I just looked at my phone and saw that it was 102 degrees. We were sitting outside eating dinner and I felt like I might die. I was hoping it was the heat, rather than my chicken burrito, and was pleased to see it was indeed the heat. Can you believe that just two days ago, in our great state of Colorado, I was wearing layers (including long johns), and sleeping with four blankets? If there’s a medical condition called “heat shock” I totally have it.
If you have a second, I’d love to share with you about a recent trip our family took up to Leadville, Colorado. About a week ago, Billy and I packed up the kids, along with 22 other folks from our church, and headed into unknown territory. We knew what highway to follow of course, and how to get there, but we had no idea what to expect once we arrived. To be honest, we weren’t even sure how we’d spend the bulk of our time.
Most people think of Leadville as the little town high up in the mountains with an elevation almost twice as high as Denver. If you are there for the summer, it’s probably because you want to deprive your body of oxygen in order to train for a race. Our purpose had nothing to do with oxygen deprivation, or training for a race, but we were there to learn, to teach, and to work wherever we felt led to go.
Before arriving I was especially concerned with our lodging situation, as I heard we’d be in a “hostel” which sounded like we were going somewhere angry rather than somewhere with fresh duvets and free wifi. My fears were alleviated once we arrived and found a fairly clean establishment. I was thrilled I wouldn’t have to share the communal bathrooms with the men, and even though I could hear Pastor Chris snoring through the walls all night long, it turned out to be the perfect place for us to stay.
The first full day we were there, our group attended a local Hispanic church. What a great church service! I’m not fluent in Spanish, but trust me, I knew that they were praising the same God I praise every week at my church, and they did it with more joy and passion than I ever display on a Sunday morning. After they fed us all, we headed to a mobile home park on the outside of town to pray and invite children to join us for the upcoming week, as we would run a Vacation Bible school right there in the park each morning. This mobile home park turned out to be the community God wanted us in all week. We saw extreme poverty and hardship—everyone we met had a story to tell, and we were so thankful to be a small part of their lives, even if just for a week.
The week turned out to be much more than just a Vacation Bible school—although that was definitely a highlight. In addition to VBS, we were able to do several work projects in the trailer park. One woman from our team, sweet Sue, spent the week making prayer quilts to pass out to different women that we met. Every time a quilt was given away, there were tears flowing from hearts of gratitude. The men in our group experienced an Extreme Makeover opportunity and totally repainted a woman’s home—otherwise it was going to be demolished. I still don’t know for sure how God led our group to her, but somehow He knew she was in need, and this allowed us to fully experience being His hands and His feet. This was also the point in the week where Billy acquired black tar all over his ginormous calves from helping fix her roof.
Several of us also had the good fortune to re-paint a play structure. I was helping on this one, along with about 15 kids from the neighborhood, and some of our own children too. We only had about 9 paintbrushes, so every few minutes someone would yell “switch!” and all the kids would take turns. Teaching children to paint is not a gift God gave me, so I climbed high up in the structure and let our pastor’s wife, Cami, teach the children. In the end, the kids who live in the park can look at that playground and know they were a part of making it nice. And I can look back on the day satisfied, knowing I didn’t yell at anyone for using the paintbrush improperly.
Coming home from a trip like this feels so weird. On the one hand it’s nice to be home and in our own bed. But on the other hand, we experienced something special in Leadville and it’s sad to see it end. We made so many connections with folks. We bonded as a group, even if that meant we saw Laurie walking around without a bra every night. We laughed our heads off one minute and cried the next. We watched our kids work all day long, with joy in their eyes because they knew they were part of something special. We saw God open doors and soften hearts. Today we face the stuff of life, and over time the memories will fade. I will hold this week closely to my heart, knowing each one of us came home changed by the ways we saw God work. God is good. All the time.