L E A R N
Serving God. Serving People.
Hard work. New Friends. And Memories for a Lifetime.
A Mission Launched
In 2005, Grace Life Church, in Bristow, VA, put together a mission trip to Kentucky for high school students. In the second year, the group — known now as the Cross-Eyed Builders — landed for the first time in a small town in southeastern Kentucky called Williamsburg. The trip gave students an opportunity to develop and use construction skills, under the supervision of skilled adults, to complete projects at the homes of families in need. And since that year, we've gone back to the Williamsburg area every year.
In 2008, Tim Madorma joined the Cross-Eyed Builders trip and then invited 4 more people from New Life Christian Church the following year. In 2010, New Life began a partnership with Grace Life by participating in the trip jointly.
In 2013, a newly-arrived youth pastor at Grace Life wanted the youth group to pursue a different summer opportunity, and their church bowed out, handing the reins over to New Life. Still, one of the key leaders of the trip is a Grace Life member, and many who attend this trip each summer are not New Life members. And the focus of the trip has changed subtly: while teens are still an enormous (and enormously important) part of this trip, it is no longer just a youth group trip. It is equally open to teens and adults.
In 2019, we added a fully new dimension to the Cross-eyed Builders trip: the reallocation / distribution of donated clothing, bikes, and household goods. A group of volunteers collected donations in Northern Virginia, transported them to Williamsburg and set up a (free) "store" to offer items to any interested families or individuals.
By God's grace, the trip — and the impact of the Cross-eyed Builders — has continued to grow. He gets all the glory. And we are forever indebted to Grace Life for their work in establishing this trip, and thankful to God for the countless ways He used the people from the church in the years they faithfully led it.
Two Communities, One Unique Relationship
Perhaps most importantly, the relationship between the wonderful folks in Williamsburg and the Cross-Eyed Builders has also continued to grow and flourish.
Williamsburg's economy has been devastated by the closing of coal mines in the area, and a significant portion of those who live in the community have gone through difficult times as a result. In southeastern Kentucky as a whole, approximately 1 in 3 families are struggling to make ends meet.
Several Christian leaders in Williamsburg spend the year prayerfully evaluating needs of families in the community in preparation for the summer arrival of the Cross-Eyed Builders. These men look for individuals or families who — for any number of reasons — have struggled with financial, physical, or other sorts of hardship or difficulty and who simply could use a hand. One of these leaders owns a local hardware store and works closely with us during our time in Kentucky to ensure a successful week.
The partnership with these godly men makes everything we do possible, and we are thankful to serve their community arm-in-arm with them.
Also, because we have returned year after year, we have developed relationships with the families and individuals we have been privileged to serve. Some of these relationships have become meaningful to members of our team, so much so that we can't wait to get back to Kentucky every summer to reconnect with our friends.
Applying What We've Learned, Closer to Home
Many of our team members, upon completing a summer trip to Kentucky, have asked the question: "What can we do closer to home?" This has led to a number of smaller weekend or one-day projects for those in need here in Northern Virginia. These projects pop up from time to time, and different members of previous trips to Kentucky have jumped in (with others) to serve.
We are grateful that the Lord has opened doors locally — and in Williamsburg — because we have learned, repeatedly, through these trips: when we seek to be a blessing by serving others, we are the ones who end up feeling blessed.
That is simply the way God's economy works.
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