The morning fog stretched below me as I looked out across the hills. When they had first assigned us this mountaintop cabin, it seemed a struggle to climb up to the cabin from the main camp area. My heart raced and my breath came up short as I climbed up the gravel path switching back on the trail in order to cut the steepness down, but as I sit here on the porch of the Eagle’s Nest cabin, I am grateful for the solitude of this place. This part of Appalachia is characterized by low mountains with winding roads that often narrow as they stretch into the hollers. In fact, they tell us that the people who keep residence in this part of the state, measure distances by the number of bends in the road. This morning, as with many mornings, the fog has settled into the hollers and the sun is hidden behind the sprawling hills. It makes a glowing entrance as it rises into view. It reminds me of a crown that royalty would wear as the tall spires of golden and pinkish hues emerge above the mountains, stretching high into the morning sky above, as if reaching for the heavenly host that surely is gazing down and loving this place. I can hear the birds chirping out their morning song and a squirrel skitters past me, saluting with a twitch of his tail.
Spending time in prayer and reflection is an integral part of my life and sitting here on the porch of this ‘Eagle’s Nest’ cabin high above the mission camp was awe inspiring and deeply moving to me. For the last twenty years, this mission has been a haven for my soul and these mountains have found a way into my heart that is unexplainable. There is something very special here, a spirit that is undeniable, uplifting and refueling. In many ways, coming here has been like plugging my spiritual cord back into the universe in order to recharge my battery. My mind runs over the fears and trepidation that accompanied me that first year that I came to this work camp, but there was something sacred in this place that beckoned me back and back and back…. a place that rejuvenated a hurried soul in a way that couldn’t be explained, but became a necessary part of my spiritual life.
As the sounds of girls getting ready for the day came spilling out of the cabin and the smell of bacon wafted from the dining hall below… my mind wandered back in time… and in my thoughts I wondered…“how did I get … here?”
The call to mission is answering God’s call through fear and
trepidation and overzealous bouts of helper high.
How does a person decide to serve the Lord? What does it mean to serve? I can remember times, as a child, thinking that it would be difficult to do God’s mission because He would be calling me to go out into the world. For some reason (please bear with me, I was only 10 years old), I always thought that that meant that I had to go to Africa and I wasn’t sure if that was possible for me. At that time, Africa was referred to as ‘the dark continent’ and all I knew was what I saw in magazines and it looked like a treacherous and dangerous landscape with no homes that were familiar to my mind and there were spears and killing implements to defend against strong and exotic animals. I wasn’t sure I would be strong enough or brave enough and I was fearful. I knew that God would help me, but I feared that he would ‘ask’ me to go there. So, I wanted to steer clear of actually accepting his call to mission, which was, in my mind, synonymous with going to Africa.
As I matured, it became evident that there were many ways to serve the Lord and that he uses us in the capacity in which we can best serve his mission of expressing his love and light in this world. Consequently, at this point in my life, I would go anywhere he called.
“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12
Several years ago, we were riding to Kentucky and the girls were talking in the back of the van. They were relating different experiences they had participated in on the trip. Several of them had been on multiple trips. Lindsay mentioned that she had written an essay for one of her classes and she shared that essay with me. I was so touched by her words. She has submitted the essay as her Red Bird Remembrance. Please take a moment to read her reflections. She paints a true picture of the Red Bird experience.
Lindsay’s Red Bird Mission Trip Remembrance
Truth and Beauty
One particular morning in July, as I was lying atop a crude, wooden bunk, I felt a soft poke and heard the words, “Lindsay! Wake up. It’s almost time for breakfast.”
The truth is, I had awoken a few moments earlier, at the sound of feet plodding against the bare cabin ground. Immediately, I felt perspiration dewing on my upper lip and on my forehead.
I crawled down the rickety wooden ladder and dressed quickly. I grabbed my dirty yellow work gloves and sunscreen off the open bunk and left the cabin with my friends.
At the opening of the door, a whoosh of cool, moist air surrounded me. As far as my eye could see, tree-covered mountains surrounded the small camp I was in, like a lush embrace. Immediately the aroma of warm pancakes and bacon filled my nose. After racing through breakfast, our group crowded into three large vans, and about a half hour later, we heard the gravel crunching underneath the tires as we pulled into the driveway for the last time.
I was surprised at the amount of energy that everyone still had as we all raced up the hill. Five straight days of labor in the hot merciless sun had stripped us of our physical strength, but the happiness of a job well done and a feeling of extending hope continued to push us on. A man, half bald and wide-eyed stood in the door, smiling as he saw we had returned. We exchanged hellos, as we had every morning, and began the work for this day, the last day.
I will never forget the wide, toothy grin the man made when, as we were cleaning his kitchen, we began to sing Christian songs. He even requested a few that his mother, now in the hospital and severely ill, loved. As we finished our work on the inside of his home, we made our way outside to build a ramp, so that when his mother eventually came home, she would be able to roll herself up to the porch, and then into the house. A few girls painted a sign reading, “Home is where the heart is…”, and hung it on the front porch siding.
The sun began to set as we finished the last boards of the ramp. We took a group picture with everyone standing atop our proud achievement, and began cleaning up the wood and saws, nails and hammers. At last, we all formed a circle of prayer, praying for his mother, for him, for these things that we had done, and prayed for the future.
As I heard our group leader speaking these quiet, gentle words, I looked over at the man. His round eyes were wide open, tears flowing freely. Sobs silently made his body quake as he gripped hands with her. As she said ‘Amen’ and opened her eyes, he let out a small sob and closed his eyes tight. She wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tightly. Neither spoke a single word. They didn’t have to.
As we returned back to camp and left the following morning, I still could not forget the man and his tears. He was so thankful, so grateful and happy…. It touched me deep down in my soul.
Whenever I think of something I wish I had, or something that didn’t work out as planned, I always think of the man who lived in the hills of Kentucky with barely anything… and when he was given help, he was so incredibly grateful that he cried, with no words to be said. I hold that as something eternally true, to be thankful for everything you have. And if you have yourself to give, love to spare, and hope to share, then do so with a happy mind and a joyous heart.