by Brook Hickle
I love my small town. Tucked against the foothills of the Cascade Mountain range in western Washington, Enumclaw is a great place to live – less than an hour from Seattle, beaches, and Mt. Rainier. The downtown is welcoming and lined with businesses owned by people everyone knows. We’re all neighbors and friends. Good schools, small family farms, beautiful scenery, and great people.
There are many things that we are not as well. We are not urban, or inner city, or the deep south, or notably poor.
In other words, we don’t appear as a town that needs a mission trip.
But I wasn’t thinking about that when I opened an email in early 2012 that said, “Bring a Big Day of Serving to your Town!” The email described The Big Day of Serving as a one-day youth mission event held in dozens of cities across the country. It’s run by Group Mission Trips, and draws anywhere from 200 to a thousand or more people that descend on your town and work hard in Jesus’ name to make a difference, doing whatever needs to be done to bless your community.
As I read the e-mail, I thought… that’s exactly what any town needs. Even here, in this strong little community, people need the love of God demonstrated in tangible ways by God’s people. They need hope, and help, and a smile, and a kind word. And wouldn’t it be awesome if all that was done by teenagers?
Next, the real work began. Forming a local team, and getting projects, supplies, and resources organized. Group Mission Trips helped us to get the word out and take youth group registrations. As Big Day-Enumclaw took shape, it turned into something both unique to us and similar to all the other national events.
Challenges arose as we tried to convince skeptical local people to get on board. At times, I found myself convincing even our Big Day leadership team – some of the best, most talented and faith-filled people I know – that this would be a worthwhile project. As I assured them with outward confidence, I secretly hoped and prayed that my words would prove to be true.
Then, it happened. On the first rainy Saturday in months, 250 kids and their adults leaders showed up and gathered in the gym of an elementary school in our town. They had traveled from just down the street, from six hours away, and many places in between. They were ready to work, along with dozens of local volunteers. Add the big city satellite news truck to cover the event, the worship band and speakers, and business partners who had helped us get ready, and there we were… our small town…the location of a mission trip.
When we allowed people to come into our town to serve us, we invited the Holy Spirit to show up and do amazing, unbelievable, God-sized things. Ordinary teens got dirty (filthy, actually!) as they put their faith into action and served complete strangers. Neighbors encountered each other in new ways. The elderly, disabled, unemployed, and forgotten received help with projects they could never have done or afforded on their own. An entire senior center got painted, a local community track got completely re-graveled, and hundreds of seniors received care packages along with warm smiles. At the end of the day, nearly 300 people packed into that elementary school for a worship celebration.
The best part from my perspective… countless people realized that God could use them to be the hands and feet of Jesus. To shine His love on the world. The kids who served. The businesses that donated. The local officials who agreed and endorsed. The youth leaders that organized and drove. The parents that said yes. The churches that partnered. The recipients of the work who allowed people into their homes and said thank you. The leadership team who had doubts along the way. Everyone. Allowing God to work through them.
All because we said “please come,” and others said “I will.” And God did the rest.
I loved it, and I think you would too!
Brook Hickle is a rancher’s wife and mom of 3 boys in Enumclaw, WA, where she serves as the director of children’s ministry at Northwest Bible Church. She leads a community wide VBS program each summer, reaching hundreds of families in her small town. 2012 was her first year as local coordinator for Big Day of Serving. Brook serves on Group’s Women’s Ministry team, and as an Ambassador for their Children’s Ministry team. When you can’t find her, Brook is probably hiding out in the mountains…running, hiking, or skiing with her boys! Brook blogs now and then at www.brookhickle.blogspot.com.