Stories from Africa

“To say that our trip was whirlwind is an understatement. We visited three dioceses in Tanzania and one in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We were in three cities, at least a dozen villages. We saw three cathedrals, 13 churches, and six schools. We took eight different plane rides and countless car rides. And we were warmly welcomed wherever we went,” explained Weezie Blanchard during her Sunday, July 2 sermon. There are so many stories and reflections to be heard about Weezie and Buck’s trip to Africa this past June. Join them for some wine, cheese, and spectacular storytelling. Who knows where the Spirit may call St. Mary’s in the wake of this mission?

Something Beyond Yourself

A Weekly Reflection, Sunday, August 6, 2017

By: Matt Rawls

There is something about a mission trip that changes you. This is true regardless of where, how long, or with whom you go. Whatever the scenario, you return to life slightly different than you left it.

There are many reasons for this. You invariably squeeze a large amount of activity into a short span of time. When you know that your time is limited, you try to maximize every minute of it. You inevitably spend a lot time in close quarters with other people which forces even the most extroverted of us outside our normal comfort zones. Finally, you get tired, which means you must work harder at being kind, patient, and loving.

Looking at that list of things, you may be tempted to conclude that mission trips are beneficial because they are just plain difficult. That conclusion isn’t far from the truth.

But then you discover the surprise plot twist. Somehow in the difficulty you find joy. In your weakness, you find strength. In the physical discomfort, you find your soul comforted. You begin to discover why mission trips leave such an indelible imprint on your life. It’s because what you’re doing is something beyond yourself.

We all regularly do things for other people. Whether it’s volunteering with an organization or just helping out around the house. A mission trip is a service trip, but it is a service with a spiritual purpose. It puts you in a position to realize that in serving you are worshiping God and bringing God’s light and love to the world around you.

I had the privilege to participate in two mission trips this summer. I went to the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota with Ashley Cameron, Currie Costen, Jack Deutsch, Ellieblue Gurkin, Addison Hagan, Harrison Holmes, Andy Howlett, Maddy Miller, Carter Payne, Rylan Pearsall, and Annie Stephens. Then I went to Lincoln County, WV with Adam Bailey, Zane Gurkin, Tyler Hagan, Robert Holmes, Jed Johnson, Ethan Snow, and Jack Snow.

Both of those trips and the people on them are now forever a part of me. They have helped shape me, change me, and teach me about God. And I am forever grateful.

Transformed in Ecuador

A Weekly Reflection, Sunday, July 23, 2017

By: Chris Retrievi

Years ago, a member of my staff participated in a mission trip to Botswana. I admired the way he fully embraced the time and effort to go half way around the world to help others. However, I never thought I had the time to participate in a similar trip. Ultimately, I never had the faith to act on my good intentions.

Then, I learned about St. Mary’s vision trip to Quito, Ecuador. For me, it was like standing on the edge of the high diving board, way out of my comfort zone, and finally jumping off!
The week in Quito stretched me emotionally and spiritually. We visited several different mission sites with an organization called Education Equals Hope (E=H), which works to lift Ecuadorians out of poverty by removing barriers to education through scholarships.

At each site, we split into small groups to meet the families of the students in “home visits”. This is where I was impacted the most. The physical poverty was shocking. Families of four to eight people living in one or two room structures. There was graffiti and barbed wire everywhere. We were indeed in another culture.

At each home we learned that while these people lived in what we consider extreme poverty, they want the same things that parents in Richmond want for their children – an education and the chance to improve their lives. I learned there is physical, emotional, and spiritual poverty. While the physical poverty is clearly evident in Quito, the strength of conviction and the residents’ spirituality is not in question.

So, where does that leave me? When Buck Blanchard preached about missions at St. Mary’s, he said that anyone that has taken a mission trip has been transformed. While I can’t quite put my finger on it, I am more spiritually aware and more culturally aware of my need to be involved.

St. Mary’s is putting together a team to return to Quito in November. I expect to be part of it and I invite you to join me. Please don’t hesitate to ask me anything about our trip or Education Equals Hope. I may not have all the answers, but I guarantee that you will be strengthened spiritually and emotionally. You will be transformed!