Friday, April 25, 2014

JACOB'S FUND :: McKenna Farms Spring Mission Trip 2013 (part 3)

Friday: Coffee’s on early. 

Eager to get to work, we opt for doughnuts and fruit for breakfast. 

We step outside to find Tony, one of the young recipients of a ridership from Jacob’s Fund, on a horse in the outdoor arena. He sees us and rides our way to say hello. It’s a thrill for us. We’ve met and talked to Tony several times, and he recognized us right away!

Tony & Pumpkin
On a trailer at the edge of the parking lot are thirty bales of pine straw. We place the bales at intervals around the sides of the farmhouse, don our gloves and begin work. This morning‘s forecast puts the chance of rain tomorrow at seventy percent. Wilma declares that won’t happen. Still, we’re determined to get as much pine straw mulch down as possible.

But Cameron and Landon are here, along with their mom! These twins were silent and Landon was in tears the last time I saw them. Now, they are thriving, thanks to hippotherapy. 

By the time we break for lunch the sun is high and hot. As we eat, McKenna Farm's Director Jessie and I are on our cell phones checking the weather once again. The chance of rain tomorrow is down to sixty percent. Wilma just smiles.

Candace and her mom pull into the parking lot as we finish lunch. You may remember Candace, a teenager who excelled at the Special Equestrian Olympics in 2011 and 2012.  
The Red Thread Promise became aware of her need last summer and later learned that she had lost a major source of support for her therapy. When one of our year-long scholarships became available, Candace was named the newest Jacob’s Fund ridership recipient. 

While Candace saddles up and begins her therapy in the outdoor arena, her mom, Dana, and I chat. Dana shares how Candace's confidence has soared due to her therapeutic riding. She is proud to have mastered so many skills on horseback. Candace has also become more outspoken about kids with different abilities, writing speeches and sharing about her own experience as a child with spina bifida.

Candace atop Hershey Kisses
Wilma has been telling me since we left Ohio “There’s a lot more to mission trips than hammer and nails.” Our conversations with Tony, Cameron, Landon, Melissa, Candace, and Dana have revealed the invisible silken red thread that connects us as a vivid, thrumming-with-life link.

Even in April in an unusually cool spring, the sun, at its zenith in Georgia this Friday, is too hot to work under, so we slow our pace and remain in the shade. Time to check the forecast again; the prospect of eighteen people inside the house with buckets of paint tomorrow is a bit daunting.

Hooray! The chance of rain is now at forty percent! Wilma, not given to bragging, and without even a hint of triumphant smile, simply says again, “It’s not going to rain.”

Finding a shady spot near the barn, Rhonda and I put a newly-sanded door on sawhorses and prime it. The sliding door will be installed at the entrance to the therapy rooms and will keep children receiving therapy from being distracted by activity in the offices and outer rooms.

Back to the pine straw, and in a matter of minutes we’re finished with the planting beds around the house and stand back to survey our handiwork and declare it beautiful. But with just one bale left over, Jessie’s off for another trailer load of pine straw.

All day long McKenna Farms has been alive with children, horses, volunteers, and therapists. The excitement is contagious and energizing. Now, dinner over, horses go back into the barn, the sun dips below the trees, and we slip into easy conversation with Jessie and Joyce, about the kids who come to McKenna Farms, redesigned plans for the parents’ viewing room at the indoor arena, and future mission trip projects.

Nearby, Jessie’s sons, Jackson and Aiden, play while Emma, Joyce’s daughter, who spends many hours each week volunteering at the farm, rides in the increasing dusk. 

Sitting down makes us aware of sore muscles and fatigue. Aiden, four, is ready for bed.  Amid mouth-watering promises of biscuits for breakfast from a local biscuit restaurant that’s sponsoring a fundraiser for McKenna Farms, Jessie and Joyce depart.

Within minutes, we’re showered and ready for bed. As the rest of the crew settles in to sleep, I grab a book and head for the porch, wondering if I can stay awake until the rest of the team shows up.

Though these rolling acres of trees and pasture have held deep meaning for me since the first time I brought Jacob here for hippotherapy. I’ve kept most of those feelings to myself, choosing instead to talk about the effectiveness of this therapy, the dedication of Jessie, her staff and the volunteers, who together keep the farm running and lovingly provide therapy to the disabled children whose lives are changed here.

Members of previous mission trips here have described this place as sacred. It is both healing and cherished, so I believe the description is apt. It certainly resonates deeply in me. 

Now, with the quiet broken only by an occasional whinny, I look out over the outdoor arena. My mind slips back to those times I watched Jacob ride Major as his therapist walked alongside. I smile, seeing him riding backward, wearing what seems like a very big helmet.  

As if unwilling to break the peace that blankets the farm, the first van carrying our fellow team members pulls into the parking area almost soundlessly, followed in a matter of minutes by the second van. I lead the eight youth and three adults to the boy’s and girl’s trailers where they’ll sleep, locate the bathrooms for them, and provide a peanut butter sandwich to one hungry young lady.

In a matter of minutes, the youth have inflated their air mattresses, spread out sleeping bags, and changed into sleeping pants and tee shirts. “Don’t worry about getting up too early,” I tell Brian, our youth pastor. “We’ll need to be well rested.”  

A final weather check shows the forecast for most of Saturday morning at just thirty percent chance of rain. ~ Glenna Fisher

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