Mt. Dora, Florida

What is a mission? Is it simply getting on a church van for a minimum of 3 hours to go into a place you have never been, with the sole intention of doing things you somewhat refused to do in “everyday” life? If we’re being honest, that is what my opinion was of mission trips when I went through youth group some years ago. It was a time when you would go to some awesome place, and your local youth minister relished in putting you in uncomfortable situations. It wasn’t until I had started going on many myself in latter high school years and in college, that I realized the need for missions, and how they can help so much more than the “target” group or city.

One short week after we arrived back in Tennessee, we packed up again to head out. It’s amazing to us how God works. During the preceding month as we were discussing the transition timelines with our elders, they mentioned that the youth group had a planned mission trip during the middle of June that was in desperate need of chaperones. They suggested that if we were available, that we should get in touch with the youth minister to see if we could accompany them and help out. How can you say no to such a proposition?!?!?

I immediately called Alex to find out that just the previous night he had been seriously considering having to cancel the trip due to lack of adult support that could go to Florida. He had sat down and prayed that God send him some individuals to act as chaperones and mentors to his teens. Rachel and I asking if we could help out on the trip was a literal less than 24 hour response to Alex’s prayer!

We had such an incredible week with Winchester Church of Christ’s Youth Group to Mt. Dora, Florida! About 25 people were involved from our Overseeing Congregation in this trip. When we departed for Florida, we only loosely knew some of the individuals on the campaign. We came back with memories of friends, brothers, and sisters that we will cherish forever.

One of the primary emphasis’s of the mission trip was to put on a VBS for the Mt. Dora church of Christ. Seeing as we had held a VBS at Winchester the week prior to the trip, this should have been a super easy task, right? Well there are a number things that added some fun wrinkles to the mix.

When this Vacation Bible School was put on in Winchester, the teachers had four days to prepare their rooms. Here in Mt. Dora, we had four hours! It turned out beautiful and really emphasized how fast things get done when people work together! Rooms were decorated to put kids directly into the setting of one of the four bible stories we would cover. Our theme for VBS was “Survivor: Saved By God”. It emphasized how God can rescue you from any situation and use it to his glory.

SAVED BY GOD – From Hopeless Situations to Great Salvations
– Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – the Fiery Furnace
– Daniel and the Lions Den
– Jonah and the Great Fish
– Paul and Silas in Prison

Also, we tried to put our teens into as many leaderships roles as possible. In Winchester, the whole assembly of membership pitched in to teach classes, guide craft sessions, and relegate snack duty. At Mt. Dora, Mitchel taught the adult class each night, there was an adult to oversee each classroom, but all of the lessons, crafts, and structured times were teen led. It was great to see the teens step up and demonstrate what it means to be a leader in God’s church. Even little Emma Cowan – who is only going into 5th grade herself – was seen stepping up to help distribute snacks and make sure everyone was taken care of!

All of the teens hard work was rewarded. Sunday, the first day of VBS, we had 10 children come, and by the fourth and last day, that number doubled to 22 children participating! Throughout this VBS, several future leaders became apparent!

19453230_10155175578115339_6043052065519304034_o

Playground popsicles

Remember that little bit at the beginning about a crazed youth minister that relished in putting in uncomfortable situations? It seems to be status quo on mission trips and this one was no different. As we mentioned we had 10 kids show up to VBS on the first night – a solid start, but we knew that we had the potential to reach out so many more.

Hence, we took our teens to the streets! They went door knocking into the neighborhoods surrounding the church to spread the news of the VBS we were holding. Many of our teens commented on how the simple act of inviting someone to church was a new and uncomfortable experience for them, but they also told us of how it was one of the ways that caused them to grow the most during the week. Simply telling others of your faith and inviting those around you to share in it is becoming a dying art, and our teens were blessed to see how easy and beneficial it can be.

There is an old saying that people won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. It was great to go door knocking, but Alex wanted to try and demonstrate this principle to the teens as well. What ensued was the complete takeover of some of Mt. Dora’s parks. Our teens rushed into the playgrounds, played with the kids there, handed out free popsicles and VBS flyers, and sang some awesome VBS and camp songs with some of the children at the park. It was like a mini VBS all unto itself! Indeed we had several new kids come and attend each night that we met at the parks.

19575107_10155175579145339_5023268760846876456_o

Do you also recall the part about mission trips involving tasks you would normally have no interest in participating in? We were blessed to get to have this experience for our group as well! Located in the city of Mt. Dora, Florida are the local Christian School for kids pre-K through 12th grade and the associated children’s’ home. There were a number manual tasks that we were able to help out with. So Wednesday at 8:00 a.m. we met at the church and divided into two groups.

The first helped out with an area of the school that needed some landscaping work. They cleared out trees, logs, vines, and undergrowth from a hillside that was soon to be seeing much more foot traffic as the school’s football field was being put in nearby. The second group had the honor of scraping gum off of the gym bleachers, cleaning out trash cans, and spraying down the outdoor mats.

After our service projects were complete, we were given a tour of the children’s home and Christian academy. It was a blessing to see the resources they had been able to establish to invite children to come in from various broken situations, have a room to call their own, a house parent to watch after them, and a top notch educational facility to go get their primary and secondary schooling from.

We were also reminded of just how connected the church is though God and his people!! The elementary school portion of the Christian Academy in Mt. Dora has a wing named in honor of Jim and Ruby Vanzant. Which was a really special treat for those at Winchester, TN as we have a wing of our church building named after them also!

