Tuesday, April 22, 2014

JACOB'S FUND :: McKenna Farms Spring Mission Trip 2013 (part 2)

The key to a successful mission trip is preparation, starting as early as possible. That’s what the available literature advises, and it’s good counsel. Every year The Red Thread Promise launches a variety of mission trips, and planning starts early and in great detail. Jacob’s Fund folks and Christ United Methodist Church (CUMC) began planning three months in advance for the April 2013 mission trip to McKenna Farms, always in close contact with Jessie, the farm’s director.

Early on, we lined up a list of projects that needed to be done: staining new fencing around the playground area, pulling weeds, mulching, and sprucing up the Jacob Beachy Sensory Trail after winter had taken its toll.

CUMC’s Youth Group signed on to join us, their added energy and enthusiasm lending an air of renewed excitement to the trip.

Evening has begun to settle quietly over McKenna Farms. Therapists and kids are going through the last exercises, volunteers lead horses from pasture to barn, where they’ll feed them and settle them in for the night.  

Thursday Evening: Moonlight through the Pines

We’re the advance group. Most of the team won’t leave home until after school on Friday.

Jessie (farm director) and Joyce (lead therapist), greet us warmly as, laden with air mattresses and sleeping bags, we make our way to a large therapy room that will serve as home for the next three nights.
CUMC youth, Joyce and Jessie prepping the fire
We’ve been following the weather closely, as has Jessie. All of our planned projects are outdoors, and rain looks imminent for Saturday. With the bulk of our team arriving late Friday night, it seems our flexibility is about to be tested. We won’t be able to finish the fence staining tomorrow, and with Saturday looking wet, we scratch that task off our list.

No problem. When your focus is on serving the two hundred or more children who visit the farm each week, there are always more than enough projects to keep a crew in steady work. While all of the rooms in the trailers were freshly painted, three rooms in the one-hundred-fifty-year-old farmhouse could use a coat of paint.

Minutes after finishing dinner, as a full moon rises over the towering pines bordering the Jacob Beachy Sensory Trail, we’re ready for bed. With bad weather on the horizon, we need to get as much outside work done as we can tomorrow.

Before drifting off to sleep, Wilma, our mission trip expert makes a prediction: it will not rain on Saturday.

Praying for good weather!

Monday, April 21, 2014

JACOB'S FUND :: McKenna Farms Spring Mission Trip 2013 (part 1)

We’re leaving for McKenna Farms in Dallas, Georgia, in a few days.

Right now, our mission team from Christ United Methodist Church (Middletown, Ohio) is meeting to go over the details of the trip and introduce mission trips to those who are making foray into the mission field. We quickly run through the basics: where we’re going, what we plan to do while we were there, eating and sleeping arrangements.  

Then questions start popping up like critters in Whac-A-Mole. I soon realize that much of what a mission trip is about can’t be described or predicted. Each trip is different, and team members will bring home a kaleidoscope of new experiences.

Mission trips aren’t for everyone. Hard work, sweat, getting dirty, and less-than-perfect sleeping accommodations are key elements of most trips. Flexibility is absolutely essential. In everything. Add in eight middle schoolers, some of whom have never been as far from home as this weekend will take them and you never know what may happen.

As I look around the crowded conference table, at new young faces and wise, experienced ones, I think, “They’ll be perfect.”

~ Glenna Fisher, Jacob's Fund Director

JACOB'S FUND :: What's so special about a mission trip?

Mission trips. Churches, youth groups, and civic organizations host them as well as non-profits like The Red Thread. Teams work locally, nationally and internationally in soup kitchens, on farms, in hospitals and schools. They get dirty, clean things up, package food, build houses and provide any number of services. 

But why? 
Why go to all of the hassle? 
Why not just write a check? 
That's good enough.

While raising money for surgeries and medical care is critical to accomplish our mission—providing hope and healing to needy and orphaned children—we feel that relationship building is equally important. It is a component of our programming that is so intertwined with our work serving needy children with disabilities that we can not imagine our organization without it.

Two TRTP volunteers from McKenna Farms mission trip, Spring 2013
On mission trips, ties are strengthened between donors, Red Thread leaders, volunteers, and the families being directly affected by our work. Donors provide the funds for all things necessary to complete the task at hand. Volunteers supply the manpower to do the hands-on work. TRTP team leaders guide the volunteers during the work and facilitate opportunities to meet the children and families being helped. 

Mission trips foster personal connections between: volunteers and children with disabilities; volunteers with TRTP leaders; TRTP leaders with the families being served. These are things that can't be adequately experienced from afar. They require one-on-one contact. 

Through these personal experiences, we see what it's like to live in someone else's shoes for a moment. We see what it is like to have a disability. We then have the opportunity to do something beneficial, to become a direct blessing to a child. Through this process, we grow as human beings. 

And then we share. We share our stories when we come back home. We talk about the people we met and worked with and how they affected our lives. Through mission trips we realize that not only can we GIVE to these children, but we RECEIVE great blessings in return.

That, dear friends, is why we provide these opportunities for TRTP supporters. 

This week, we'll embark on another trip to McKenna Farms. For 3 days, we'll be there, helping out in whatever capacity they need, meeting some of the kids we support, and fellowshipping together. 

In honor of the upcoming journey to Georgia, we invite you to join us for a trip down memory lane through a series of posts about our spring trip from 2013. See the trip through the eyes of Jacob's Fund Director, Glenna, the author of the following posts and our fearless leader for each mission trip in the USA.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

HAITI :: Help put an end to hunger pains

Deaf students sharing their one substantial meal per day, THANKS TO YOU
(all photos courtesy of West Tennessee Haiti Partnership)
Our hearts break a little more with each new conversation with Father Sadoni only to hear that the food crisis for the children at St. Vincent’s is not improving as we had hoped. While a partnership of teams researches both aquaponic and aeroponic garden solutions for St. Vincent’s long-term sustainability and to minimize future food shortages, there is still a real need to fill the children’s bellies now

This, friends, is where your support continues to be critical. 

