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Friday, December 20, 2013

Youth Happenings: Christmas Break Edition

Hi Everyone:

First of all, thanks to all, parents, youth, and especially Sarah, our youth coordinator, for a great Christmas party!

I delivered the presents to the Aliveness Project last Monday and they were very appreciative. There are a lot of families that weren't adopted and so they are grateful for the fact that the youth group does what it does for this effort. Thank you contributors, shoppers, and wrappers.

We do not have Explorers, confirmation, or youth group December 12 or December 29. The calendar shows Youth Choir at 9am and Chapel Choir at 9:30am both Sundays.

May you experience hope, peace, joy, and love this Christmas season.



Thursday, December 12, 2013

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

Hey Folks:

Here's the run down:

9:30am Adult Ed on Forgiveness
9:30am Explorers
10:45am Worship (Christmas Pageant)

12:30pm Roger Barr Christmas Story Reading

3:30pm Confirmation

5:00-7:00pm The Annual Youth Christmas Party

What'll it be? A potluck, a white elephant thing, games, present wrapping for the Aliveness Project, music...

What should you bring?

1. A mixed CD you create (and put your name on) to exchange with others as a way of letting people know the real (musical) you.

2. A white elephant gift. Something you don't use anymore but that some else may like. Wrap it!

3. Food. So far here is what has been assigned or volunteered:

Devon-a main dish
Sam-homemade pop
Kat-cupcakes or other desert
Dan: tater tot hot dish
Sophia-mac and cheese
Rosalie-non-homemade pop
Emma-fruit salad

Not bad so far. If you don't see your name (which is many of you), bring something you see lacking.

It is going to be a great time, can't wait to see you all!



Friday, December 6, 2013

Youth Happenings December 8, 2014

Busy Day at Church!

9:00am Youth Choir
9:00am Early Worship
9:30am Chapel Choir
9:30am Explorers Class
9:30am Adult Ed
10:45am Late Worship


12:00-2:00pm Youth Group: Shopping for Aliveness Project and Set-Up for Around The Table Carol Sing in the social hall (community service project and in-house service project). Everyone meet in the social at noon on the side with the piano. I will be there with Sarah.

Please bring $10 as able to help pay for gifts for the families we have adopted through the Aliveness Project. We have a couple of teams going to make the shopping run. The others will be with Sarah setting up for the Around The Table Carol Sing. We will order pizza and eat around 1:30pm.

No confirmation...go get some rest so you can come back for the Around The Table Carol Sing at 5:00pm.

Next Sunday (the 15th) is the Youth Group Christmas Party. We did some planning last Sunday: it will be a potluck, think of something you would like to bring to share, food-wise and let us know this Sunday. There will also be a white elephant exchange: wrap and bring something you don't use anymore but that someone else may appreciate.

I hope everyone had a good week and I look forward to seeing you this Sunday!



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Youth Happenings December 1, 2013

Here's the plan:

9:00 am Early Worship
9:00am Youth Choir
9:30am Chapel Choir
10:45am Late Worship

No Explorers, Adult Ed, Confirmation, or Youth Group this weekend

Next weekend: youth group will be right after church. We will eat and shop for the Aliveness Project (please bring $10) and help set up for the Around the Table Carol Sing as an in-house service project.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!


Friday, November 22, 2013

Youth Happenings Sunday November 24, 2013

Hey Folks, here's what's going on...

(no early worship)
9:00am Youth Choir
9:30am Chapel Choir
9:30am Adult Forum on Thanksgiving
10:45am Worship
11:45am Curt's Retirement Celebration

5:00pm Youth Group: Christmas party planning and special guest Adam Blons

I look forward to seeing everyone!



Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Another Opportunity

I have a family looking for snow removal December 14-29 at $20 a shot. This is not a mission trip fundraiser and is open to junior and senior high folk. Email me.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Opportunities for Youth

Hi Folks:

It isn't here yet, but snow is on the way. I've had two requests for youth willing to do snow removal:

The first is from a member who is having surgery and will be unable to shovel his snow. He is willing to pay $20.00 per time. This would be a good way to make some money for someone with transportation as the home is near Roseville.

The second is from a family who is willing to make a donation for the mission trip for someone to be on call for snow removal while they are out of town November 20 to December 1. They live in the Highland neighborhood. This is a great opportunity for a mission trip participant to earn fundraising credit.

Both need to know quickly, as they have people in reserve, but wanted to offer this to our youth first. Please email me at if you are interested in either.



Friday, November 15, 2013

Youth Happenings Sunday November 17, 2013

9:00am Early Worship
9:00am Youth Choir
9:30am Chapel Choir
9:30am Jim Nelson speaking to parents at Adult Forum
10:45am Late Worship

3:30pm Confirmation youth and parents

5pm Junior and Senior High Fellowship-Aliveness Project Holiday Basket Kick-Off. This is our time to show our commitment to local ministry.

I look forward to seeing you all Sunday!



Friday, November 8, 2013

Mission Trip Meeting Update for Sunday

Hi Folks:

Please bring a $50.00 deposit for the mission trip to Sunday's meeting.

I look forward to seeing everyone!



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Youth Happenings Sunday November 10, 2013 and more

Hi Folks:

I have lots to share with you in this post.

The schedule this Sunday is....

9:00-9:30am Worship
9:30-10:30 Adult Forum: Jim Nelson speaking about youth. See note below*
10:45-11:45am Worship
3:30pm-5:00pm Confirmation-Parents only
5:00pm-7:00pm Youth Group (From 6-7pm there is a mandatory mission trip meeting for youth and parents)

*About Adult Ed: Jim Nelson is a retired child and youth psychologist whose book Running on Empty, speaks to many issues confronting youth and their parents in a plugged-in culture of busy-ness, with expectations on young people from a number of fronts that are leading to disturbing trends amongst adolescents. Jim has asked that I invite you to come with any questions or concerns you have about youth and our current culture as a lead-off to the discussion.

Lastly, from the Stewardship Campaign:

Dear Friends in Faith:
As the 2013 Stewardship Chair, I have been asking members of our church to share some of the Surprising Gifts that they have received as part of their life in the Macalester Plymouth faith community. 
I wanted to share with you, parents of the youth of our church, some thoughts from Anne Bushnell on this topic.  Her thoughts echo what I've heard from many parents and they certainly reflect our own experience raising a family in this church.  As you consider your giving this year, I would ask that you reflect your own family's experience.  
Rich Passmore

Dear fellow MPUC parents of youth,
I was asked to think for a bit about what Macalester Plymouth United Church has meant to my boys, now 15 and 18, and to us as a family. This turned very quickly from a task on my to-do list, to a rush of gratitude and an overflowing heart. From a bit of a thorn, to a big, beautiful rose.
Counting the blessings received from my kids’ involvement in Mac Ply youth programs… It’s so much more than dropping them off at 5 o’clock on Sunday night for youth fellowship. It is watching both of my boys get up in front of our trusting, loving congregation and read their personal statements of faith as they step forward to be confirmed. It’s an engaged discussion at the dinner table about marriage equality, people who are homeless in St. Paul, and yes, even about what Jesus would have had to say about it all. It is standing back while one of them organizes leaf raking and offers up his pie baking skills to do his part in fundraising for the mission trip. It is hearing the other explain a Bible story (in detail I never knew), and being so glad he’s got this in his toolbox. It is listening to them sing, and laugh, and learn about silence.
I am grateful for all of the caring adults MPUC has brought into their lives, for our church’s courage to offer Our Whole Lives sexuality education, for helping teenagers learn to look outward as well as within.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. 
With love and gratitude,

Anne Bushnell

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Youth Happenings Coming Up

Hey Folks:

This Sunday, November 3

9:00am Youth Choir
9:30am Chapel Choir
9:30am Explorers Class
10:45am Worship

There is no youth group this Sunday. I will be out of town.

The Following Sunday (November 10)-Big Stuff!

9:30am Explorers Class
10:45am  Worship
3:30pm Parents meeting for Confirmation in the Plymouth Room (youth get to stay home)
5:00-7:00pm Youth Group

There is a mandatory Mission Trip Meeting for senior high participants and their parents that starts at 6pm.

Fellowship for junior high will be led by our new youth coordinator, Sarah. Come and meet her! A full bio on Sarah is coming, but she will also be working with the Explorers class. I am asking parents to encourage their youth to join Sarah at the 10:45am worship service after Explorers each week.

Look for more details next week, but for now, mark those calendars!



Friday, October 25, 2013

Youth Happenings This Sunday, October 27, 2013

Here's what going on this Sunday...

9:00am Worship
9:00am Youth Choir (grades 4-8)
9:30am Chapel choir (grades 9-12)
9:30am Explorers Class (grades 6-8)
10:45am Worship

Youth Group-Important Notice

The Circles of Grace event, scheduled for 6:00pm this Sunday has been cancelled. We will, however, have regular youth group from 5:00-7:00pm for junior and senior high youth. I look forward to seeing you Sunday!



Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Message from Adam for Parents of Youth

Circles of Grace: Parents and Youth, Oct. 27, 6pm to 7pm

God’s Grace shines through the time, talents, treasure and trust given by this congregation to its ministries and the wider community.  During this year’s stewardship campaign, we have been gathering  in small groups to share the impact of the church on our lives and reflect upon the spiritual practice of giving and pledging. There is a special group happening this Sunday, Oct. 27 during the youth program for youth and adults.  Tom and Adam have crafted an experience that will work for the youth and include the parents.  Part of the evening will be spent separately, but we will end together as we acknowledge the gifts we have received and given that make the ministries of the church possible.  Please email Adam and let him know if you are able to come this Sunday. His email is Youth will gather for dinner, etc. at 5pm.     

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Youth Happenings October 20, 2013

Hey Folks!

Happy MEA/Educators Weekend! There is no Explorers class or Youth Group on Sunday.

We meet again on October 27th.



Thursday, October 10, 2013


If you receive blog updates by email, you will have notice I made a date error. This Sunday is the 13th. As for the 20th, there is no Explorers Class or Youth Group because of the long weekend for St. Paul public schools.

Sorry for the confusion,


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Youth Happenings Sunday October 13, 2013

Hey Everyone:

Here's what is going on this Sunday....

9:00am Youth Choir (grades 4-8)
9:30am Chapel Choir (grades 9-12)
9:30am Explorers (grades 6-8)

12pm-3pm Junior and Senior High Youth Group
Bowling at Sun Ray Lanes
2245 Hudson Road (I-94 and McKnight Road)
Meet at church at noon. Back at church at 3.
Cost is $6.00
Food will be provided

Drivers are needed. Contact Tom if you are able to either drive youth to and pick them up from Sun Ray or are able to join us for the afternoon.

Note: There is no Explorers class or Youth Group next Sunday, October 20th.

I look forward to seeing everyone Sunday!



Friday, October 4, 2013

Youth Happenings Sunday October 6, 2013

8:30am Boy Scout Pancake Breakfast

9:00am Youth Choir (grades 4-8)
9:30am Chapel Choir (grades 9-12)
9:30am Explorers (grades 6-8)

5pm-7pm Junior and Senior High Youth Group

I look forward to seeing everyone Sunday!



Sunday, September 29, 2013

Youth Happenings September 29, 2013

It's a much more laid back Sunday this week then last week!

9:30-10:30am Explorers

5:00-7:00pm Youth Group
Senior High will be making the final vote on the 2014 Mission Trip location (Committee meets at 4:30pm)
Junior High will be doing activities led by me (Tom).

As usual, we get things started by checking in and having dinner together.

I look forward to seeing everyone!



Friday, September 20, 2013

Sunday September 22, 2014

It going to be a big day Sunday....

If you are in choir, please go to rehearsal when scheduled:
Youth Choir (4-8th grade) 9am in the social hall
Chapel choir (9-12th grade) 9:30 in the social hall

9:30-10:30am Explorer's Class 9:30-10:30 for 6th-8th grade

9:30-10:20am The Youth Mission Trip is the subject of the Adult Forum. We got some people who are for sure showing up:
Maddie F.

...and others hopefully. Please try to show for this, many voices are good. Be outside the Plymouth Room at 9:30am.

10:20am Meet me in the sanctuary. Sit on the side of the church where the piano is (no the bell choir side). I have bulletins and readings for each of you and directions when to head up.There are three times during the service when we have mission trip reflections. I've organized the readings to follow a loose narrative, so you will see on your bulletin "A-1" "B-3," "C-2," etc. The letter refers to which reflection period you will go up during and the number refers to the order you go.

Lian is handling the front end of the liturgy

Julia, Lian, Erica and Cecelia are doing the children's time with me, assuming Erica and Cecilia are back in town.

Maddy is working the slide show with Lee and Lisa. The slide show will happen during offering. The screen will be by the bell choir tables. Stan will improvise music during the slide show, God bless him.

Lydia is handling the tail end of the liturgy.

After Lydia does the benediction, she should move to the front of the aisle and lead all of you out, where you should form a receiving line to greet people as they come out.

Whew! Go home, take a nap, do homework.

5:00-7:00pm Youth Fellowship
We'll do roses and thorns, eat and then junior high will be with Ed and I will be with the senior high to discuss next year's mission trip. Researchers, bring your research!

Any questions or concerns, call me at 612-716-3150 or email me at




Sunday, September 15, 2013

On our way

We are packed back in the bus and leaving pilgrim point. With a short rest stop we should be pulling into the church parking lot around 4 or 4:15. See you there.

Sunday morning - part 1

We just finished worship and ate cleaning up. Our projected arrival is around 4:00. I will update the blog when we are rolling with a more accurate time.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Retreat Update and Packing List

New Departure Time: Friday, 6:00pm
Due to several time conflicts, we will be departing at 6pm, rather than 5pm. So come with a bag dinner or already have had dinner and we'll head out at 6.

Possible return change time: Sunday, 3:30pm
According to the bus company, this is when we'll roll back into MPUC, but I think it may take longer. We will notify you when we know more, but somewhere between 3:30-4:30pm in our window of re-entry.

Here is a packing list, in case you didn't pick one up Sunday:

1. A sleeping bag/bed roll, a pillow, and anything else you need for sleeping

2. Toiletry items including a towel and a washcloth

3. Weather appropriate clothing for daytime activities, possible swimming, and evening outdoor activities (This is Minnesota: it could be freezing or it could be 90 degrees out).

4. A Water Bottle-Definitely Bring a Water Bottle!

5. A flashlight

6. A bag dinner for the bus ride up and snacks to share throughout the weekend

7. Games to Share

8. Homework, if you have it

9. No iPods (or their equivalents) or cell phones. Leaders will have cell phones for youth to contact home. (If you need to reach your youth, Tom’s cell is 612-716-3150. 

11. Consent form and payment if not already sent in.

Looking forward to a great weekend!


Friday, September 6, 2013

Rally Day!!!

Hey Everyone:

Some updates about the next couples of weeks:

Though there is no Explorers Class this Sunday, Ed will be on hand during education hour to entertain 6-8th graders who may need to be here for other reasons. Or just come and have a good time.

Definitely check out the youth table at Rally day for Fall Retreat information and forms. We have a good number of folks going so far. This year we are being offered a ropes course for folks age 12 and up, there is additional waiver for that and it will be on the table with the registration form. This is an optional activity, so if you prefer to main attached to the ground (like me), you be a part of the cheering section.

St. Norm will also be posting all the forms on the blog sometime today.

Back to Rally Day... we have youth group from 5-7pm that evening. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone after such a long time off!



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Youth News for September 2013

Important: Please RSVP for the Fall Retreat Now! Email

September 8
No Explorers
5:00-7:00pm    Jr. and Sr. High Youth Group

September 13-15
No Explorers or Youth Group on the 15th
Fall Retreat
Leave: 5:00 PM on Friday (bring bag dinner for the bus)/Return: by 5:00 PM on Sunday (Note later return time from previous years)

To reserve your spot on this retreat, RSVP to tom at ASAP, then please return consent forms and a check for $125 (made payable to Macalester Plymouth Church) by Wednesday, September 8th. Confidential Scholarships are available.

September 22
9:30-10:30am Explorers (for 6th-8th grade) in Knowles Room
9:30-10:30am 2013 Mission Trip Presentation for Adult Forum
10:30-11:30am 2013 Youth Mission Trip Worship Service
5:00-7:00pm Youth Group

September 29
9:30-10:30am Explorers (for 6th-8th grade) in Knowles Room

5:00-7:00pm Youth Group

Youth/Chapel Choir Schedule:  Regular Rehearsals on Sundays:  Youth 9:00 - 9:30am:  Chapel 9:30 - 10:30am.

September 8, 2013:  First Rehearsal
September 15, 2013:  Regular Rehearsal
September 22, 2013:  Regular Rehearsal and SUNDAY PERFORMANCE
September 29, 2013:  NO REHEARSAL 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

This Could Be You Some Day!

Hey All:

Here is a link to Claire Romey's blog about the work she is doing in Costa Rica with the proceeds of the 2013 Peacemaker Award. The Peacemaker Award is for folks 18-25 who want to make a difference in the world with the gifts they have. That means that even if travelling to a foreign country isn't your thing, there are plenty of other options for you.

Look for the information about the next Peacemaker Award in the Fall. Until then, go cheer on one of our own!



Friday, August 2, 2013

Save the Date! Fall Youth Retreat

Hi Everyone:

I know Fall planning might be in the works right now in your homes, so I wanted to get as much of the Fall Retreat information to you as possible as soon as possible.

