Dear Mission Tippers and Trippers:
On Sunday evening, February 11, at 5:00 p.m., members of our congregation and community will be gathering in Fellowship Hall to compete in our annual Chili Cook-off. Substantially more people will come to contribute $5 and eat the product of our contestants and share potluck side dishes. You’re also invited to contribute cookies, cake, pie, pastries or strudel to the bake sale that evening. These items will be reasonably priced so you can be the hero at the office on Monday morning by bringing snacks. The fun and frivolity are, of course, a thin veneer covering our deeper goal, to raise a substantial amount of money for our annual TUXIS Mission Trip.
This year, 56 high schoolers and 10 adult sponsors will be traveling to Colorado Springs to work with Next Step Ministries, an organization that partners with community development agencies and churches to assist economically disadvantaged communities around the country. In Colorado Springs, Next Step has entered into a new collaboration with Family Life Services, an organization providing child care, job training and housing opportunities for low-income families. Next Step also secures lodging and provides leadership in inspiring worship, faith formation and Christian values for our mission trip participants.
Of course, getting to Colorado Springs will require the rental of several vans and the hospitality of First Presbyterian Church of Lincoln, Nebraska, who will provide overnight floor space during the two-day drive. (Vans are employed rather than a single motor coach because of the need to travel to multiple worksites once our team arrives.) Total cost for the mission trip will be about $40,000, of which slightly over half will be covered by families paying tuition for the experience, leaving about $20,000 in fundraising for transportation and scholarships (a larger amount this year due to the high number of participants). Thus, the need to share some chili and baked goods in a church basement this coming Sunday.
For those who have appreciated my Monday Musings for being fundraiser-free zones of whimsy, I apologize. But my deeper musing today is not about the significant hit our general operations budget will take if our charity appeal is a bust; my concern regards the authenticity of mission. I have been reflecting how simple acts of service become occasions for great impact.
In my brief tenure as pastor of FPCLG I have officiated at two funerals that became TUXIS Mission Trip reunions. While these services were times of sorrow, the depth of fellowship was profound. Bonds forged through shared service were remembered fondly. Decades after their hot summer week of shared labor, these former missionaries, now adults, recalled how they learned the power of simple acts of kindness.
I have had other occasions to meet Mission Trip veterans, and while we’ve performed no in-depth study of our participants, a significant number of our former TUXIS class members have gone on to positions of congregational and community leaders across the country. They have expressed to me how many of their life choices were shaped by their TUXIS trip experience.
I also know there are families out there sitting in homes with solid floors and non-leaking roofs and doors that actually close tight against the cold, who recall a summer visit by some kids from La Grange who helped make it happen. There are food pantries with stronger shelving, brightly painted preschool classrooms and community centers with better drainage because someone in our church bought a pan of brownies one cold February Sunday evening.
I realize that’s a lot of pressure to put on some ground round and kidney beans; we’re expecting great things from a bag of sugar cookies and a paper plate of kolacky; and for those who cannot attend the cook-off, I’m asking you to click-through here and type Mission Trip in the “Other” field to make a contribution. Regardless of your chili preference, I want you to remember that we’re connected.
Recently smitten with Dani’s discovery of Cincinnati chili that substitutes cinnamon for much of the cumin, I remain,