Saturday, June 25, 2016


Friday, June 24

It is another beautiful day with perfect weather. Tour members are brought back to the church by their host families to load up the bus and get ready to leave. The Pastor and his wife are talking to Wendy Hembrough, telling her they want to hire Steve Kalnoske on the spot  as their new organist and keep him there. They are raving about how he made sounds come out of their organ that they had never heard before and how talented he is! We just smile knowingly. He is ours and we are not giving him up without major resistance. His commute would be too long and we love him!

Once the bus was on the road again, Tom went through his daily Lost and Found box. It’s amazing how much stuff he finds lying around everyday, from jeans to socks, underwear, shirts, swim trunks and key chains. Not all of it is claimed either! The Greeters this morning were Troy Moskowitz and Charlie Bratburd, who both did a great job. Since the kids stayed in host homes last night, there were several “Fork Stories.” This tradition started years ago when the kids would tell stories about things that happened in their host homes the night before. The kid that told the best story was awarded a fork (because at the time that was all that was available on the bus.) Ever since  then, we decorate forks to pass out to the winner. This morning, stories were told by Amy Nisonger, Jonathan Works, Cole Taylor, Charlie Bratburd and Sydney Fennington (the winner!) Her story was about an insanely decorated room in her host home dedicated entirely to Harry Potter. It sounded amazing. Afterward, Tom had Tobias Schuett come up and tell us how to say “Orange Juice” and “I drank orange juice for breakfast” in German. Then he asked the whole bus if they could come up and say the same sentence in other languages. A free for all of languages broke out, including Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Sign Language and Pig Latin. It was a fun time with a lot of laughter.

Today we are traveling to Holland, Michigan. Holland was settled in 1847 by a small band of people
sailing from the Netherlands in search of  religious freedom and better economic conditions. Today, Holland is a thriving industrial community known for its furniture manufacturers, agriculture and tourism. Visitors can see signs of Holland’s Dutch heritage everywhere you go, especially the plentiful windmill and decorative wooden shoe decorations. Our first stop was at Windmill Island Gardens, a symbol of the city’s Dutch heritage with its canal and floral gardens. On the grounds is DeZwaan Windmill, the only authentic working Dutch windmill in the United States  and it is operated by the only Dutch certified female professional miller in the nation. We were fortunate to meet her during our tour. The windmill actively grinds west Michigan winter wheat berries into flour the old-fashioned way, between two massive millstones which are powered by the wind. Standing below the windmill and looking upward to the top of the 80 foot long blades was awe inspiring. We were allowed to climb up the four levels of stairs to where the blades were attached and look out over the acres of gardens. In the spring they are filled with thousands of tulips! The tour guides, dressed in Dutch costumes complete with wooden shoes performed a dance for us. We also were entertained by an antique Amsterdam street organ. It  played music that took us back to a simpler time era.  Lunch was spent in downtown Holland. The kids broke up into groups and spread out to choose their own restaurants, with a little bit of time leftover for shopping. While waiting for the bus to pick us up, a nearby gardener asked Wendy about our group. She told them we were a touring church group on a mission trip and that we would be singing in Midland tomorrow. Coincidentally, he knew all about our concert because his Aunt lives there and attends that very church! He asked for a sampling and Polly had the kids break into “Freedom” on the spot. He promised to call everyone he knew in Midland and spread the word about our visit. Another God moment!

Our concert today was an early afternoon performance at Resthaven Care Center, an assisted Iiving facility in Holland. It was our most packed concert to date and definitely the most powerful. Most of the viewers were in wheel chairs or using walkers, but their response to us was youthful, exuberant and moving. When our youth started singing, there was a spiritual presence that could be felt. Residents began clapping or tapping along, yelling out words of encouragement or were breaking down weeping from being overwhelmed. Residents who had been in their rooms started coming down the halls until there was a backup of wheelchairs filling the hallway, with joyous faces straining to see. One of the songs the youth sang, “Faith is the Yes of the Heart” was first commissioned in a reformation church in Holland, Michigan. Coincidentally, we drove past it today on our way to Resthaven. Another serendipitous moment! As our concert ended, the director of the  facility stood up to address us. With tears running down her face and a shaky voice, the director thanked our group, telling the kids that they will never know how much of an effect their performance had on the residents. I was so proud of our kids when the concert ended. They went out into the crowd to greet the residents, shaking their hands, giving them hugs and talking with them. What a display of Christian love they showed today! It was a memorable moment.

With full hearts, we loaded onto the bus again and took off for the 3 hour drive to Traverse City. We are spending the night at Northwestern Michigan College, in dorm rooms! For the high school students who will thinking about attending college soon, this should give them a small taste of dorm life. For the adults, it will probably be a walk down memory lane remembering a much younger time in our lives. Since there is no air conditioning, it will emote other feelings too!

The youth quickly changed into their bathing suits and then we were all back on the bus heading for Clinch Park, a lovely area on Lake Michigan. A yummy picnic dinner of hamburgers with all of the fixings, potato salad, grilled corn on the cob and watermelon was waiting for us when we arrived. William and Matthew Baldridge turned 13 today, so two large birthday cakes were served for dessert and the group sang “Happy Birthday” to the boys. Afterwards the kids could choose whatever activity they were interested in: kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, frisbee or playing on the playground. Everyone had something to do. We stayed almost until 10:00 p.m., which is how late the daylight hours lasted! When the  tired kids came back to the dorm rooms, some  went right to bed, others played cards and others just sat around talking. Curfew was at 11:30 with room checks by the adults. Another  busy but fulfilling day has come to an end. I will be smiling in my sleep tonight.


  1. I ... love these blogs as they transport me there with you. My huge thanks to all involved in sharing your day, every night regardless how close to midnight or even after. Building more mfor the .. forever memories! It is truly priceless and yes, simply amazable! What a spiritually fulfillment for all and, in the mist of all the fun activities and sightseeing!
    A huge "God bless you" shout to all tour participants.

    PS: portokali hymo / ipia portokali hymo yia proino. That's Greek to your German lesson ... just saying!

    1. Agree completely...THANK YOU for these fantastic entries and photos. So grateful to be able to 'walk with you' through these posts. ��