St. Vincent's serves as a dormitory, school and community for the deaf and blind as well as those missing limbs and children who have impaired cognitive abilities. Due to unforeseen circumstances, St. Vincent's lost it’s main food donor in 2013. Ever since, Fr. Sadoni has been working fervently to establish a new food source for the children so they can grow and thrive while in his care.

Currently, the residential students and the live-in caregivers receive two meals per day. The breakfast is light, usually bread and butter. Lunch consists of a single plate of beans and rice. All meal service for non-residential students (close to 200 children) has been put on hold with no reinstatement date in sight.

In an attempt to ward off hunger pains at bedtime, older residents—mainly teens and young adults—set aside a portion of their lunch to eat in the evening. The younger kids often don’t fare as well. No doubt it is difficult for the smallest ones to set aside part of their meal when their stomachs are still growling.

To add to their plight, the filter on the St. Vincent’s water purification system needed to be changed and the system shut down, temporarily cutting off their water supply. Thankfully, this should be rectified quickly, hopefully by the end of this week.

The situation is bleak now, but there is always hope! Our friends from West Tennessee Haiti Partnership were at St. Vincent’s last week to provide well-child checkups and reported that the kids are still relatively healthy. They were kind enough to snap a few pics of the kids at lunch time (pictured here). The children's spirits were high and, as usual, they thoroughly enjoyed having the US team in their midst for the week. They are doing remarkably well under the circumstances. 

With your WONDERFUL HELP, we met and exceeded our $12,000 food goal in March 2014. For this we extend our gratitude as do the children! However, in lieu of the circumstances, our team has decided to continue the food drive until the situation changes for the better. 

With your gifts, we will continue to feed the kids in the short-term, ending their hunger pains NOW, while long-term solutions are set in motion. THANK YOU for both your gifts and sharing this need with others who may be in a position to help. 

Every gift counts.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

JACOB'S FUND :: An open invitation to the farm

Jacob's Fund Director and one of the therapy horses
A Jacob's Fund volunteer staining wood
Can you feel the warmth of the sun?
Can you smell the fresh country air?
Can you hear the horses whinnying?
Are you ready to get your hands dirty?
If not, that time is coming!

The Red Thread team is taking the first mission trip of 2014 to McKenna Farms. We’ll be heading to Dallas, Georgia for a 4-day trip April 24 – 27. We’d like YOU to consider joining us. 

The Jacob Beachy Sensory Trail
The horse barn and temporary sleeping quarters upstairs
The Red Thread team will be spreading love to the kids, meeting the horses, working on the Jacob Beachy Sensory Trail, planting flowers, mulching, weeding and anything else that needs doing. We’ll have the opportunity to meet some of the patients and their families, spend time with some of the therapists, and see the magnificent horses that help provide this healing therapy.

The details
  • McKenna Farms is located at 3044 Due West Road, Dallas, Georgia 30157
  • Plan to arrive on Thursday, April 24 in the late afternoon or evening. 
  • Volunteers will sleep in a combination of therapy buildings, in the farm house or above the barn. 
  • Plan to bring your own sleeping bag or air mattress / sheets / blankets, bath towels and toiletries. 
  • Meals will be provided all day Friday and all day Saturday. If you have dietary restrictions, just let us know and we’ll accommodate.
  • Plan on cool nights and warm days. 
  • Horses, hay, dirt, weeds, mulch, paint and wood stain are all part of the mix. Dress accordingly.
  • Departure is after breakfast on Sunday, April 27.
  • The cost is $100 per participant. 
  • Space is limited.

How do I volunteer?
To request an application or learn more, please contact Jacob’s Fund Director, Glenna Fisher at 513.423.0108 or glenna@redthreadpromise.org.

Applications are due April 12, 2014.

We look forward to meeting you in Georgia!

Child receiving therapy
Volunteers bringing in the horses for the night

Thursday, March 20, 2014

HAITI :: $12,000 goal reached!

$12,000 will provide 14,400 meals!
Your generous spirits have shone vibrantly since we told you about the food crisis at St. Vincent's Center for Handicapped Children in Port-au-Prince. Today we are ecstatic to share that we reached our goal of $12,000 to help feed the children! This will provide 14,400 meals and keep their stomachs full for quite some time. 

We are humbled by your amazing response and thrilled that so many of you shared the need with others to broaden our reach. In short, we couldn't have done this without you and we are so grateful.

TRTP Vice President guest lecturer at The Ohio State University

Mendenhall Laboratory, The Ohio State University
TUESDAY, March 18 :: Honored to be invited as a guest lecturer at The Ohio State University, TRTP Vice President Sonya Yencer spoke with students at the John Glen School of Public Affairs in a non-profit management class. 

She shared her experience in marketing a 501(c)(3) from the ground up with little to no budget, focussing on how social media plays a huge part in that strategy. Students watched TRTP videos from Tell Collective and Physicians For Peace and surfed through TRTP's online presence as part of the presentation. She talked about the challenges of growing the organization without a paid staff, fundraising and cultivating volunteers. Students asked great questions and sparked some new ideas for The Red Thread's outreach team.

What a great opportunity to share real world experience with the young adults interested in the non-profit world! Thank you Kim Ratcliff and The Ohio State University / John Glen School of Public Affairs for allowing us to be a part of the class for a night.