Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Mini-Mission Trip for PYGs-Plus
August 1 through 4

Click HERE for all pictures

     We leave the church around 2:15 in the middle of a thunderstorms deluxe.  Rain and hail all the way to La Grande.  Brief respite, and then another storm over the mountain pass.  Pretty much ended as we arrived at the woods.  Nice. 
Our crew for today: Rick and Ginger, with Kourtney, Kate, and Bryson in our truck; Luke and Tom Averett with Sarah McNeil, Evan Bigler, and Spencer; Katy Nicole who picked up Amber, Carl, and Benny. Annalea will drive up later to join us.  Grandma Doris decided to stay home.  The weather forecast was too cold and wet! 

     Dale Wilkins gave a short presentation on our mission in fighting the St. John’s Wort (a plant we will be pulling) and tree thinning.  We took a walk of the woods and he shared stories and history.  All good, but kids were getting hungry!  Dinner was largely leftovers from the Missional dinner last Sunday night. 

     Campfire time with songs, devotions, and s’mores.  Annalea arrived just as the campfire was winding down.  We played a game in the dining hall, and then Luke, Annalea, and kids went up to chapel to watch a movie (with popcorn!)  Rest of us went to bed! 

Headcount at bedtime: 7 adults, 8 youth.  I will continue to give headcounts, as our group shifted constantly during the four days!! 

     I got up around 6:20 to a gray, but rainless morning.  Hoping we can get some good work done today.  Lazy morning rising as youth were probably up too late last night!  Around 7:30 Tom Averett came in for coffee.  Tom slept on the picnic tables last night!  (He started out up on the chess board, but it started to rain around midnight!)

Bark chipping the walkways. 

  A slow start to the morning (it was the youngest crowd who stayed up the latest with the movie!) but at the 9am designated devotion time, all were present and ready to go!  Of course, Dale had been up here for at least an hour or more….puttering.  I think he rises around 4:30 every morning! 
     Luke divided the youth into two work crews with Tom as lead in one and Rick the head of the other. (He did a good job splitting up siblings and senior high leadership!)  One called the Narwhals and the other the Manatees.  Luke and I are Shrimp and we float between both group, helping as necessary and I am assigned to take plenty of pictures!  At first both groups are spreading bark chips on the upper trails near the volleyball court and meadow.  Then we are given garbage bags and begin the process of pulling and bagging fields of St. John’s Wort – this weed has medicinal value in some areas as a treatment for depression.  However, it is toxic to livestock and multiplies rapidly to the detriment of the native plants.  A great time pulling, chanting the crew songs (Kate and Kourtney provided leadership here!) and in general encouraging each other. 
Singing our grace at lunch!
     During the morning, Jodie Averett joined us to bring our count up to 16: 8 adults and 8 youth. 
     Lunch is sandwiches, courtesy of the leftover deli meat tray from the Boyd funeral reception last Saturday.  After lunch, Spencer and Bryson were picked up by a family friend – they had to leave due to family commitments that night.  However, shortly after we returned to work, Roxanna Swann and nephew Nick arrived.  Count stayed the same but shifted: 10 adults, 6 youth!
Giving some directions before tree cutting.
     Afternoon work was wort pulling in the chapel area and tree thinning.  Many youth were able to wield a bow saw and practice their “Tim-brrrrr!” signals!  Most of the trees we were falling were 2 to 6 inches in diameter and under 20’ in height.  Many white fir were cut, but also a few lodgepole, ponderosa, and larch.  The larch hurt to see cut down, but thickets were growing that needed to be cleared.  Much of this is being done to keep the clearing in front of the chapel healthy and open.  Youth enjoyed the ‘scavenger hunt’ aspect of finding the orange tags and then cutting that tree down!  Other work done included Tom who fell a couple of trees and then bucked them up for firewood.  Evan eventually helped Tom with the final load in the truck up to the storage shed.  Much of this wood is donated to needy families in Pendleton during the winter. 
  We stopped work around 3pm….time to relax and PLAY!!  While many of us adults just gathered around the cookies, fruit, and water on the picnic tables, Luke, Annalea, and all but Carl and Benny headed out to make a ‘Neature’ video.  Luke will put it all together into a mini movie, but it will be pretty hysterical.  Kourtney is such a ham.  Carl, Benny, and Nick took off on a walk in the woods!
     While the weather just after lunch threatened a little storm, none materialized, and the sun came out.  It was nearly HOT!! 
     Jodie Averett brought up all the fixings for a spaghetti dinner!  Sixteen of us gathered for the meal together.  Sadly, after the meal, 5 people departed: Tom, Jodie, Kate, Sarah, and Kourtney.  We also had received the phone call that Michelle Lehman wouldn’t be able to come up.  Disappointing. 
     Ten play ‘Luck of the Draw’ after dinner….the first time out for my new copy of the game purchased after Christmas last year.  It is such a good big group game.  Evan was the winner, but everyone, including Benny, possessed cards at the end!  Hurray!  Luke served as our MC, and I gave up my spot after a couple rounds to Carl. 
     Campfire tonight was plenty of singing!  Roxanna brought her violin down to the campfire to play along with Luke’s guitar.  We took the green books down which are an eclectic mix of traditional campfire, gospel, and 70’s music!!  We sang John Denver, Joan Baez, spirituals, you name it!!  S’mores and devotions, again from Luke’s Praying with the Earth book. 
     Earlier bedtime tonight!  By 10:30 all have made their way to the dorm or trailer to bed down for the evening!  G’night! 

