“Home is where the heart is.” That saying has been around for so long that historians of language and idioms do not even know how long it has been in use, although there are written records dating back to Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE). When I hear this phase, I am brought back to childhood memories of Christmas mornings, Easter Egg hunts (mom hid the eggs so well we would keep finding them throughout the summer months), puppies, and lessons learned in time out. I spent a lot of time in time out. I am sure that many of you have your own stories of home that make this phrase resonate, but we all agree that home is the source of stability, nurture, and health in most of our lives. Public Health professionals universally agree on this point.
For an increasing number of people, especially those in natural disaster zones, home is where the stress is. Home is where the uncertainty is. Home is where the instability is. Home was there, but then a hurricane, flood, or fire took it away. This is a place where we can help make a difference, as a church, and return heart to home.
From April 28th through May 4th, for a week, Plymouth’s Outreach and Mission Board and our Habitat for Humanity Ministry Team have commissioned our first Adult Mission Trip since the end of our Navaho Mission Trips a half-decade ago. With Outreach and Mission Board member Lynn Wartgow leading, Plymouth volunteers Anne Wuerslin, Jeff Wartgow, Nancy and Bob Sturtevant, Vanessa Reed, Bruce Lieurance, and myself, along with friend of Plymouth Belinda Strickland, will be going to Sebring, Florida to help build houses for hurricane survivors—the same hurricane Plymouth responded to so generously with a special offering two years ago in the immediate aftermath.
The fact that we first sent dollars and now are sending a real group of people to make a physical difference is a sign of healthy systems-changing mission rather than just charity.
The Board of Outreach and Mission believes that bringing back organized Adult Mission Trip opportunities through Habitat for Humanity helps us fulfill the sending part of our mission as a church and to make lasting change while building relationships. After sending Lynn Wartgow to Minneapolis be trained as an official Habitat Mission Trip leader, we chose Sebring as our first mission opportunity because of our existing connection to that place and the need. If it goes well, there will be more similar trips every year, and we invite you all to consider going.
Moreover, the board feels that having Adult Mission Trip opportunities brings us closer, as a board, to fully living out our mission in Fort Collins and the world to “send” people out of our comfort zone for hope and transformation.
Plymouth’s Mission Statement: It is our mission to worship God and help make God’s realm visible in the lives of people, individually and collectively, especially as it is set forth in the life, teachings, death, and living presence of Jesus Christ. We do this by: Inviting, Transforming, and Sending.
I asked some of those going on the trip to share why they felt called to be sent on this particular mission trip. Here are some of their responses in their own words:
Jeff Wartgow: James, the very brother of none other than Jesus, must have possessed the genetic propensity for a desire to do good works. He certainly talked about its importance and is a good role model for us. I believe Habitat for Humanity is a reflection of how we can participate in expanding on that model, the realm of God's presence. I'm going to Sebring with our Outreach and Missions Habitat group to in some small way help rebuild shelter for a few of God's children so badly affected by hurricane Irma.
Lynn Wartgow: There have been times in my early life where I experienced housing insecurity. I hope to help others avoid that painful experience. I love to build and I love to travel, so working with Habitat International (which includes domestic trips like this one) is a perfect fit for me. When you have the opportunity to work as a team doing any kind of mission work, you create "family." I'm looking forward to growing my family at Plymouth through this Habitat trip.
Nancy Sturtevant: We feel that Habitat is an important program, and this is a good way to take Plymouth into the community. It allows us to volunteer as a couple for an important cause while getting the opportunity to become closer to other Plymouth members.
Bob Sturtevant: Habitat is a great way to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. We can show people that we care through giving our time and energy to help them get back into a home after the devastating hurricane. We can use whatever house-building skills we may have to make a difference in the life of a family.
Belinda Strickland: One of my favorite quotes comes from St. Francis, "Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary, use words." I believe the best way to show the love of Christ is through our actions of outreach. I have just retired, and this Habitat for Humanity trip is the first of my post-retirement efforts to increase my outreach efforts.
Vanessa Reed, long-time Habitat worker: Not only do l enjoys getting my hands-on building tools but using my hands to give back to my community or to anyone who needs a helping hand. This is my passion.
A special thank you to Lynn Wartgow for sensing God’s calling to this work of leadership and investing the time in the trainings and certifications that will make this possible, to Habitat for Humanity of Fort Collins Faith Relations Manager Erika Nossokoff for inspiring our potential to see what God will do next with our team, and to the whole Plymouth congregation for your prayerful support of this mission opportunity for adults.
Throughout our days in Sebring, I will be sending a daily photo dispatch and written prayer on Social Media and in our email news about what is happening and where we are finding God and transformation in this work. I will also provide an “after” Reflection summery the first Tuesday in May about the mission trip.
As we say in Habitat, “Let’s see what God will do!”
In Hope and Habitat,
The Rev. Jake Miles Joseph ("just Jake"), Associate Minister, came to Plymouth in 2014 having served in the national setting of the UCC on the board of Justice & Witness Ministries, the Coalition for LGBT Concerns, and the Chairperson of the Council for Youth and Young Adult Ministries (CYYAM). Jake has a passion for ecumenical work and has worked in a wide variety of churches and traditions. Read more about him on our staff page.