What do you do to celebrate your 50th birthdays and 30th year of graduation? That was the question the 1985-1986/1986-1987 Mod 2B [Bethel College, Kansas] guys had asked themselves for the last couple years. On Saturday morning, Jan. 20, 2018, six of us loaded up into an RV and took off on an eight-day journey which would include two main destinations: San Antonio and Houston, Texas. Those participating in the trip were Brian Schmidt, Salina, KS; Nick Kroeker, Turpin, OK; Jerry Kroeker, Viborg, SD; Will Kaufman, Moundridge, KS; Kevin Jantzen, Wichita, KS; and Gregg Dick, North Newton, KS. The goal was, in some way, to relive and bring back our college days together as we took in various sights along the way and did a couple days of voluntary service. We all anticipated this would be a fun trip, but I don't think any of us realized what an incredible experience it would end up being for all of us.
We began our trip in San Antonio and experienced the downtown Riverwalk area, the Alamo, and the Tower of Americas. Then we were ready for what most of us would consider the most rewarding two days of the trip, where we did service projects for the San Antonio Mennonite Church through the Mennonite Mission Network SOOP (Service Opportunities with Our Partners) program.
The first day was spent visiting with Pastor John Garland and learning about refugees and people seeking asylum in San Antonio and how their church has been involved and impacted by this. We spent time cleaning and organizing an area of the church, fixing some broken furniture, and cleaning up a small plot of land a couple miles from the church where we would work the next day. The day ended with all of us standing in a circle on this plot of land as Pastor Garland prayed a prayer of blessing for the land, asking God to use it in a special way in the future.
None of us knew what a special day Wednesday would be as we pulled our RV up to this piece of land we had cleaned up the day before. Pastor Garland's plan was to put up a greenhouse for the Charter High School next door to help the kids learn about growing greens and selling them at local markets. Our project for the day was to build tables for the inside of this greenhouse. He wanted the greenhouse to be about 40x16 feet with the tables a couple feet high and 4 feet deep to hold plant trays. This is where the fun began and when we started to feel God's presence on this small plot of land in the heart of San Antonio.
Pastor Garland left us a circular saw, a few 2x4s and 2x6s, and said he'd be back later. One of the guys in our group had brought some tools along so we also had a couple drills and hammers. Not much to work with. As we stood there looking at each other, we weren't quite sure how we were going to approach this task we had been given. This is when God stepped in and said he would supply our needs if we would help with the creativity. We looked across the street at a warehouse and saw a stack of wooden pallets behind the building. A couple guys went over to the office, told the owner what we were doing, and asked if there was a chance we could use the pallets. He said that would be great as he was going to have them hauled off next week anyway. As we looked closer at the pallets, we realized the dimensions were perfect for the tables. God's presence was definitely with us in a special way and we couldn't wait to get started. Five hours and about 35 pallets later, with the help of an amazing God, some creative thinking, and 6 guys who were determined to accomplish the task given them, the project was complete.
As we sat around the supper table at Pastor Garland's house that night, none of us could quite explain what happened earlier that day as it was obvious a higher power had stepped in and guided us to accomplish what none of us could have done alone. God does and will provide if we open our eyes and allow him to. What a special time that was as we sat around the RV talking about our experiences the past couple days long into the night.
How was the experience of six guys in an RV for eight days? One of the greatest weeks of our lives and an experience none of us will ever forget. We're looking forward to doing it again, or something like it, in ten years.