The Fall Retreat will be Friday September 13 to Sunday September 15 at Pilgrim Point Camp in Alexandria. It is an awesome place. It is also further away so we are going to (school) bus our way there. We will be leaving at 5pm Friday and returning 5pm Sunday. The cost is still $125.00 and there are a scholarships available (you can email me about those).

As I said, more information will be sent out as soon as details get confirmed.

While I'm at it, the Mission Trip Worship Service is Sunday, September 22 at the 10:45am service. We will also be the presenters at the adult forum at 9:30am that morning. If you were on the mission trip this past summer please add that to your calendar.

I hope you are all having a great summer!



Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Mission Opportunity

If you returned from the mission trip wanting more, here is your chance:

The Red Shirt Project is a mission opportunity offered by Robert Two Bulls, who is a priests at All Saints Indian Mission in Minneapolis with his wife Ritchie. The Project is located at Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. They are looking for youth 15 years and up who are available the last two weeks in July to come and work on the reservation. My words can't do it justice, so take a look at for an idea of what you can expect.

There will be adult chaperones on the trip, but not from MPUC. If you are interested and want help getting connected give me a call.



Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Many Thanks!

Many thanks are due now that this year's mission trip has come to a close.

John, Lee, Maggie, and Marsha: What a great adult team. Parents, your youthies were in great hands with this A team that worked with them not just on the job sites but during the off hours to make sure that the trip was educational, fun, and life changing.

Julia and Maddie: Strong leadership this year, absolutely amazing. They put significant time into the trip in the year leading up to it. One of the Camp Rhino people thought they were church staffers!

Mission Trip Committee: The youth on the committee were instrumental in making sure fund-raising efforts were successful and that things got planned for the trip.

Youth: As ever, the youth were hard workers and now they are bearers of the experiences shared with them by people who have been through extremely difficult times.

Congregation: For financial support, for prayers, for caring, for being interested, for doing mission work through this particular avenue.

Parents: Thanks for trusting us with your youth. Thanks for your work as parents that makes them such a pleasure to be with even when the weather is hot and work is frustrating.

The people of New Orleans and the staff of Camp Rhino and St. Bernard Project: for your mission work to the youth and adults by allowing the group to learn from you and to experience God speaking through you.

The bus drivers: for getting us there and back safely and listening to our music, movies, and general crowd noise.

I look forward to this year's mission trip service (September 22) when the youth will share what they experienced with the congregation. Until then...there's always the blog!



Monday, June 24, 2013

Missing Camera!!!!

A camera, black Canon without a case, was misplaced on the bus ride back to town.

If you know about this, or have it, call or send a text message to Lily at 651-925-7919, and she will see that it gets returned to rightful owner.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Nearing Mason City, ETA still 12:30 PM

Donuts in Iowa City

Just stopped for the obligatory bus donuts, and we think we'll get back at or around 12:30.  Will update as we get closer.

Making Our Way

It's just before 6:00 and most of the bus is still asleep as we seem to have figured out how to make that work just in time not to need the skill anymore.

We just passed through Hannibal, MO, which puts us on track to arrive  in Saint Paul at about 12:30, but that will partially depend on how long any stops are, so check back for updates as the morning progresses.

Thank you for letting your youthies participate in this fabulous trip -- every one of them made it a better trip than it would have been without them, and we adults were blessed to spend the week watching them grow and learn and teach each other and us.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Prayer partners, communion... and leaving Memphis

We completed a wonderful and moving closing to the mission trip in Overton Park in Memphis. We are back on the road, and still thinking a noon arrival in Saint Paul.

Check back on Sunday morning for an update. And thank you, as always, for your prayers and support.


It's gonna be FANTASTIC!!

Or so Maggie has convinced us, about the bus ride. Bus just left French Quarter. On our way. With 21 youth.

Best estimate is noon Sunday in St Paul. We will update estimate as we go.


Friday, June 21, 2013

The Final Frontier

Here goes one last blog post,

Hey all, things are winding down here in the common room. Four people are playing Hearts, Erica's CD is playing in the TV, and the adults all look like they could use 12 hours of sleep. They deserve some hibernation, but I'm not sure that the bus tomorrow will allow it.

It has been a blast! This has been a very satisfying mission trip in that the progress was tangible, there was true need for our work, and everyone here is awesome. I have already begun to feel sadness that next year I won't be going on the mission trip. There has always been THE mission trip that starts off the summer. THE mission trip that lets me spend time and make friends with the other kids at Mac-Plymouth. THE mission trip that gives me the privilege to serve others and make a positive difference in the world. I'm going to miss it in a way that I could describe using every cliche I can think of. But I won't, because as simple as the idea of a mission trip is, it is not cheesy or shallow. A mission trip is a genuine, life-changing experience.

Today I haven't felt so hot. My stomach has felt off and has been cramping. It was fairly debilitating at the work site, much to my frustration, but since then has seemed to get a little better. I am hoping that a good nights sleep will allow my system to work itself out and I will be 100% for the trip home tomorrow. I am optimistic!

Well we are being called to bed, so I will say good night to everyone out there. Thank you for all of your support, encouragement, and love over the last four years. You guys are the best!

Henry B.
Hello back home in Saint Paul! Our week here in New Orleans has been not only amazing, but enlightening. This experience has opened my eyes; you really don't know what you have until you lose it.

All week, my construction group and I have been working on flooring and installing base-board for a woman named Gwen. Her home is located in New Orleans East and after the levee broke, her house was flooded about six feet and her family were stranded on their roof for four days, and she and her husband had to swim to safety.

Eight years prior to Katrina, Gwen still does not have a home of her own. On thursday she came to visit us to see the work we had accomplishEd in her home. She told us her story which made me realize how lucky i am with my life back in Minnesota; i have always had a home to go back to, and she has been moving around for eight years. Disasters really put our liVes in perspective, especially if you have survived them. After our week here, we will have all these memories from our experience, but we will eventually forget and they will become less prevalent in our thoughts.

Just to reminisce on a fantastic first mission trip, i want to make a special shout out "team A's" upstairs flooring crew. You really made our work at Gwen's house fun. From the infamous table saw, to our dance parties, learning to cope-physically anD mentally- and of course, finally celebrating the upstairs hallway being flush.

It was a great week and i honestly couldn't have asked for a better mission trip.

Love, erica craddock

Last day of work

Avery here!
Today was our final day of work. Unfortunately, our homeowner, Ms. Cassandra, never showed up so we couldn't meet her and learn her story. I would have liked to meet her so we could know who would be living their everyday lives in the rooms we built. The rooms were all painted this week, and it was incredible how much the bright colors helped change the house from a structure with no meaning to a house that someone would be living in for years to come. We also did a lot of the baseboard and trim around the house. Even this small detail made a big difference in how much better the rooms looked. Me and Maddy worked on the trim around the back door. At first, it was confusing because we had no idea what we were doing. Eventually, we figured it out and were able to piece it all together. It was hard to get the length just right, but when our site director came over to look at it she told us it was perfect and that we had done a great job. This was the biggest moment of satisfaction I felt all trip, since we made something from start to finish without really knowing how to start. I was sad to leave the house, since we will probably never return to see it again. I wish I could see it finished in person, but i know we made a lot of important progress in just the four days we were there. I'm glad that Ms. Cassandra will be able to move back to her real home sometime this sumer, since she has been waiting for so long. It will be nice to get back to Minnesota, but I will definitely miss New Orleans.
Bye for now,
Hi Parents
Marsha here. Each year on these trips I am touched by the hard work and good spirits of the youth.  Each one brings gifts and talents and together they make a difference.  And this year as in years past our host organizations are amazed by them. I have heard so many great comments about their hard work, generous spirits and engagement with issues.  Last night we had a long discussion about what we have experienced here in New Orleans.  We are coming back with many stories to share.  Se y'all soon. Marsha

Au Revoir New Orleans

Bonjour Minnesota!
    We have just returned from our last worship service with RHINO. Over the week we have listened to a few sermons from Durban Durban (our nickname for our keynote speaker, Andy Durban), and spiritual songs from the guest band. It's been a bit like Next Step last year, but a little less extreme. Tonight Jimmy, Henry, Paul and I sang "Prayer for the Children" to open the service.  I believe Maggie has a video.
  It's bittersweet to be leaving New Orleans; we all miss our families, our homes, our beds. But New Orleans still needs us. Being here has shown me that, even almost eight years later, so much help is still needed.  It has been an amazing experience, and very satisfying to see the work that the adult leaders, Maddy, and I put into this trip turned into an impactful, fulfilling mission trip. We worked hard, we played hard, we slept hard. What else could you ask for? I've had such a wonderful time with these wonderful people, and I can't wait to see you all soon!
Much love,
Julia Schafer
P.S- Simon is here with me, and he wants to say hi to his family. Also, shoutout to Lydia's cats. She misses you! Meow.

