On Saturday I’ll be traveling with our student ministry to New Orleans for a week of mission work. We’ll be working with a small urban church to conduct day-long Bible clubs for kids in one of the most impoverished areas of the city. This church and the neighborhood around it was completely submerged during Hurricane Katrina – they lost everything! It is one of the few churches still functioning in the area and they work really hard to reach people for Christ on a shoestring budget. It is a honor to be partnering with them for the cause of Christ, but it’s an honor that apparently is a threat to satan.
Up until 3 weeks ago we were going to be working with a different mission organization in a different area of New Orleans. Unfortunately that organization is pretty disorganized and we were informed that they had overbooked their sleeping quarters. They told us that we would not be able to bring our entire team. Since our teens had worked hard doing local labor jobs (they removed and laid sod for a housing company) in order to afford the mission trip, leaving some at home was not an option. In the end we cancelled with that mission organization with them promising to refund the initial $750 deposit we sent them. To date we have not received that money and our communication to them is going unanswered.
A week ago we found out that the 12-passenger van we had rented couldn’t be taken out of the state. It is nowhere on the company’s website and they don’t tell you that until they send you the contract a few days before departure. Calls to other van companies either put the price of rental WAY out of our budget or had so many restrictions that we could not use them for ministry. Calls to area churches were met with a resounding “no” we could not use their vans because of “liability issues” – even though our insurance company would underwrite everything.
Over the weekend both of Impact! Church’s debit cards were hacked and thus suspended by the bank. Luckily the online thieves did not get much money out of the account before the bank discovered the breach. The biggest headache is trying to work through the recovery process and have new cards issued before the trip. In the 21 Century you cannot do anything travel-wise without a debit/credit card to use.
Finally we were going to stop Saturday night at a hotel in Pensacola to break up the trip. The hotel called this morning to tell us that they overbooked because of a company retreat at their hotel and that the corporation would need every room. We have been bumped.
So here is what we are doing…
1. We are praying almost hourly that the Lord will bless the trip, people will come to Christ, satan will get a black eye and God will get the glory.
2. We have given up on seeing the $750 deposit from the other mission organization and now consider it a gift from some hard working Florida teens to be used to reach people in New Orleans for Christ. We have learned over the years that if it’s God’s will it’s God’s bill. We are trusting God to send us the finances we need.
3. Two families in our church will be without vehicles next week so we can take them to New Orleans. We will look like some kind of traveling caravan going down the road, but we will get all 15 of us safely to New Orleans and back. We may be packed in like sardines, but “whatever it takes for as long as it takes” is one of the culture at Impact! Church. We are thankful for the generosity of these families.
4. We went with a new mission organization called Camp Restore that has been AMAZING to work with. They have bent over backwards to work with us on such short notice in providing a place for us to stay and meals at a reasonable cost. It will involve sleeping bags and cramped quarters, but we are grateful for a place to stay.
5. It took literally all day day yesterday to get everything worked out, but MidFlorida Credit Union went above and beyond to get new cards to us and the hackers shut down. It will be a while before we see the reimbursement for what the hackers stole, but I’ll refer you back to the last sentence of #2 above.
6. There is a Motel 6 in Pensacola managed by a very nice Christian couple. They are working hard to provide us with last minute rooms so we can still break up the trip to New Orleans. It will involve rollaways and cramped quarters, but – again – we are thankful for their hospitality.
7. We are going to New Orleans despite satan’s best efforts. We are going to be serving a small impoverished church and 20-30 inner-city children whose families lost everything in a hurricane. We will feed them breakfast, a hot lunch and snack everyday for a week. We will play games with them, color pictures with them and share stories from the Bible with them. We’ll sing songs, play hard, make crafts, talk about Jesus, laugh a bunch and build lasting relationships. We will see God move in mighty ways and He will get the glory!
Keep praying for us because the devil doesn’t want us in New Orleans – but God does!