Last month, 5 of our teenagers and 4 adults went to Lutheran Island Camp, in Henning, Minnesota. Henning is about 560 miles away from Palatine. The group of nine went up to Lutheran Island Camp to be a part of the Christ Serve Ranch weekend. One thing I have learned on mission trips is that you never quite know what you are getting yourself into. This year was no different, because I had no clue what we would be asked to do. After our ten-hour drive and dinner at the camp, the camp staff informed us of the various jobs that were available. The had a few different projects to split amongst our group and a group from Wisconsin and another group from Ohio. The projects ranged from staining, moving a gazebo, using a wood chipper and log splitter on trees that had been cut down. None of those of those excited our adult leaders too much, that is why we choose to build a split rail fence. We thought that we had the right size group for the job and that we would be able to see what we accomplished during the week.
I don’t know what the girls initially thought when we shared with them the project we would be spending the week doing, but by the end I think they were pleased with our decision. Monday was the hardest day of the week regarding the work. We had to do a lot of prep work before we could start building the fence. That began with taking down the old barbed wire fence that was in the way. The fencing was divided into two parts by a pathway to get around the near 250 acres of land that Lutheran Island Camp purchased to become Christ Ranch. We started off on the one side of the path of cutting the barbed wire down and rolling it up to make it easy to pick-up later in the day. There was probably close to 1,000 feet of fencing that needed to be cut down and there were three strands of barbed wire the whole way. The other side wasn’t as bad as there was only about 600 feet of fencing with two strands. Taking care of that took up a good portion of Monday. The rest of the day we worked at trimming the trees in the way and cutting the tall grass. Most of the girls all learned how to use a zero-turn lawn mower.
The rest of the work was spent digging holes and putting posts in the ground and the fences rails in-between the posts. Thankfully, the camp had a tractor with an auger we could attach to the front of, so we could dig the holes much quicker. On Wednesday morning, we didn’t have the tractor, so we recruited two teenage boys from Ohio to join our group. They dug two holes before the tractor came back. On Thursday afternoon, we finished the fence on the shorter side. In the end, we put up 570 feet of a split rail fence. I was so proud of the hard work that the girls did this entire week. There were defintiely pushed out of their comfort zone, but they learned a lot of various skills they probably never dreamed of. One thing that sticks out to me is that the last day or so, we were a fine-tuned machine. The girls knew right away if the rails weren’t going to fit in the posts and they would call for Warren to trim down the rails so they could fit in the posts. I don’t know if they would have been able to do that on Monday, but they learned. That is one thing that I treasure about mission trips is what the participates learn during the week and how they grow. It was a blessing to be a part of this trip.
It wasn’t all hard work on the island. We had some fun as well. On Tuesday evening, we took a 90-minute road trip to Fargo, North Dakota. We enjoyed a nice dinner in downtown Fargo. We also, went to the number 1 tourist spot in all of Fargo, “The Visitor’s Center.” It was there that we enjoyed seeing Fargo’s Walk of Fame and some fun throwing the Frisbee around. During our free time in the dining hall before dinner we played some highly competitive card games, with the game “31” being the most popular. One evening we had a spirited game of 9 Square in the Air. All of us enjoyed our time with that. You might have to ask the girls about hunting season as we played that game. Most of the afternoon the girls would enjoy going to the lake and playing there. They also took advantage of the beautiful weather and canoed/kayaked around the island.
Of course, the week wouldn’t be complete without a time for spiritual growth. The camp staff did a great job in leading devotions each evening. There was a time set aside for Bible Study for just the groups that were taking part of the mission trips. We learned about the echo that we leave behind us. The staff helped us look at various characters in the Bible and how they left echoes in various ways. And a little bit later in the evening we would have camp wide Bible Study time along with singing God’s praises in various songs of praise. As a group, every day we would share our highs and lows for the day, which was always fun to see what each person would say. To me, one of the best parts of the trip took place on the last evening. They had the leaders of the groups meet individually with each youth and pray with them. Since our group was smaller, I met with each of the youth, talked with them, and prayed with them. It was a great experience.
With this mission trip in the books, it’s time to look forward to next year’s mission trip. The goal is to get a group and go to the Bronx in New York. The plan right now, is to partner with a former seminary classmate of mine, Pastor Matthew Gonzalez and do work in the community through his church, Trinity Lutheran in the Bronx. We are still discussing what type of work we will be doing there, but I’m excited to see what God has in store. The tentative dates for this trip are July 22-28, 2018. If you have any questions about the summer 2018 mission trip, just ask me and I’ll be glad to answer.