The little things

Hi everyone, Claire Donovan here :-)
Everyone knows how much fun we have every year doing mission work on the mission trip every year. Its always a LOT of work and we're exhausted by the end of the day. Although the main point of our trip every year is to do work and help others, we always make time to do typical teen things. We did a lot of those this week. Some of my favorite little things that happened this week were...
1. Swimming with everyone in the pool. We had a few awesome games of boys against girls pool basketball at the rec center by our dorms. Its the best way to cool off after a long day of work.
2. Yesterday, we met the cutest little dog I've ever seen, literally. He was grey and fluffy had his ears stuck out, his tongue was lolling and his little white teeth were smiling. He looked just like a happy koala and he sat in our laps and let us pet him as he licked up. He chased Jimmy in a circle hoping to get a bite of his sandwich.
3. Over the week I've aquired quite a collection of mardi gras beads. Right now my count is at 12, all colors of the rainbow. They're so shiny and I really don't want to let them out of my sight so they're next to me right now. 
5. I've liked hearing Xaver and Clem's accents this week. Its been cool having German and French teens on the trip with us.
6. Today Tom fell asleep on the couch during our free time. The couch in the middle of the lounge, surrounded by teens. You can probably guess what happened. Tom's unconcious body was transformed into the cereal king. This included putting a cereal bowl on his head, silverwear in his hands, cheerios on his lap, cards and ripped up paper thrown on him. He was pretty surprised when he woke up to all of us laughing.
7. I've played soooo many games of bananagrams (and we've made up so many words)
8. (Once again) the food has been AmAzInG, everything we've had is so good (looking forward to possibly bbq in Memphis tomorrrow night? EVen though its 9:30 and we had chicken fajitas a few hours ago, I could really go for another poboy right about now).
9. I've had a lot of time to catch up on my reading this week. I've been reading Stephen King's It and I've enjoyed discussing it and other books with the others on the trip. 
10. I've really enjoyed just spending time with everyone and getting to know everyone better. I've gotten to spend time with everyone, which has been great. We always get so close on the trip. 
Anyway, all in all its been a really fantastic trip. I'll see you all (y'all? I've been here long enough, I think I'm allowed to say that) later!!
Lots of love, 
Claire :-)

List of Strange Things

This week, Abram and I made a list of all the strange and random things we saw in New Orleans. They're the kinds of things you look at and are just confused.

1. We were driving through one of the richer neighborhoods of the city. There were a lot of mansions, and one of them had this enormous tree with a branch that stretched across the whole yard, so the homeowners had put a pillar under the branch to hold it up. It was strange, and also beautiful.
2. There are a lot of beads hanging from the trees and power lines.
3. We were driving in the bus, and we saw a power line with logs strung through it. It was really random- there's the power line, and it contains logs. I have no idea how they got there. Maybe they serve some purpose I'm not aware of.
4. Our bus is very large, and it had some trouble navigating the narrower streets. At one point, the top of our bus hit a tree branch. Only, when Abram looked back, he saw that we had not hit a tree branch. There was a sign hanging from the branch that said, "look out for tree branch." We hit the sign. Oh, the irony.
5. There were clouds shaped like a perfect heart one day. It was beautiful. After about five minutes it was gone.
6. So, Tom and I are vegetarians. We went to Mother's, a restaurant, one day, and ordered bean omelets. Because that has no meat in it, right? Wrong.
7. There was a cockroach in the bathroom, so I trapped it with a cup and a piece of paper and dropped it off our little third story balcony. It survived and happily scuttled away. What a survivor.
8. I kept track of how many I saw:
Cats: Sixteen
Lizards: Nine
Horses: Fifteen

I do love how many cats there are running around this city. 
It's been an awesome week!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The work continues, 7 1/4 inches at a time.

I remember coming here in the summer of 2007. It was about 22 months after the Storm, and it was still a raw disaster area. Refuse was piled on the streets, no street signs made getting to work sites very challenging, and we were still doing demolition work. The work was disorganized and the neighborhoods had very little life in them except for some FEMA trailers.

Six years have gone by. Thousands of families have come back home. There have been millions of hours of volunteer time and billions of dollars invested since Mac-Plymouth first came here.

With still so much to be done.

This week we were told that the city of New Orleans still has 35,000 abandoned properties. Where the B-plusses are working in Lower Nine there are three vacant lots to the south, another next door the other way and another across the street. Just three little concrete remain. Some lots are overgrown with weeds, with no one claiming title to the property.

Where we working in the back bedroom of Miss Carlmelita's house in Lower Nine,  the laminate flooring pieces are 47 inches long and 7 1/4 inches wide. We are not very skilled and the work does not go quickly, but when Simon installed a small strip it was the second room our little team had done, and Julia and Lian had already done maybe 30 percent of the living room.

Could not help thinking that the work goes forward 7 1/4 inches at a time. Piece by piece, in our houses and the ones other volunteers are building or renovating this week, the progress continues. Can't believe that the rebuilding has taken this long with miles further to go, but we need to be thankful for the many hands that have put the pieces together, 7 1/4 inches at a time.

Thanks for your support.


Talk About Perspective

This morning at our job site, two of our little groups continued to work on laying flooring.  We had hoped to finish up both the upstairs and downstairs halls so that we could begin the living room, but both groups ran into frustration after frustration and made almost no progress.  While I won't say that tempers were flaring, there certainly was a loss of energy and enthusiasm, and the collective mood was mighty low.

At about 11:45, the owner, Miss Gwen, came by to thank us for our work and tell us her Katrina story.  Four days sitting on her roof with her husband and son, as well as some neighbors that they had rescued from another house, some of those days the sun so hot that she said that it almost felt like her skin was cooking.  After no one came to rescue them, they swam to where they could walk, and walked to the airport where they were sent to San Antonio, Texas, leaving everyone they knew and the only life that they had ever known, everything about her life changing forever.  Her family eventually settled in Galvaston, where she lost everything again when Hurricane Ike hit that city.

There were five or six or seven more tragedies like that, including contractor fraud, multiple thefts of  construction  equipment, and a leg amputation.  With that background, what she really wanted to talk about was how God put the right people in her life to help her and how grateful she was that we were building God's house for her to live in.

Last night, our program leader suggested that the most important thing we could do this week would be to listen to people's stories.  What a privilege to do just that.

Simon's Second Expedition

I back everyone to blog for a second time! These past three days, my team has been working at the home of Ms. Carmelita. Ryan, Devin, Hannah, Lee and I spent our time flooring the master bedroom with wooden laminate, which is much harder the it might seem. Every floor piece is a different piece to a very large, intricate puzzle. It has to be exactly the right size and cannot be damaged at all. If it has one scrape or knick, it has to be removed and started over again. Today we finally finished the master bedroom due to my mastery of the chop, table, and jig-saw. A first I was nervous when using it, but eventually my skill developed into one of such a high degree that I have declared myself a grandmaster. Right near the end of our workday the owner of the home (whom we hadn't seen) came and brought us some delicious fried chicken, beans & rice, and cornbread. I forgot to mention that before the storm she owned and operated a soul food diner, which she hopes to rebuild in the years to come. She told us her very moving story of where she was during the storm that made us think. Tonight we are attending dinner at the home of one of the members of the St. Charles Ave Presbyterian Church, the church that is hosting us, and Camp Rhino. Because of that we have to put on nice clothes, which although feels nice, is very hot. I guess I  am going to sign off now, I am glad to have the chance to blog for you all, or as Danny, Jimmy, Paul and I would say, "I do declare this has been a mighty fine time" in a deep southern accent. See you all in Minnesota soon!


