Sunday, November 20, 2011
A Quick Recap of I Heart Ashland
How do I even begin to put into words what I have been a part of these last few weeks, and witnessed in the last few days? I don’t think I can do it justice but here goes…
If you’re a friend on Facebook, then you’ve seen all my posts about I Heart Ashland and the Day of Service planned for November 19th, so you have a little idea of what went on. It all started for me a few weeks ago when my pastor asked me if I would be the project coordinator for many of the projects the leadership group had planned for I Heart Ashland. I accepted and I was excited that I could be a part of this event.
Over the next few weeks, I really caught the vision of what we were trying to accomplish and I immersed myself in contacting project leaders, sorting through volunteers and putting together a last minute plan to organize 150 volunteers to clean 200 fire hydrants in the city of Ashland. It was a whirlwind of excitement!
I know our church has been diligent in praying for this event. This past week leading up to the 19th we had two prayer services a day and called for those who felt lead, to pray and fast as we prepared to show the love of Christ to the city of Ashland. Pastor Mark was specifically praying for 500 volunteers to come forward and serve. We had about 450 spots on our website where people could sign up for individual projects and by Tuesday, they were all filled! Still, we were told by those who had done this before in other towns we could expect a 40-50% turn-out—lower if the weather was bad.
Saturday, when I got up, it was snowing in Medford. I had been watching the forecast for days and kept waiting for the high of 37 and 80% chance of snow to change but it didn’t. BUT, by the time I arrived in Ashland at 7:30 the clouds had parted and the sun was shining. We had 409 volunteer check-in at Grace Point Church (that would be a 91% turn out) to head out to the volunteer opportunities they had signed up for. There were another 40 volunteers as part of a college group that served in another area. There were at least 40 more who were a part of the evening volunteer team that served at the concert—but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The band Elliot came and lead worship for those gathered at Grace Point and Nick Vujicic also spoke briefly to motivate those who had come together. We dismissed the groups and sent them out to serve from 10:00 to 2:00. I made myself available, expecting a busy four hours as I awaited phone calls from group leaders and planned to run errands for those who needed it. I received only one phone call from one group leader who had a very simple question. That was it—not another hiccup, difficulty or any disasters.
By 11:00 it was beautifully sunny and 50 DEGREES!!! Miraculously gorgeous weather! I
joined my pastor and his wife to drive through town and see the work that was being
high school weeding and planting over 200
plants that were donated by a local nursery.
We saw some fire hydrants that had been
overgrown with weeds and bushes, all
cleared and made accessible for the fire
department (I won't go into detail about
being locked out of Pastor Mark's truck and
having to wait for a tow truck to let us back in...).
In addition, we had groups that did repairs and cleaning on the home of a family who was caring for their daughter with cancer and couldn’t do the maintenance themselves; three different groups did weeding and clean-up at City parks; a group did painting at Lithia Springs Youth Home; two busses full of youth conducted a food drive (they collected over
1400 items!); a group organed donations at the Ashland Emergency Food Bank; two other groups worked on a senior
home in Talent and a mobile home park in Phoenix; plus we had those who signed up to volunteer for registration, check-in and set-up/tear-down of the gym at Ashland High.
After the volunteer projects finished at 2:00, there was brief time to rest before the leadership team met at 4:00 to prepare
for the evening concert at Ashland High School. That was a hectic time as we finished up last minute details (there was a frantic run to Radio Shack for some headphone adapters and to Safeway to
supply the green room). I got the opportunity to meet the band members of
Elliot and, once again meet Nick Vujicic (I got have lunch with him on Friday as part of
the leadership team, too!!).
Nick had already spoken at Ashland High School and the Middle School on Friday. There had been such a great response from student and faculty that AHS asked Nick to come back in June and be their commencement speaker. He announced that evening to us that he had worked it into his schedule and he’d be coming back to Ashland in June (that’s so FANTASTIC!!).
We packed out the main gym at Ashland High, which has a capacity of 2700. We asked for those attending to bring food donations, as well. That evening alone, we collected 3,000 pounds of food for the Emergency Food Bank (that doesn't even include what the youth collected during the day)!!Elliot rocked the house and played some of their amazing worship songs. Nick came out and made us all laugh and cry.
I can’t even begin to summarize his testimony, so I won’t. All I will say is if you ever want to find out more, go to lifewithoutlimbs.org and watch some of his videos. He’s an amazing servant of God and is being used profoundly to lead others to Christ. Speaking of which….
At the end of the evening about 160 people came forward and asked Jesus to change their hearts and lives forever by forgiving them and being Lord in their hearts. We did it all again on Sunday morning with a smaller crowd but another 40-50 came forward then, as well. Over 200 people were moved to accept a life of hope and a future! I was a blubbering crybaby through the whole thing, both days.
Sunday afternoon I collapsed in a heap and took a nice restful nap. I can’t say how grateful I am for Pastor Mark to have thought of me when organizing this event. My heart has been filled to capacity with joy and love as I worked on this project. It has been phenomenal to see God work over and over and over and over again through the people and circumstances of these past few days. I know I couldn't have done it without the support of my husband and mother. My mom served on this project by taking care of my boys, sometimes at a moments notice so I could go to meetings, run errands and be available all day Friday and Saturday to work. My husband missed out on the Saturday night concert to stay home with the boys and let others have the extra seats.
This is just a quick and dirty recap of what I Heart Ashland was all about and what was accomplished. We want to spread the love and I’m praying for I Heart Rogue Valley to come to fruition next year.
I’m pretty sure over the next few days I will have some more reflective and introspective entries on the whole experience. For now, I actually need to think through all those reflections and recover from all the effort that went into serving…and prepare for having 15 people at my house for Thanksgiving on Thursday (so maybe not so much resting, after all), but I sure have a lot to be thankful for!