SWAM Alabama MS Mission Trip ’11
Imagine for a few minutes that you are a new parent of a baby girl who is absolutely perfect in every way. As a new parent you praise God and promise to do everything in your power to guide her to make sure she becomes what God would have her to be. So begins years of making sure that every time the doors are open at church your family is there. Then one day you come home and as you walk in, you just know something is wrong. Sitting on the couch is your wife, sobbing over the phone call she has just received from your teenage daughter. The daughter’s story goes; that she doesn’t know how “it” happened but she has been busted or arrested for the possession of alcohol and/or drugs. Then she says, “By the way, Mom, I think I might be pregnant.”
Now that I have your attention, allow me to tell you how this story relates to our recent mission trip experience by you’re S.W.A.M (Student Worship Arts Ministry). The IBC Middle School division of S.W.A.M. partnered with a ministry in the community of Opelika, Alabama.
Opelika, Alabama is typical in a lot of ways to other small southern towns, we were told that High School Graduation rates have dropped to about 30% and that most families will not send their children to the public schools in this county. But thanks to God’s calling of Pastor Rick Hagans who founded the Harvest Ministries there is new found hope for this community. Their goal is to help with the many challenges present in this community
Among other things Harvest Ministries owns and operates the world’s largest known thrift store in the United States and possibly the world. The focus of the ministry is to help young adults with the challenges that your ‘imagined’ family is currently facing. They have two homes for females, and several homes for males. All with a history of chemical abuse, some with legal challenges such as probation for crimes of non violent and non sex related. Each resident is required to participate in daily devotions and Christ centered classes geared to their dependency. One of their homes young mothers are able to keep their child/children with them after their birth.
The S.W.A.M. Middle School Mission Trip started from IBC at 4 a.m. on July 23rd and returned for the home concert at IBC on July 27th. During that short time they did an amazing amount of labor for the Lord, starting with a concert at the thrift store for the customers, two concerts in local churches, a community concert and cookout in a local rodeo arena, not to mention days of labor in the thrift store, the homes, and their farm. At night when all was done the students rested, slept, ate, and fellowshipped at the Hosanna Women’s Home, sleeping on air mattresses and sharing the facility with approximately a dozen or so women and their children that called this sanctuary “their home.”
On Monday, it was time for the ladies of the Hosanna Home to share with our students their story. The first thing that was interesting is their gratitude to our students for how friendly they were. The ladies were fearful that a bunch of students would want nothing to do with a bunch of ‘druggies’ and their children. As the young ladies shared their story a common theme emerged. Most were from Godly Christian, church active, & solid homes. The ladies cautioned the students in the areas that they had messed up in such as parental relationships, spiritual growth, and Christian friends to name a few. When they were finished it was our student’s time to share, and you could tell by the response that there had been a significant impact in some of our student’s lives. All realized they could be looking at themselves in a few short years if they made the wrong decisions that are so easy to make..
Now back to your “imagined” problem. The experience the S.W.A.M. student’s had and the testimonies of the young ladies, all realized that the God of the Bible is the God of redemption. The ladies of the Hosanna Home proved that fact. Here were ladies that came into the home broken, battered, and bruised; left healed, some writing music, some attending college, the rest with jobs and a restored ‘chemical free’ God filled life.
By Ross O’Banion
For more information on future SWAM Mission Trips