19453033_10155175606330339_1217657107031580673_o

It truly was an amazing week of seeing the teens grow and reach out to youth of Mt. Dora. But this brings us back to the original question of what is a mission? Anyone that knows of them happening in the church might call it what I did as a younger child, a group of people going to some place to help some people. I think our teens began to learn in a week what took me quite some time to figure out. As they were stepping up to teach, to share their faith openly, to live it out in a way that others could see it, they were living out the very definition of mission. A mission is more than a trip, it is being intentional with your actions and your life to make sure that you spread the good news of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection to as many people as possible.

Whether it is in Cusco, Peru,  Mt. Dora, Florida, or at the grocery store in your own hometown, what are you doing to help build the Kingdom? Whose lives are you making a difference in by living out and sharing the Gospel? We challenge you to try and live out these virtues. You might just be surprised by who they end up affecting most.

In Him,
Mitchel and Rachel Routh

The First Lasts in the U.S.

As we are preparing to head to the mission field of Cusco, Peru, we are experiencing many “lasts.” We know this process of finishing in the United States is only beginning and we are determined to finish well!

Last Event at Brighton Church of Christ (Peruvian Dinner):

For some reason the church at Brighton seemed convinced we wanted to throw our own going away party. When Mitchel got up to announce that we would be embarking on this journey nearly a year earlier (in Jan 2016), he did so in a flood of emotion. It is one thing to tell the people you love you are leaving them; it is another thing entirely to see their eyes looking back at you as you do it from the podium in the Worship hall. He was barely able to choke out the words that we would be moving to Cusco as soon as we were able. We were determined to leave on a much happier note with a Peruvian dinner for friends and family.

Now you may be asking yourself, “What is a Peruvian dinner?” And to do so would mark you as a highly intelligent individual. This dinner was meant to expose those who love and support us to the culture, cuisine, and status of the work in Cusco. It was a meal of rotisserie chicken (Peruvians do it best) with Aji verde sauce, sliced boiled yellow potatoes with la Huancaina, chicken empanadas, salchipapas (hotdogs and french-fries), salad, chicha morada, Inca Kola, tres leches cake, and of course coffee! Through the course of the dinner we played trivia games about random facts on Peru, we shared our story on how we came to love the city of Cusco, and we cherished our last moments with those we had come to call family.

The dinner was a major success. Those that had never been able to hear why we had chosen to leave the states were able to get our story firsthand. Those that never knew where Peru was could now point to it on a South America map. We were able to record some final memories and get well wishes that will continue to help carry us through what is sure to be a hectic upcoming year.

Last day at General Motors:

It should be noted that this transition was never because we hated our lives in Michigan. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Mitchel’s job was one that little boys dream of. Who wouldn’t want to drive around in test vehicles on 4,000 acres of closed tracks trying to develop and make bullet proof the software in cars that are three or four years out from launch? It was actually one of the hardest things to give up when we made this decision, but some things are just so much more important…

It was hard for Mitchel to tell his boss of our plans. He had invested so much into the hybrid programs at GM, and his boss had gone out of his way to get Mitchel into the pathways that would lead to his “dream (engineering) job” of a lead calibrator of a control module. Fortunately his boss was also a very Godly man and told him, “I suppose some jobs we just can’t compete with.”

The last few weeks at GM were crazy busy. There was a replacement for Mitchel to train, last meals with co-workers to be had, transferring of files and rights to be accomplished, and a group send off picnic scheduled. They even made a trophy for Mitchel out of one of the contactors (the part he worked on in car) that had been broken. It was labeled to him as “Thanks for fixin’ the worst contactors and the best butts.” Mitchel had become renown for bringing in smoked Boston Butt from time to time.

While the work at GM was cool, it will be by far the relationships with his coworkers Mitchel will miss the most. There is just something about relying on your friends to make the car work and survive when it is -40 degrees in Kapuskasing or 127 in Death Valley that brings you close together. However, we knew that cars would continue to be developed with or without Mitchel. We knew that we would form close relationships no matter where we called home. We knew that if we did not move to Peru, then perhaps someone may never hear the good news.

Last day with our friends and family in Michigan:

While Mitchel was at work performing his exit interview with General Motors, Rachel was able to see her sweetest friend, Anna (who will be having her second son at the end of this month!!!) at one of their special places, the Sweet Afton Tea Room! We couldn’t think of a better way of saying “goodbye for now” than a tea party! (Note: Adam and her 2 year old son, Carter, are also going to be missed… I just didn’t grab a picture 🙂 )

After Mitchel was able to come home, now completely jobless, we were so blessed to spend a few hours with our second family in Michigan. There are no words to describe how much the Nall family means to us! They have walked with us side-by-side through the mountains and valleys of our trying to reach our goal of becoming full-time foreign missionaries! They will be so missed!

We are also going to miss our amazing Church family who support us emotionally, spiritually, financially in our mission effort, and physically (when we needed someone to come pull us out of a snow bank in the middle of winter! – cough, Duane, cough). And finally, we are going to miss Mitchel’s work friends, the Tennessee expats in Michigan, and Rachel’s Wednesday Bible Study ladies! Thank you so much for everything you have done with us and for us! We love you!!!

Last day in our house!!

It only took five total trips to get everything moved to Tennessee. Rachel’s dad came and “visited” us a few times with their family trailer, but eventually we decided to bite the bullet and rent a big Penske truck to make one last trip to Tennessee. Thanks to all of the church members in Michigan, Mitchel’s parents, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers-in-laws, Jacob and Amy England, Rachel’s parents, and Rachel’s sister that helped us get packed up and settled once again.

We have proven ourselves Millennials… We have moved back in with our parents! TEMPORARILY!!!!

In Him,
Mitchel and Rachel Routh