their own. Groups come in from all over the country and Blueprint puts them to work.

San Antonio, with a population of 1.4 million, has the largest percentage of substandard housing for a major city in the U.S.  Our group was split into 3 teams with 3 projects:  (1) a home with a grandmother on dialysis; (2) a home of a paraplegic; and (3) a home occupied by a City Life Director of Youth For Christ who works with high school and middle school kids in the neighborhood. He is helping them stay on “the right path” and helping them to find Jesus. It is this house that I worked on with team Alamo.

Pepe Fuentes lives in an 85 year old home purchased by Youth For Christ that needs a lot of work. Nearby Lanier High School has a dropout rate of 60%. There is a daycare center at the high school because of so many teen pregnancies. Pepe wants the house to be a safe haven for the kids and a place to have bible study. His enthusiasm and his joy is contagious. He worked with us each day in putting up sheetrock, blowing insulation into the walls, and replacing a rotten wrap around front porch.  Pepe’s  father Candy also worked with us.

We got a lot done but there is much more to do, and other groups coming in to serve with Blueprint will pick up where we left off.  Pepe and Candy were very pleased—there were tears in their eyes of joy. Heartfelt appreciation and love filled the room.

Anyone who can hold a ladder, hold a measuring tape, hold a paint brush or a broom, or can put things in a pile is qualified to go on an OG trip. You don’t have to have special talents or construction skills. We are so blessed to have Jimmy Chavalier as a contractor for so many of the YG and OG trips. He was with us in San Antonio. He is patient with us, he “goes with the flow” and does not fret if something needs to be redone.

In closing, I wanted to mention we have a guardian angel tradition on the OG trips.  Everyone from their respective team draws a name out of a hat early in the week, selecting the person they will secretly keep an eye on as their guardian angel. The intent is to discreetly get to know their angel better, be supportive and attentive, and then say something to their angel at the end of the week revealing their guardian angel identity.

I was guardian angel for someone I didn’t know very well at all—someone on their first OG Mission Trip. It was Stephanie—a wonderful and caring person and a hard worker too. And Jimmy was my guardian angel. As we worked and talked I learned to appreciate him even more as a person. He also kept me from injuring myself with a nail gun or saw.

As our  YGers frequently say at the end of their mission reflections “long live YG”.  I say here “long live OG”.

Thank you.