Hey y'all!  Its Lily Schafer.
Today was/is a wonderful day.  We got to the site around 7, and immediately set to work finishing flooring the hallway in Miss Gwen's house.  We only had a very thin stripe along the all left...but we didn't finish yet.  There was one piece that was tricky to cut around a doorway that just wouldn't flush (come together all of the way) for a majority of the time.  Harrison (a worker at RHINO) and I finally got it after something like 3 hours.  After that, we put a few more boards in before one that refused to flush again, and Erica and I gave up when Miss Gwen showed up.
Miss Gwen literally was the sweetest, funniest and most awesome lady i've ever met!  She gave us all hugs (while commenting about Maggie "lord you are short) before telling us an hour long story about her experience during and after Katrina.  She was trapped on her roof for four days with her husband, Charles, her son Ranell (who was eventually picked up by a helicopter.  "They kept shouting for me to come, but I told them to take my son.  He was finna have a nervous breakdown"), and some neighbors who they rescued from their roof.  They too were rescued on day two.  Charles and Gwen then jumped off of their roof, and swam/walked to an airport, where they waited another day before flying to San Antonio, Texas.  She stayed in Texas until loosing everything again during Hurricane Ike in 2008.  She took it as a sign to return home, where she struggled to try and rebuild her home.  Gwen, an amputee after being shot in the leg in a drive by in 1996, still remained optimistic until she got the call that people were coming to fix her house.  "I nearly fell outta my mamas chair I was so happy," she said.  Religion was also very important to her too.  She told me as we walked up the stairs that she was so happy that we were there fixing God's and her house.  "It was his house, and then it was mine," she said during her story.  Her story was inspirational, powerful, hilarious and wonderful.  It didn't feel like an hour, it felt like a few minutes.  We were all so entranced by her story.  It was a highlight of the trip.  Her hope was amazing.  She said when she saw the floor "lord, this is the most lovely floor I've ever seen."  She was beautiful, and I will never, EVER, forget her.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Sometimes I wonder if there isn't a die thrown every time a child is born, and that dice roll determines their fortune in life.
Something I've realized: I am lucky. I get good grades and my family is wonderful; no hurricane will strike my Minnesota home. My friends love me and every time I crave chocolate I have the money to go to Walgreens and buy some.
There's a song by Regina Spektor that frequently gets stuck in my head called Laughing With. It's  about perspective- "No one laughs at God in a hospital. No one laughs at God in a war. No one's laughing at God when they're starving or freezing or so very poor... But God can be funny at a cocktail party while listening to a good God-themed joke..." The lyrics can be interpreted in countless ways, but ultimately they make the point that it's easy to treat life lightly when everything is going well, but then a disaster strikes and nothing is funny anymore.
I struggle to find my place in the world because it doesn't seem fair to others that my life is so good. Maybe I'm just an optimist, but it seems to me that I'm pretty lucky compared to someone who lost their home to nature. So I volunteer and I go on mission trips in hopes that that will even the balance, steady the scale. Is that enough?
At 6:00 this morning we left for our worksites, and as we drove I saw an elderly woman sleeping under a thick green blanket beneath one of the large New Orleans bridges, and I thought immediately of my comfy bed at home underneath all the posters and pictures on my walls. Or my dorm room at Tulaine this week- my most serious complaint is that the AC is on a little bit too high. I complain about these things because the discomforts annoy me- how I was cold while I slept, or how getting up at 5:30 seemed utterly ridiculous when I first found out. And I think complaining is okay as long as you don't do it too much, but it's also true that many, many people have immensely more troubling things to complain about.
I'm not drawing any grand point here, this is just how I think. I believe that it's good to question my place in life, and do get this sense of injustice when I see people "less fortunate than me," a phrase I've heard many times.
This trip has made me think, and I love thinking. I've been quite happy this week; I have time to read, there are a lot of cats in this city (I've seen sixteen so far), and we've been helping people, which feels great.
Life is good.
-Lian Simmer


Hello everyone! Claire Donovan here. I don't like to blog much but I thought I would put up a quick post because we have a few minutes before dinner... The week has gone very well so far. We're learning a lot of things, from safety, Hurricane Katrina stories, to skills including carptentry and painting (all things we can carry on with us later in life. Everyone we've met has been very friendly and welcoming, which is nice. One of my favorite things about the trip so far is the FOOD.
I'm just gonna talk about it for a little bit. The first full day here, we went to Mother's. I had a shrimp poboy and iced tea with lots of hot sauce. It was AMAZING. We've also had red beans and rice, pasta with meatballs and redsauce, and all kinds of awesome desserts. (My favorite has been the banana pudding)
Anyway, hope you all are doing well.
Lots of love,
Claire Donovan <3 :-)

Bunte Farbkleckse

Hallo zusammen,
Nach mehreren Anfragen auch mal auf Deutsch zu bloggen, hab ich mich doch dazu ueberreden lassen.
Heute ist Mittwoch der 19. Juni und im Moment sitzen wir im Gemeinschaftsraum und geniessen unsere Freizeit, Nachdem wir heute vormittags fleissig gemalert und Boeden gelegt haben, wurde das schoene Wetter genutzt, um ein bisschen im Wasser zu planschen. Der Pool war zwar nicht der groesste, aber es reichte volkommen aus, um uns abzukuehlen. Wer nich schwimmen ging, blieb in unserer Unterkunft und hielt ein bisschen Siesta. Man merkt halt doch, dass wir 35 Grad Celsius im Schatten und 80% Luftfeuchtigkeit nicht gewoehnt sind und das an unseren Kraeften zerrt. Meine Gruppe hat heute so ziemlich ein ganzes Haus geweiselt, das waren so ca. 7 Raueme. Die Farben sind nur so durch die Luft geflogen. Dementsprechend sahen wir natuerlich dann auch aus: Die Haare weiss, das T-Shirt blau und die Schuhe haben auch ein paar Farbkleckse abbekommen. Die waren gruen und haben deswegen dann wenigstens zu meinen gruen-weissen Laufschuhen gepasst.
Ich bin auch grad am Waesche waschen. Nachdem gestern all meine Klamotten voll Staub waren vom Gipswaende schleifen, und dann heute noch die Farbe dazukam, blieben mir nur noch all meine durchgeschwitzten Klamotten vom Frisbee und Basketball spielen oder einfach vom herumlaufen. Wie gesagt: Es ist heiss in New Orleans.
Na gut ich werde mich jetzt auch in eine heisse Partie Bananagramm/Scrabble begeben und mein Glueck versuchen. 
Die naechsten Tage wird fleissig weiter gearbeitet und hoffentlich sehen wir auch mehr von der Stadt. Ich hab immer noch nicht Trompete gespielt, das ist immer noch auf der To-Do-List. 
Liebe Gruesse aus New Orleans
Xaver Brems
its Abram once again.

aside from the five-thirty wake up, today was generally very good.
after some initial complications with floor board cutting the floor of the soon-to-be dining room got underway pretty well, and is now almost completed! After my work on the floor was no longer required I was set to work chiseling out pieces of the walls so more flooring could be installed. Although strenuous enough to work up a good sweat, taking out the walls ended up being extremely enjoyable... and messy.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hello! Today our eyes were opened to the reality that Katrina was to the people of New Orleans. We went on a second tour of the parts that were most damaged in the city from the hurricane. The Camp Rhino leader, Avery, led us on the tour and had us think about what it would be like to be in the different situations that people were in. Something that stood out to me was the situation students at Tulane were in at the time. She talked about how after just arriving in this new place, they were ask to leave and had to attend a different university for a year. I think that would be a difficult situation to be in and one of the many things that I never thought about before she mentioned them. I am excited for another day of work at Miss Cassandra's house with the SBP leader Emily. I hope we can make a difference in these people's lives and help rebuild hope in New Orleans.

Not many grocery stores, too many gunshot murders.  We learned about these realities on our tour of the city this evening.  And both are connected to the devastation after Katrina.  Many people left the city so businesses closed and have not re-opened.  Many families were broken up as they had to move around the country to find shelter.  There are many young teens in the city with no parents and no family support.   The hurricane damage is about more than floods and damaged homes.

We also saw the strength and resilience of the people of New Orleans.  Homes with flowers on their porches, neighbors helping each other.

We are working hard and learning a lot.  Our group sanding and primed at Ms. Cassandra's home.  After her house was flooded, it was remodeled and then some creeps broke into it.  It was remodeled again and again some creeps broke into it!  We want to help finish her home so that she can move in by July 15.
More later...Marsha

Welcome to NOLA

Hello friends, family, and adoring fans! I know it's been a bit of a delay, but my first blog post is finally here! Following a bus ride of limited comfort yet abundant laughter and fellowship, I ventured forth into the vibrant city of New Orleans. First conquered were the tourist traps, from French Quarter voodoo shops to the Café du Mond. The sugar crash from the beignets was felt throughout the youth group. Today marked our first day of work at the St. Bernard Project. Essentially, the project comprises a leading volunteer staff from Americorp who build/repair homes affected by Katrina utilizing private funding and the help of volunteers like us. I was in work group A, doing wooden flooring work for an elderly woman and amputee, Gwen, who has been through two hurricanes, two homes, two break-ins, and a drive-by shooting. I was tasked with sawing the wooden planks so as to fit them around doorways and against walls. I may have enjoyed those power saws a bit too much. Although the working conditions were hot, we remained indoors while we worked. For me, the first day of work proved to be quite satisfactory, as it was not only a bonding experience, but the work made me feel proud of myself as well.
Such pride appeared later this evening. After an afternoon of free time spent playing wiffle ball and throwing the disc (frisbee), and a delicious spaghetti dinner, we boarded the buses once again for a "prayer tour" of the city. On this brief trip we passed through the neighborhoods hardest hit by the 2005 disaster and the ensuing disarray, including the Central City and Lower Ninth Ward. These areas were flooded with up to 11 feet of water in the hurricane. The tour showed me that even today, nearly eight years after Katrina, these neighborhoods are still stricken with poverty, crime, and poor education. They lack grocery stores that carry fresh produce, and it is often easier for residents to access guns than wholesome food. From this description you may be thinking of New Orleans as a city barely coping. But firsthand, I see a city bouncing back. I am proud to be a part of turning the Big Easy into the City of Second Chances. I feel gratified to be a part of thousands of volunteers helping annually to make things right. I will continue to work this week on one of nearly 500 homes constructed by the St. Bernard Project. This is truly a full, fantastic mission trip experience. See y'all soon.
–Paul Ihlenfeldt

