In the misty mountains of rural West Virginia, there is a small town named Philippi. It is located in Barbour County. It was the site of the First Land Battle of the Civil War. It has a covered bridge and a 4-H Camp. (All that comes from my knowledge, not Wikipadia, haha!)
It's one of my top five favorite places in the entire world.
When I was 15 years old I amazingly decided to give up a week of my life in late July/early August and go on a missions trip with my church. This missions trip had been going on for almost 30 years, and was almost completely made up of youths (or youthhhhhs, as they say in New Girl). Each year my church ventured into this town and helped fix and rebuild houses for the community.
How crazy is that? In a world where I could have spent my entire summer working on my tan (because, let's face it, I would need to work all summer in order to get even a hint of one), I chose to PAY to go and fix houses.
It was without a doubt the best week of my summer.
And (with a few exceptions) has continued to be the best week of my summer each year I've gone. This year would have been 10 years ("Whoa, she's old!"), but I am taking summer classes and they happen to be ending the week Philippi happens.
So, in lieu of me attending, because it's actually not at all about me in any way, I thought I'd share some lessons I learned, advice I got, and tips to enjoy, in case you decide to go. Because I really recommend it. BECAUSE IT'S THE BEST.
Philippi circa 2006. Hahahahahahahahahahaaaaaa.
1. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13. This can get turned into a way fun song that you sing at the top of your lungs with the pastor of People's Chapel. He gets really into it, which in turn makes you get into it as well.
2. Sometimes paint fights are fun. Until you learn the paint isn't waterproof.
3. There will always be an "It" boy at Philippi. Sometimes he'll be called Hot Blessings. Or Jessica.
4. You'll discover that somehow the PB&J sandwiches are THE BEST PB&J sandwiches you've ever eaten.
5. In Philippi there are beautiful houses that line the downtown streets. You and your friends will each pick out which ones you'll own one day when you all live in Philippi.
6. Each night you'll get a chance to share how you were the hands and feet of God at the work site. Make sure you talk to those who live there. They have the best stories, and you can get into the most wonderful conversations if you try.
7. If your brother and his friends decide to jump off a roof, it's not always a good idea to follow. You'll probably sprain your ankle.
8. Snacks like Peachy-Os and Sour Patch Kids will spark wonderful songs. That you write at 12 at night with your friends.
9. You might learn to French braid hair. Then you might be designated as the "girl who French braids hair" for the next 9 years. As a result you might eventually teach all the younger girls to braid their own hair.
10. Playing football is essential. So is Ultimate Frisbee. Injuries from playing these sports is also almost a guaranteed thing.
11. You might be able to tell how stressed the youth pastor is by how many sweet teas he drinks.
12. Sheetz is suddenly the coolest place there is, and you'll want to save all your money to buy candy.
13. Dairy King is delicious.
14. Somehow you will learn how to hammer a nail, how to use other power tools like saws and drills, and how to shingle a roof (every year!) in a week.
15. There will (probably) be drama. Stay away from it and go play cards instead.
16. Riding in a van to Philippi with the ladies that work in the kitchen might result in motion sickness. They have been driving those hills for over 30 years, and are capable of incredible speeds on those winding mountain roads.
17. Always ride in a raft. That way you can make up chants, target other rafts, and generally terrorize your raft guide when your whole raft breaks out in spontaneous Disney sing-alongs.
18. You will have the best food of the year. And then you will get to the Wednesday Night Potluck and understand what kind of food they must serve in Heaven.
19. Have fun in your small groups, even if you have to wash dishes on the morning they serve pancakes.
20. "T-grip!" You'll learn.
21. If you decide to get up early and go running (which is a great idea), make sure you memorize an epic speech. Or bring your phone so you can queue up Denzel Washington's graveyard speech from Remember the Titans when you and your friends run past a cemetery with mist and the mountains in the background.
22. Covering up chips in the grass can be hilarious.
23. Seeing the kids that live in the house you're working on come out and help alongside you is really fun. And seeing your dad teach them how to nail boards together might make you get teary.
24. Actually a lot of moments will probably make you teary. (Hint...those are probably planned by God. He's trying to get your attention.)
25. Stray animals are common at the work site, and really fun to play with.
26. The Family Dollar has the most random stuff. You'll love all of it and end up buying entire outfits consisting of boy's plaid shorts, camo hats, and tank tops that you plan on unsuccessfully the-dyeing later.
27. If you get asked to present a lesson and then find out it's in front of the entire youth group AND the church you attend on Wednesday AND your pastor from home who has come up to visit, don't freak out too much. You'll end up crying anyhow, and that's probably supposed to happen.
28. If the ride to the work site in the morning is longer than 10 minutes, you'll fall asleep.
29. You can learn SO MUCH from the adults on the trip. Eventually you might even get the handwritten recipe for the best peach cobbler there is. You might also eventually get an encouragement note from Dr. Patch that makes you cry.
30. WRITE ENCOURAGEMENT NOTES ALL THE TIME.
31. Your youth director may have hands that look as big as Shrek. You can paint them green and use them when you're decorating a boy's room in a Shrek theme.
32. Hammer decorating can be a huge event before you go. Yours may even have a tutu and sparkles.
33. Boy bands might form and sing classics like Backstreet Boys and All For One.
34. If you're a girl, your living situation will probably be pretty good, since you'll have AC and hot water. If you're a boy, I'm sorry.
35. Through the years you will see kids grow up and become amazing people, and each year, after VBS is done, and before band camp starts, you'll get anxious and excited because it's time for Philippi. Time to experience God and his love in a more real way than many get each Sunday in church. Time to learn something completely new and remember memories from years past. Time to be Jesus to someone else. They won't ever forget you. And you will be part of something bigger than you.
Basically, in a nutshell, not going to Philippi is breaking my heart. But I know it's meant to be, and it's time for me to pass the torch along to the next group to go. I only hope they love it as much as I did.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here I am. Send me." Isaiah 6:8
PKs for Life!
P.S. Philippi circa 2007. Hahahahahahahahahahaaaaaa.