Headcount at bedtime:  11: 8 adults, 3 youth

     Beautiful morning!!  Clear skies with a few puffy clouds.  Up around 6:15 to write, drink coffee, and enjoy the quiet of the woods!  (And to catch up on the blogs I haven’t written in the past two months!)  It is well over an hour before I see or hear anyone else!   (Rick at 7:45!)
     We are dragging a little this morning!  Definitely feeling the reduction in numbers…. Katy, after a mock Presbyterian committee meeting last night, was given permission to work on funeral sermons this morning instead of pulling trees.  Roxanna and Nick were pulling out sometime during the morning after a leisurely breakfast.  By 9am, the rest of us were ready for morning devotions and a romp up to the upper meadow to help Dale thin the thickets of the large island area.  And oh my, what thickets were growing along the edge of the meadow with easy access to the sunlight.  Everyone was wielding a bow saw or the lopers to take down trees from 18” to 20’ – again mostly white firs or white pines, but also some ponderosa, lodgepole, and a few larch.  Douglas firs were left no matter what!  Our guide was a large, ‘valued’ tree every 8 feet – clear out the rest! 
     I ended up walking – two trips to the chapel area to retrieve saws and covers, another trip making a wide circle of the area in search of a missing set of loppers (which we still haven’t found!)
During the second half of the morning, more waiting periods while Dale chain saw cut down trees, and then we would move in and drag them into piles.  Eventually most of these will be chipped up for more bark and wood chips for paths.  Luke lost his camera during one of the ‘hide in the pile’ fiascos, but Carl later found it – thankfully in a bright lime green case! 
     Break for lunch.  Our group is tired.  Annalea and Evan are napping on top of the tables after lunch.  We excuse Carl and Benny as they worked HARD this morning.  Dale wanted to do one more section of thinning, so Luke, Amber, Katy, and I went up to help. 
     By 2 pm it is time to play!!!  Frisbee golf!  Carl, Benny, Evan, Annalea, Katy, Luke, and I head up for a round of golf.  After the first hole, it is evident we need a Frisbee throwing lesson, so Luke takes the group into the softball field (right after the 1st hole!) and everyone practices tossing into the backstop!  That helped!  We stop around the chapel and practice ‘search and rescue’ technique to spread out in search of the missing lopers.  No luck.    Maybe the PYGS will just buy the Woods a new set.  One more hole and then it is time to highball down to the dorms and get ready to leave for the WATER PARK!!! 
     The Pendleton Church made arrangements to host the group to attend the Pendleton Aquatic Center and provide dinner while we are there.  Everyone from the Woods Commission came and brought part of the meal.  Wonderful time spent talking with people I have come to know from the Pendleton church: Dale and Judy, Jack Skutt, etc.  We had a great time sliding down the giant tube slides, playing water basketball, and watching Luke, Katy, and Evan go off the diving boards!  Eventually, all enjoyed a little hot tub time after dinner. 
     Back to camp for evening devotions, a short game of Blink, and all into bed by 10 pm.  A tired crew! 

     A beautiful clear sky morning.  Little cooler, but not bad.  Up at 6:15 again to write, shower, and begin preparations for cleanup, etc.  Mornings in the woods are SOOOOO pretty!!  Katy rose quietly and left around 8am - bound for church in Baker, although thankful that Jim Kauth is preaching!  So now....we are down to 8: 5 adults and 3 youth!  
     After breakfast, we gather up at the chapel for Sunday morning worship.  A simple service of music, readings, and some individual time outside in the woods.  I sat at the edge of the patio and gazed at a towering larch tree.  I wrote the following poem the next day:

Take a few moments, Luke said, to find a holy place. 
Walk around, sit in the sunshine, 
Meditate.  Listen for the voice of God. 
We all spread out from the chapel
To spend some time alone.

I found my holy place

Along the edge of the patio. 
Beneath a towering tamarack tree. 

I leaned back and gazed upward. 
The air was still but the branches gently floated in the winds.  
Graceful and feathery, the needles of the larch. 
The longer I sat, silent and still, 
The stronger I felt God's presence, 
One with the tamarack tree. 
The strength and power of the trunk,
Tall and mighty. 
And then the waving branches,
Shifting by the winds of the Holy Spirit,
Changing direction through Spirit power. 
Butterflies, birds, dragonflies and bugs:
Darting in and out of lacy spaces,
Carrying tiny messages from God to the world,
Little angel carriers connecting the pieces of heaven. 
The sun lit up the branches until they glowed...
Lit from within by the sunlight,
By the Son Light? 
Am I lit from within as well by Son Light?
Father, Son, and Spirit -
A Holy Place. 
A Holy Tree.  

We don't need to be IN the church building

To find the places where God dwells. 
Our holy places are everywhere,
Just like God.  

(Based on Westminster Woods Worship on Sunday, August 4)

     After worship...time to CLEAN!!!  We divided up the jobs: bathhouse, bunkhouse, kitchen and dining room.  Sweeping, vaccuming, toilets and showers to clean, etc.  Rick took on the kitchen, and just piled all the food on to the outside tables for lunch!!  Dale came and checked us out around 1pm.  Annalea gets the task of driving home alone....she wanted to stop in La Grande anyway!!  

     Another good time spent at the Woods!!  Hard workers!  

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