Work Day 1

Hey all!  Lily Schafer again!
Today we woke up at 5:30 in the morning, loaded the bus, and drove to the headquarters of St. Barnard, an organization founded after the storm that has helped restore almost 500 homes since then.  The organization also has partnerships in Joplin (where we went last year), New England (Sandy), and are working on setting up a partnership in Oklahoma following the tornado.
We then went to the work sites.  We were split into three groups, with my group (A) going to the home of Gwen M., a multiple hurricane survivor (Ike and Katrina) who was shot in a drive by and had to have her leg amputated.  She lost her job, and her home, brand new extensions and all, was bare.  Most of the outside work was done, so we started flooring the main hallway in the upstairs and one of the larger rooms on the first floor.  Henry, Paul, Erica and I worked on the second floor, with Paul and Erica sawing and Henry and I doing the flooring.  While appearing easy, it was really frustrating, because the pieces were so hard to make fit together well, and a lot of the pieces of wood had to be adjusted so they could fit around doors that lined the hallways.  We only got about three rows completely done, but it was a good start to a fantastic week.  I'm really excited to keep working with all of these guys.
We then took a break, filled with Bananagrams (which I apparently suck at.  Thanks Simon.), chilling with Paul, chatting, and playing trumpet with Xaver.  We then ate some dinner, and took another tour of the Katrina damage.  It was different then the first, in that Avery (not King) described the infastructure of New Orleans and how it changed due to the storm.
Overall, it was a great day.  My shirt fell of the balcony.  It was a struggle.  I'm excited to keep working tomorrow on the floors, and to keep hanging out with the group.
See y'all later!
     Lily Schafer

Houses where we are working....


Here is where we are working...

(click on the hyperlinks)

The A Team

The Reverend T. C. Ewald, III

The B-plusses

(Not) Helpful Hannah

Team C + +


Hey tout le monde,
Petite post du français ce matin réveillé à 5h20 par les adultes, petit-déjeuner et on file dans le bus pour aller dans lieu de travail. On y travaillera pendant 5 heures (jusqu'a 13h ) il fait hyper chaud environ 38 degrés, plus le ressenti d'humidité, qui ajoute quelques degrés en plus. Pour ma part j'ai travaillé pendant la plus part du temps avec Tom Abraham et Danny, c'était assez ennuyant on a du défaire un parquet entier et le remettre en place nous sommes loin d'avoir fini. Mais d'un côté c'était plutot convivial on a parlé pour la plus part du temps. De retour au campus un douche et un bon repos plus que mérité. Ce soir nous retournons a l'église pour manger et chanter tous ensemble.
Bonne soirée tout le monde et désolé pour le français, je trouvais ça plus amusant
Je porte des chaussure en chocolat
Clément GALAS avec les conseils avisés de Rayan

Hello from the Big Easy

Hello all!
 Today, after our two-day New Orleans vacation, we began our work! I was on team B, and we worked on the house belonging to ms. Carmelita.  Her home was right in front of one of the breaches in the levy where a barge was pushed through a neighborhood. We worked on laying laminate flooring, and I teamed up with Poppa Schafer to complete a butterfly wall patch. It was hot, but thankfully we were indoors and managed to avoid any sunburns. We have it pretty good on the Tulane campus- a dorm room for each pair of us, decent showers, and AIR-CONDITIONING. Livin' the good life. We've seen a lot of cool sights (Lydia was excited when we saw a voodoo shop), but we've also seen a lot of the ruin and destruction that is still so present in this city. All in all everyone is having a great time, I just played Jimmy in an epic Bananagrams grudge match, and we are about to walk to the church for dinner and a prayer tour. I'll keep you posted!
Much, much love,
Julia Schafer

Ms. Cassandra's House

Allison and Avery here!
We started work today. Our group (Team C) was at a woman named Cassandra's house. Before arriving, we were given a brief biography about the person. Cassandra is a good cook, and a loving family member whose house is the center meeting place of her large extended family. It was devastating to find out everything they had been through, including multiple break ins after they had lost everything in the storm.  We haven't met her yet, but are hopeful she will come to the house later in the week to see the great progress we're making!
Today was a messy workday. We began by doing some heavy lifting, carrying wood to the dumpster outside the front door. We then began sanding the walls and ceilings of the house. We all probably inhaled a pound of dust each, plus another three in our eyes and hair. By the end of the day we all had gray hair. The small rooms and hot lighting made it a little uncomfortable... But it was worth it to see the progress we already are making, even after just one day. A few of us also participated in the covering of the windows in preparation for the afternoon workers, who could texture the walls. 
After work, we all took necessary showers.


My first impressions of New Orleans have met all of the stereotypes that I had been anticipating. From jazz music playing throughout the entire city and the rice and beans and beingees, to the most wonderful (and only) voodoo shop I have ever been in. I do not care that others have already discussed the voodoo shop. It made such an impact that Claire and I now plan on becoming voodoo queens. (Totally kidding, we promise this mission trip is not hindering our spirituality). There was palm reading in the back, devilish masks covered the walls, and they were selling voodoo doll kits for a low price of 25 dollars. Did anyone notice how ironic it was that a church youth mission group went into a voodoo shop? I am in love with how all the plants here seem as if they are on the verge of taking over the entire city; there are roots crawling up the sides of many buildings and there are tree roots bursting through the sidewalks. Tropical plants are also so much lovelier than plants from the north, they're so colorful and wispy, and the ferns and thick-trunked trees remind me of ones I would see in a dinosaur picture book.

We just got back from our first day of work today. I was so happy to hear that we would be doing most of our work painting, flooring, and laminating, because I will be able to avoid a ridiculous farmers tan this week. I helped out with flooring today, which includes cutting the floor pieces with an electric saw and fitting them in like puzzle pieces. It was actually really fun, other than the fact that the house was like a sauna, and it's so satisfying when the floor pieces fit together just so. We've yet to meet the homeowner, but I really hope we meet the person that we get to help out.


Henry's first check-in


After a 20+ hour bus ride, some sight-seeing, and time to adjust to the climate (I'm pretty sure that the air is 49% water) we finally began doing what we came here to do today; we worked. After reviewing my high school transcript, SAT scores, extra-curricular activities, and several essays I was chosen for the prestigious Group A. We set to work on Gwen's house after a brief orientation detailing the history of the St. Bernard Project. A site director organized our efforts as we did some clean-up and then as we measured, remeasured, cut, and laid laminate flooring. I worked mostly upstairs first laying out the subfloor and then assembling the first lines of actual floor (the first few are always the hardest).

Afterwards we came back and a bunch of guys played wiffle ball and frisbee sans shirts. As I am writing there is a heated bananagrams game going on in the corner, steady snacking by the snack bags, and some relaxing novel reading in the semicircle of couches.

Hope all is well back in the 651!
Henry B.


The first batch of pictures are up.  Travel, exploring NOLA, first day of work
By abram

Today was the first day that we went to work in the houses. We were divided into three groups for this, and my group was assigned to repair the house of a woman named Gwen m. She moved to new orleans in 97 because she liked the culture, and worked as a school bus driver until Katrina. Her, her ex husband, and their son were stranded on the roof of their house for four days until they swam to the airport and were rescued by a helicopter. Later in life she lost her next home to hurricane Ike in Galveston, had her leg amputated after it was shot and infected in a drive by, and lost all the money she had for renovating her old home in new orleans to contractor fraud. For me it feels really nice to help this lady out by renovating, and helping get her back into her old home. The work we are doing here is difficult, but to me it is definitely worth it.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Po Boys and Voodoo dolls (Jimmy's Blog)

Hey everybody
So far, it has been a simply amazing few days here in New Orleans! We all managed not to kill each other on the day long bus ride here, so that's a good start. Once we got here, we stopped in at Tulane, we relaxed in the college dorms, which so far are a big step up from the church floor some of us are used to sleeping on. After freshening up (the water pressure in the showers is fantastic this year!) we went over to the French Quarter and stopped at Mother's Cafe, where I helped my self to a delicious Fried Oyster po boy. We were pretty entertained after stopping in a Voodoo store where everything was conveniently priced over $30, and then came back to the dorms to play some banana grams and frisbee.
Today we went to Cafe Du Monde and helped ourselves to some French donuts that I can't spell the names of, and then went to get a behemoth of a pizza for lunch. Afterwords  we hung out and played apples to apples, and went to eat dinner with the folks at Camp Rhino. There are two other groups here with us from Michigan and Florida,and we were served some scrumptious beans and rice. After a nice worship service, we headed back to Tulane and settled down for the night after a quick swim at the college pool.
Although it kind of feels like a Turkish bath here, the sun has been out and I've gotten a nice farmers tan from just walking around. The music and food here have been simply astounding. We've also learned a lot about what happened in New Orleans during hurricane Katrina from watching a documentary, visiting a museum, and seeing the areas hit by the storm that are still being worked on almost eight years later, on a great tour led by Lee.
I'm having a great time so far, and I can't wait to begin work tomorrow!

