“We will praise you, Lord with our hearts; we will declare all your wondrous deeds.” – Psalm 9:2
Brief update: Team 11 is now thriving in the state of Michigan (including the good ole “Yooper”, or Upper Peninsula), we have now done 50 retreats, have traveled around 9,300 miles, and have reached out to at least 1,900 youth. As we transition from Thanksgiving into this Advent season, we remember to give thanks to God, while also trying to still our hearts and prepare for the coming of Jesus. The Lord has blessed us with such an amazing adventure so far. He has placed so many generous people in our midst. We are so thankful to be a fully funded team, having all reached the minimum fundraising goal with the help of our generous donors. We are also so thankful for the numerous host homes that have selflessly housed us so far. God always seems to know what we need. Whether it is arriving to a host home that has Italian music playing with a transformed dining room for a fun, themed team dinner, to being told to go to bed by our host mom after eating fresh baked cookies, to having an hour long praise and worship session with the entire team and host family. God has also helped turn what could be “long boring van rides” into something more akin to jamming out with your ten best friends while looking out the window in awe and wonder at His beautiful creation. Watching the seasons change from vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges to fresh, powdery, white snow was a new experience for some of us “warm climaters”.
One thing that can sometimes be challenging about moving place to place is that we are not always able to see the fruits of what God is doing through us in ministry. We have been fortunate with being able to receive many kind affirmations from the various people we encounter. For example, after one of the men’s and women’s retreats (where we split to discuss what it means to be a true man or woman of God) one of the teens shared: “It helped remind myself that I don’t need validation from others. I can now confidently say that I am a beloved daughter of Christ.” After another one of our retreats, we received a handwritten letter with an Irish blessing on it that was placed on the NET van windshield. It’s these little things that really give us hope and renew our trust that the Lord is working so strongly.
As individuals and as a team, we are growing daily and continuing our daily conversion of heart together. We ask God everyday to replace our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh, and as He does this it becomes easier to see through His eyes instead of our own. In our hectic and busy schedules, we make sure to be still and search for all the beauty He places in our lives. It is not always easy – most days it is actually quite a trust exercise – but that is why we have each other, prayer, and the sacraments.
Team 11 wishes all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!