As a self-professed "Liturgy Nerd", I don't deal a lot in the theory of the work of the people. I deal with the work in action. Last week, I took 17 youth and 5 other adults to a lot of 'liturgical' locations. Everywhere we went we were doing the work of the kingdom, be it singing to (and with) the least, the last, and the lost, to learning of our nation's civil rights struggle, to eating rocking awesome food, we worked and played together in community. And did I mention that this is the first ever trip I've ever planned and run? Yep. Welcome to youth ministry for me. That's not to say I didn't have a ton of good help before, during, and after the trip.
I'm going to try and pull out my favorite memory from each day. This might be difficult!
This will be the third entry in my musings on choir tour, and probably my last one for now. You can read the first two entries here and here!
Day 1: Lift off! Duncanville, TX to Hot Springs, AR
I've written a whole post about the ladderball episode. It was a riot of a time. Probably the best part of the proceedings was the random nickname calling. It was just fun to watch the fellowship, and the heckling that passed between the residents and our students. I'm still laughing about it.
Day 2: Hot Springs to Memphis, TN for some fun
I'm not gonna lie, the whole reason for this trip destination was so I could partake of the God-blessed pork ribs at Rendezvous in Memphis. And partake I did. I ordered a full slab, and a few of the youth doubted I could finish it. I probably could have taken on another slab. But then I wouldn't have had room for the desert at TG Friday's later that night with the crew that were watching the NBA finals.
Day 3: Gig in Bartlett, TN
We had prepared the students ahead of time for the type of gig we were doing this year. While our first gig was for elderly folks, it was in a retirement community with people who were still on the move. We enjoyed a wonderful time with those folks talking and laughing about life. Our second gig was different though; it was in a true assisted living center (or nursing home). We sang for them in their dining hall and the room was full of people, the vast majority in wheelchairs or the like. Probably the most emotional moment of the trip for me was during our Beatles "Legends" medley. While we were singing out Let It Be, I turned around to see a man singing so hard with his arms up that he was just about falling out of his chair. It was a beautiful moment.
That morning we had also visited the National Civil Rights Museum on the site of the Lorraine Motel, the place where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. I wasn't prepared as I walked the museum to find myself staring out of the very balcony on which the great man was shot.
Day 4: Memphis to Nashville, with a gig in Franklin
The evening on this trip was an important one. It was Junior/Senior night, the night when the juniors and seniors are rewarded for being great leaders throughout the year and on the trip. After conferring with the YC President beforehand, we decided on BB Kings Restaurant and Blues Club. There was live music from and All Star Blues Band that night ... The highlight for me was when the guy started singing "The Thrill is Gone" ... If you closed your eyes you would have thought that BB King himself was there.
Day 5: Nashville for some more fun
The one true request made by the youth when we chose to go to Nashville for the tour was to go line dancing. You probably wouldn't be surprised by this, but it's not easy to find a place to line dance that's both fun and family friendly. After doing our homework, we landed on the Wildhorse Saloon in downtown Nashville. And it couldn't have been a better choice. We asked for a cater meal and they set us up in a 'private room', which was actually a section partitioned off right next to the dance floor ... Could not have been better seats! And the BBQ ... So stinking good. But Footloose takes the cake as the highlight of the night.
We were staying at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, which is is full of all kinds of fun, so I'd planned to get out of Wildhorse earlier rather than later so we could all have fun running around the hotel. But then the dance instructors announced (right after we got there) that they'd be teaching the epic-level line dance scene from the latest Footloose movie, later in the evening. And like that my plans for an early return to the hotel were shot down. But I tell you what ... watching nearly all of the youth out on the dance floor learning the moves was priceless.
Day 6: Heading home! Nashville, TN to West Monroe, LA
This was the long day of travel ... An 8 hour ride from Nashville to Monroe. Full disclosure here ... I'm directionally challenged. So when traveling, anywhere, I'm completely dependent on my GPS. With good reason, I'm very trusting of the GPS, but, while you know it's always going to get you there, how it gets you there can be very sketchy. Because a GPS unit knows all of the roads. Even the dirt ones. While we didn't drive any dirt roads, it sure wanted us to. Probably the best part of the drive was a 20 mile trek through backwoods Arkansas. I drove as fast as I could to get through it ... But slowed down a bit when I saw a man mowing his ginormous lawn on his riding mower, with his son, and both of them were shirtless. I felt like we invaded some special and bizarre ritual.
Thankfully we did end up in Monroe on time, and partook of some awesome crawfish cooked up by some dear friends in ministry.
Day 7: Homecoming!
The best moment of coming home was seen my wife and son for the first time in seven days. Our boy is almost 6 months old and is learning new stuff every day, so it was crazy hard to be away for that long. But they were there in the parking lot waiting for us, and when I took the little man, he couldn't stop laughing. Best thing ever.
There were a whole lot of other fun memories from the tour, but this is the big stuff that sticks out to me. I've been home for a week now, and things just pop up at random in conversation, and I think that that's what's fun about a trip like this that was so full of ministry.
I will say in conclusion that this felt like a Youth Ministry Graduation for me. It was a blessed trip and I'm already working on next year!