A Blog Post For You to Read from Simon Brown.

Hello everyone!

This is Simon, just to update you on our time in New Orleans. In a word, hot. But more than just that, very humid. We've only been here two days so far and it's already getting to me. Luckily, the dorms room we're in are air conditioned and VERY comfortable. New Orleans has a different culture than St. Paul that is for sure, anywhere you go there are street performers, and voodoo shops, although it is very fascinating and nice, I cannot see myself living here. Tomorrow is our first day at work, I am on the B Team which is therefore clearly the coolest team, we are doing some sort of construction work, I'm not sure exactly what, but it should be fun. It is an early wake up call though, 5:30! Which is undoubtedly the earliest I've woken up in a long time; even for school I only had to wake up at 6:30. What is nice though is that we have free time from 1-6 every single day, where we can go running, or swim, or whatever it be. So far to pass my time I have been reading Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders which although is very interesting (Did you know that Charles Manson is only 5'2"??), has a very contradictory tone of what our objective here is. LILY! We walked into a room at the church which is hosting us, and what do we see? Rock service once again. Some of the same songs too! It's kinda traumatic. But in contrast to the previous mission trip, the showers are wonderful; warm, high water-pressure, and no fish smell. CAROLINE! We visited your previous work-sites today and the house is done, and looks fantastic! Since I am the only one with a sibling that worked on it, Paul took a picture of me in front of it for you to see, which should be uploaded to the blog sometime soon. It was great, on the trip down here, we watched Slumdog Millionaire, School of Rock (Which although I hate Jack Black was quite entertaining the second time around), and or course my personal favorite, The Dark Knight. The explosions were loud at 1 A.M but still very fun. Walking around the French Quarter, Paul and I recognize scenery from one of our favorite video games which is kinda cool. Since the last time I had been here was a long time ago, it was really cool going around it for a second time. I am bunking with Jimmy and Danny, which although has it's perks can get bad pretty quickly.The food at the church is really great. Tonight we had some good old fashion beans and rice, which was very good. In addition to the environment of New Orleans, Tulane University has a very beautiful campus, but I cannot see myself going to school here. I'm definitely missing my computer and friends at home, but it's good to get away from that kind of a lifestyle for awhile. I'll probably blog again later this week, but for now I should go.

Talk to you again later,
Love, Simon.

Lydias blog yall

    Hello parents,
Its only the second night in new orleans, we haven't even worked yet, and im exhausted. This city is awesome. The French quarter is one of the most amazing things, the buildings and shops look so antique and unique. I ate a baked ham po' boy which was the bomb. I also love the coffee this city has. Which is another thing, having a coffee addiction might be a problem this week for we're waking up before 6 all week, and children do not get coffee. Jesus take the wheel.
Im also still looking to get my palm read, or to discover some black magic or something.  

Till next time,
Lydia nelson

Devins blog

So today was an interesting day. Our bus was delayed by a taxi driver who somehow managed to hit it from behind for some reason. After that we got some really good beignets and then saw some of the devastating destruction left by the levee breaks. The good stuff was that we also saw the rebuilding process. I also learned today how bad I am at pool. I hit the eight ball in and also the cue ball multiple times. Overall, it was an extremely exciting day.                                                                                         Devin

St. Bernard Project - this is our work

It's going well!

Hello everyone! This is Ryan Peacock, I'm having lots of fun here in New Orleans. You wouldn't believe the humidity down here, air conditioning is a must. New Orleans is very different from St. Paul, you can see a distinct culture change, everything from the roads to buildings it's just not the same. We start work tomorrow, having to wake up at 5: 30 will certainly be a chore but we will make it through. Hope everyone is good back home, and we most certainly are here. Love you all, see you soon!

Ryan Peacock
This is Maggie.  We had a great start to the program and everyone is really looking forward to starting work tomorrow at Miss Gwen, Miss Carmalita, and Miss Cassandra's houses.  For the youthies, there might be a tiny bit of anxiety about the 5:30 am wake-up call, and for the adults there is definitely a LOT of anxiety about the lack of certainty of where the coffee will come from.

At the church

Walked to St Charles Presbyterian for launch of Camp Rhino. If House of Hope were upscale it would this place. Nice. Very Nice.

Folks obsessing about 5 AM wake up and  19 minute walk from Tulane to this place to be ready by 6.15.

More later.

Day one...

Hey everyone!  This is Lily Schafer.
New Orleans is awesome!  Today we ate breakfast at the famous cafe du mond in the French Quarter.  We ate the famous New Orleans beignets, which are basically pastries covered in mountains of powdered sugar. They were SO good!!!
Afterwards, we walked up to the river (which was gorgeous), and then went on a bus tour of the areas affected by the storm (hurricane Katrina).  We went to the lower 9th ward, which was one of the poorest areas of the city which was virtually wiped out by Katrina, the Industrial canal, which burst from the pressure of the storm and flooded everything, and the houses that the mission trip worked on in 2007 and 2008.  Eight years later, there are buildings that are still covered in debris and boarded up.  It was really shocking to see buildings still in that state of decay and destruction.  Whole areas remain empty, the only thing left standing was the foundations of the homes, overgrown with grass and moss.  It was really eyeopening, showing us that there was still so much work to be done to get New Orleans back on its feet.  We climbed one of the dikes that collapsed in the storm, and just seeing it and just how long it spanned and just how much damage its collapse had.
After the tour (lead by Lee/Dad), we went to go get lunch, but the restaurant wouldn't let kids in, so we carried pizza back to Tulane and ate there.  We then played games and hung out.  We are about to leave to go to the church for our first event with Rhino.  I'm really excited!  The other group just showed up as I type.  First full day was great!  I'm excited to get to work tomorrow morning (wake up at 5 woo hoo) and continue to have a great time with the group.  See you guys later!
Love, Lily

Early in the morning

It's 8:45 right now.
It's hard for people to get up this morning, because we still feel the lack of sleep from yesterday and Saturday. Besides that the heat is also unusual for us, Minnesotans.
After walking around in the French Quarter, we visited a museum about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.
The museum showed us all how powerful and devastating nature can be and the impact on everyone in the city. We also watched a documentary about the August 2005 catastrophe and mistakes that have been made to prevent it, some of them hundreds of years ago with the founding of the city. The documentary focused on the failure of the levees, the failure of the superdome roof, and the collapsing of the Highway bridge.
Between the museum, the French Quarter, and the documentary, some of us used every free minute to throw the disc on every possible place, while others played card and board games at our dorm.
The plan for today is Breakfast at Cafe du mont, looking at the effects of Katrina and lunch at the collection of food trucks.
And I'm pretty sure we will find time to throw the disc.


Blog Information

Macply Parents and others;

A quick reminder or two about the blog -

Only the leaders and youth can make entries to the blog. Anyone else can add comments. To see the comments, you have to click on the link associated with an entry.  Trust me, the youth look at these comments all the time and are thrilled to have something from their families.

Secondly, the pictures link will remain black until photos are put there. So it may take some time before that will change. Sorry - I added the link before everyone left so it would be ready.

Work safe, work smart, work hard and have fun!

Norm (not there this year, and missing it.)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Good day

Lights out in a few minutes. We had a good day in the French Quarter and lunch at Mother's. Later the heat and lack of sleep took some of the starch out of us so we went back to Tulane, but not after following up on Erica's suggestion of frozen yogurt . Worst we have had so far is a skinned knee.

More tomorrow, and thanks.

A Full Day on Little Sleep

We made it to New Orleans in about 21 hours without seeming to hurry.  The trip was painless as the pros did all the driving, but also sleepless because the buses are mad for riding in not sleeping in. So we have 21 tired youth and 5 tired adults.  We were able to check into the dorms right away and we took showers and cleaned up and hit NOLA refreshed and ready to sightsee.  Turns out that the roads, which were built in the 18th century, are not conducive to tour bus travel.  We found that all the major arteries around Tulane had road construction that prevented us from turning onto or off of them when we needed to and the side streets caused us to go 5mph and turn repeatedly, and sometimes back up.  A 6 mile trip to the French Quarter took almost 40 minutes for the first 2 miles.

