Last weekend, my 14-year old Man-Child and twelve other teenagers traveled with a group of adults to Joplin, MO for a mission trip. Operation Bunk Bed is what I’ve taken to calling it. Their mission: help out at a homeless shelter so that the shelter can, in turn, help local adults on a larger scale by providing more services and lodging.
They arrived on Friday night. The group stayed at Sky Ranch Cave Springs. If you’re unfamiliar with Sky Ranch, it’s this really cool place that not only functions as a retreat but has also begun providing special lodging and meal rates for groups who come to the area to serve. This was a mission they started after the 2011 Joplin tornado. If you’d like to read more about Sky Ranch, click here. Of course, to a group of teenagers, the coolest thing there was that they had a zipline. They also had a ping-pong table which apparently occupied a good two hours of Man-Child’s evening. Boys.
On Saturday, they spent all day helping out at the shelter. Because of its small size, they have only been able to provide lodging for men up to this point. However they are currently adding on and will soon be able to accommodate women as well. This is where the teenagers came in. They were quickly put to work unloading trucks, rearranging beds and furniture, and moving in new bunk beds. In the near future, the shelter will be able to provide nightly lodging for 40 men and 40 women.
On Sundays, the shelter provides breakfast and then holds a church service. According to my hearty eating son, breakfast was good and plentiful. I figure anytime a teenage boy describes his job as “scooping gravy”, you are most definitely speaking his language when it comes to portion size. The service was a new experience for M-C. In his words, “it was the most outspoken church I’ve ever been to!” He was so impressed with one of the gentlemen that stood up to speak. He said, “Mom, Lonnie Bones was one of the most well spoken men I’ve ever heard and funny, too. He just stepped up there and spoke without preparing and it was amazing!” It really made M-C think about what brings people to a place in their lives where things seem to go so far off course. I think listening to Lonnie Bones speak really caused him to have a different impression of what “homeless” looks and acts like.
It was a really good experience for him. He’s come back with a desire to help others and find new ways to serve. It’s pretty amazing as a parent when you can watch your child mature right before your eyes and catch a small glimpse of the man they’re becoming.