After months of praying, planning, and fundraising, SPIRIT Service Mission 2006 began Saturday, July 22, 2006, as 13 SPIRIT youth and adults started their goal of Making A Difference.The week began with a hearty breakfast prepared by Shirley Goolsby, Debbie Brasher, Nicole Ozbolt, and Maria Whitaker, and, following the breakfast, SSM 2006 participants and their families were off to the airport!
A nice sunny day guaranteed safe flying conditions for the group, many of whom were flying for the first time. Check-in at the airport was its usual organized chaos, and after everyone’s checked baggage was accounted for, it was for time good-byes and well-wishes as moms, dads, sisters, and brothers all bid (temporary) farewells to the group.
The first-half of the four-hour trip to Albuquerque was underway with an on-time takeoff and a four hour layover in Houston, Texas – just enough time for lunch!During the layover, some played cards, some talked, and some slept, but all were enjoying the experience.
Following lunch and adventures through the Houston airport, and another two-hour flight, it was Albuquerque-at-last as the group landed safely in New Mexico.We gathered our luggage (what a sight!) and Jeff, Paul, and Kevin took an interesting taxi ride (think: psycho driver!) to the local Toyota dealership to pick up the vans that would provide ground transportation throughout the week.
Upon returning with the vans to the airport, luggage was crammed into the vans and it was off to dinner at Fuddrucker’s.Following dinner – and with RandMcNally.com directions in hand – we began our search for our home for the night, Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church.
The drive to OLG took about 30 minutes, and after another half-hour wait, we finally were in – we didn’t quite realize then how luxurious the gym floor really was to us that week!After winding down and making our air mattresses, it was bedtime.
Although we had toyed with sleeping-in, we woke up Sunday and attended 7:30 a.m. Mass, took a group picture in front of the church after, and left for breakfast at IHOP.Although not quite as good as our breakfast Saturday, our meal was nice, and we followed it by a trip to Wal-Mart (we did enjoy SOME things from home) to buy goodies for the long trip to our final destination, Good Shepherd Episcopal Mission, “headquarters” for our mission work on the Navajo Reservation in Fort Defiance, Arizona.
Two-way radios (walkie-talkies) allowed us to stay in contact with each other during the drive to Fort Defiance, and we enjoyed several stops along the way, making the most of the sightseeing opportunities the great Midwest offered us.Among our greatest surprises was the weather – it was very cool and for the most of the week, better than the weather we experienced back home!
As we neared Fort Defiance, we drove through flatlands and mountainous regions alike, and our last stop before arriving at Good Shepherd Mission was Window Rock, where we enjoyed a hike to the top of the mountain – well, most of us did, at least!The hike up the mountain provided for some very exciting (and tense, for Father and Kevin!) moments, but everyone descended safely.
If you want to see a few of the sights we experienced, take a look at part one of our photo presentation. (Be patient, it may take a bit to download and begin playing...)
We drove just a few minutes from Window Rock, and, after believing Jeff had gotten us lost, when we stopped at the Fort Defiance Post Office, Kevin realized we were there – Good Shepherd Mission is just feet from the post office!
After unloading the vans and picking our own rooms, we realized we would be experiencing a simple life for the next week.Our rooms were very modest – literally, just a floor, a roof, and four walls – we did have carpet, at least!The women had it nice; their bathrooms and showers were adjacent to their rooms.The men, on the other hand, had to walk down three flights of stairs for the bathroom, and outside and across the complex to shower!A simple life, indeed – but that’s why we were there.
Okay, want to see more photos? Well, click here for part two of our trip.
Our first night at Good Shepherd included a BBQ chicken meal, icebreakers for the youth, a meeting for the adults, and an evening prayer service.Following large group activity, we were able to close the night with our own small-group prayer.
On Monday, we began our four-day week of service.We were split into groups and were able to make new friends, since each group was comprised of a few people from each participating church – and some groups went to the same location, allowing us to meet even more new people.Some groups went to paint houses or churches while others participated in Kids Club, an activity similar to Vacation Bible School; groups that painted on Monday and Tuesday switched to Kids Club on Wednesday and Thursday, and those who did Kids Club the first two days painted on the latter two.
Highlights of Kids Club included arts and crafts, skits, music, and outdoor activities, particularly the game, Four Square, which seemed to be a highly-competitive regular activity on the reservation.As a result of the excellent, although novice, painters who helped out during the week, at least four houses received completely new paint jobs, and a lot of smiling faces existed.
Following service work during the day, each evening consisted of a fellowship activity, including a (second-for-us) trip to Window Rock; a field trip to Gallup, New Mexico, where we enjoyed native dancing and music; a visit and talk by local residents who also offered their jewelry for sale; and a community-wide picnic whereby many whom we helped during the week returned to Good Shepherd for a night of fellowship – and the ultimate championship in Four Square!
On our final night in Fort Defiance, our mission trip concluded at St. Michael’s, where we enjoyed a very touching and emotional closing prayer service.There, the mission leaders washed the feet of each group’s adults, and, in turn, the adults washed the feet of the youth.The powerful ceremony drew bittersweet thoughts and tears, as everyone said good-bye to their new friends – exchanging phone numbers and e-mail addresses at the same time as a way to keep in touch.
We rose before dawn Friday, sad that our service week had ended and realizing that our overall mission trip was nearing a close, but excited knowing that we would enjoy a full day of sightseeing.After a large-group morning prayer and an extensive good-bye session, we headed south to the Grand Canyon!
Our visit to the Grand Canyon was a relatively short one, especially considering the amount of time it took us to drive there, but it was well worth it!We stopped at two vantage points and experienced breathtaking views!We took plenty of pictures, but the photos just couldn’t capture the magnitude and enormity of the Grand Canyon – our memories, though, of this near once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience one of the Seven Wonders of the World, will be with us for a long time to come.
Our journey back to Albuquerque was a long one – about five hours.Most of us slept during the drive, and when we arrived back at Our Lady of Guadalupe, we quickly went to bed, tired from a long day and long week, and looking forward to going home.
We awoke Saturday, ready to pack for the last time, and we returned to IHOP for breakfast.A final shopping trip to Wal-Mart filled the time for most of the group while Jeff, Paul, and Kevin took the vans for a much-needed cleaning.
It was back to Our Lady of Guadalupe to pack the vans, and then we were off to the airport.Now flying veterans all, we checked-in and headed to the terminal to begin the journey home.
Anxious to return to Birmingham and still adjusting to the time change, we enjoyed lunch/dinner at the St. Louis Airport, where the final leg of our flight home was delayed 90 minutes due to bad weather.During the delay, we filled the time with more card games and more catnaps!We also received a keepsake chain and charm, blessed by Father Bean.The charm depicted a hand with a heart cut into it – a reminder of the theme of SSM 2006: Using Our Hands.Opening Our Hearts.Making A Difference.
With the calming of weather, we left St. Louis and were very happy to conclude our week with a safe landing in Birmingham.We were even happier, however, to see our family and friends waiting with open arms to welcome us back home.