We did make it to Mothers for their fabulous po'boys and had lunch a 3pm.  Then of to the Louisiana State Museum for the Katrina and Beyond exhibit.  We had 45 minutes to to see it before the museum closed but we decided to go for it.  I think it was worth the time even though it was rushed.  Then we did a quick walk through the French Quarter up to Louis Armstrong Park and decided at 5pm to call it a day.  We were all exhausted.  We called fro the bus drivers to pick us up earlier than planned and during the wait we walked over to the St Louis #1 Cemetery but it was also closed.

The bus arrived to fetch us and we stopped fro FroYo, a mission trip tradition, and headed back to our dorm.  Free time until 9:30 when we will watch a Katrina Documentary and go to bed.  Late start tomorrow and more sightseeing before beginning the official Camp Rhino at 6pm Monday.

I feel really fortunate to be spending this time with a great bunch of youth and fellow adult leaders.


Happy Father's Day

The youth have been borrowing phones to call dads. If caller ID says missed call from "Tom Ewald" or "Lee Schafer" all is fine. And Happy Father's Day.

Made New Orleans

Arrived in New Orleans! Pulling into Tulane. Feasted on 5-dozen Dunkin donuts. All is well.

Julia Schafer

Dawn in Mississippi

Driver change just north of Jackson, Miss. Bus all awake. All is well.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

11 hours out, all is well

Lovely picnic, movies, and rocking down the highway through a gentle rain. Approaching St. Louis. ETA New Orleans 10 am.

More tomorrow. Thanks everybody.

Candid camara

First Driver Change

Waterloo, IA.  Watched "Slumdog Millionaire".  Snacks holding up well.

Left on Time!

Loaded, photo, left 1:07 p.m., great start!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Water Bottles: Size Matters!

Youthies, bring a 32-ounce water bottle. Big Nalgene or equivalent. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Rhino’s “What to bring”

Suggested personal items:

  • Prescription and over the counter drugs
  • Contacts eyeglasses plus spares
  • Special first aid needs
  • Soap and shampoo
  • Towels
  • shower shoes
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent/anti-itch ointment
  • Swimsuit
  • Wristwatch
  • Cash for snacks
  • Bible and journal
  • Betting (sheets, blankets or sleeping bag)
  • Appropriate clothing for dinner out

Work related items:

  • Work boots
  • Long pants or appropriate length shorts
  • Bandannas
  • Gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Water bottle (at least 32 oz.)

Contact Information For June Mission 2013 Trip

Your MPUC Adult Facilitator Contacts:  

Rev. Tom Ewald

Marsha Berry

Maggie Passmore

Lee Schafer 

John Schepers

Camp Rhino

St. Charles Ave Presbyterian Church
Avery Strada, RHINO
1545 State Street
New Orleans, LA 70115

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mission Trip Update, Part 2

Here's the link to the form each person is to fill out. Do not change any information in the pre-populated fields:

Please do ASAP.



Mission Trip Update May 12, 2013

As of 1:00pm Wednesday....

The picnic is still on for the Frawley's house at 6:00pm

We have not received the link you will need to fill out the last form, please check back later today or tomorrow.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Important Mission Trip Information

Hey Folks, important things to do....

Sunday, June 9: Come to 9:30am worship for the mission trip commissioning.We want all hands on deck for this to show appreciation for the congregation's support. Plus, you'll get to hear Adam Blons, our senior minister candidate, preach and  participate in the congregational vote.

Tuesday, June 11: Check back with the blog. There will be a link for you to follow to sign some more forms online. They are required to be able to work on the mission site.

Wednesday, June 12: Come to the pre-mission trip picnic at Maddy Frawley's house. Here are the details:
Address: 1780 Lincoln Ave
Time: 6 PM
Date: Wednesday, June 12th
Bring Lawn Chairs

Bushnell-Brown: Beverages
Craddock-Morrissey: Side dishes 
Nelson-Vento: Desserts

I believe Schafers are bringing buns and Donovans are bringing condiments.

In case of rain, we will have the picnic at church.

Contact Tom with any questions.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Youth Group Update

First of all....

Thank you everyone for a wonderful programming year. We are done for the season with the exception of the Mission Trip (see below).

Thanks to all of the parents for bringing meals this year. Things went really well and the meal part is a big part of it. So thanks too to Ed for making that run smoothly too.

Thanks to Ed and Brian for teaching Explorers and to the parents who helped there as well.

Thanks to the folks who drove or chaperoned the Fall retreat. That is a huge help!


The Fall retreat this year is going to be September 13-15 at Pilgrim Point Camp in Alexandria. It is a longer drive and we will probably look into renting a number of vans that the chaperones can drive. I mention this now, so you can get it on the calendar before anything else as this distance will probably make it cumbersome for those might have two things going that weekend.

Mission Trip...

Health forms can be put in my mailbox. There are still  some outstanding.

The Mission Trip Picnic is 6pm on June 12 and the Kleaver/Frawley home. Look for more details in the coming weeks.

Finally....a great opportunity from Dale Thompson....

MacPlymouth Youth Families:
We are currently hosting an exchange student from France, Clement. Clement's family would also like his younger brother, Damien (13 years old, turning 14 in June), to visit Minnesota for about five weeks this summer. He would need a host family. If your family (or one you might know) might be interested, please contact us:  Dale Thompson, 651-698-3472,

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sunday May 19, 2013

Hey, big Sunday coming up:

9:00am Early Worship (last one of the season)
10:30am Explorers (last one of the season)
10:45am Late Worship: Pentecost (wear red), Graduate recognition, Peacemaker Award presentation, and more. Come support our graduating seniors!

Regular choir practices and performance. Come support our vocal artists.

5:00pm-7:00pm Youth Group (last one of the season)
It is a regular youth group for junior high and senior high folk not going on the mission trip. For those going on the mission trip it is a mandatory meeting with parents showing up at 6pm with health insurance cards and information and checkbooks.

See you all Sunday!


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sunday May 12, 2013

9:00am Early Worship
9:30am Explorers/Adult Education
10:45am Late Worship

Regular Choir Practice Schedule

No Youth Group

4:00pm Mission Trip Committee Meeting (Tom's office)

Next week:

Last youth group for the school year with Ed. For Mission Trip participants there is a mandatory parent/youth meeting to get the details you need for the mission trip. Bring insurance information and checkbooks.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Sunday May 5, 2012

9:00am Early Worship
9:30am Explorers and Adult Ed
10:45am Late Worship

*Regular Choir Rehearsals at 9 (youth choir) and 9:30 (chapel choir)

About Youth Group (5-7pm), from youth elder Ed Stenhauer:

Hi, all,
This is to let you know that this weekend, we are sending off two of our favorite Youth leaders into the wider world.  Somehow, Marsha and Brian are going to have to make due without us for the time being.  Marsha Berry, for those of you in Jr. High who may not know her, has been a Youth Elder who has participated in many Sr. High mission trips.  And we all know Brian, who is riding off into the sunrise, and the next chapter in his life. 
This will be a great time to share any well-wishes or reflection, should you choose to bring them along for Brian and Marsha.
So, we hope to see you this Sunday at 5, for our regular fellowship, and for the metaphorical waving of our collective cowboy hats.  Adios, and hasta Domingo! (hope I said that right). 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Update for Sunday

The mandatory meeting for mission trip participants is not a parent meeting. However, parents are invited to come to hear the speaker and learn more about New Orleans. We have a parent providing the Sunday dinner for the junior and senior high youth this week, but if you will be attending as a family, I would like to encourage you to bring a meal for your family so that we do not create an undue burden on the parent who signed up planning on our usual number of attendees.

Any questions or concerns, contact me at

Thanks and peace on this overly warm day,


Thursday, April 25, 2013

MPUC Youth This Sunday

9:00am Early Worship
9:30am Explorers/Adult Forum
10:45am Late Worship

Regular choir rehearsal schedule 

This Sunday is a mandatory youth group for mission trip participants. Non-participants are encouraged to attend as we will be learning about why so many years after the hurricane, New Orleans is still in need of rebuilding. We will have a guest speaker!

Junior high will be with Brian.

Coming Up...

May 5 is Brian's last day working with the youth. He will continue to work at the church, but his schedule will be busy post-graduation, so he will handing over the reins to to a youth person to be determined. Be there to show him you appreciate what he has done as part of the youth program.

May 12 is Mother's Day. We traditionally do not have youth group on this day so people can be with their families.

May 19 is our last youth group of the programming season. For mission trip participants it is once again a mandatory meeting.