Bridging Border Boulder

On June 15th, a team of youth and chaperones from Faith and Bethel Lutheran churches embarked on a long awaited mission trip to Boulder County to do flood relief work for those communities. Faith's group consisted of Tabi McCombe, TJ Hillen, Sam Merrick, Chris Kleinfeldt, Sean Creamer and me, Tanda McCombe, as chaperone. We combined forces with a group of 15 youth and 3 adults from Bethel for the week. The trip was led and coordinated through Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp's Bridging Borders Program. Bridging Borders provides week-long service opportunities for groups in places such as Mexico, New York, and other locations in need. This year, they introduced a trip to Boulder county which was hit by once in a lifetime flooding last September. While aware that this disaster had occurred, the devastation was became clear to the group as we saw first hand the destruction. Additionally, through "before pictures" we saw at one worksite, we were able to get a glimpse of amount of water that came through. This home owner watched as the small creek near his home in Four Mile Canyon, rose and eventually created a 20 ft. drop off next to his house. We travelled to Boulder in two Rainbow Trail's two 15 passenger vans, along with the three college age Counselors from Rainbow Trail (Millie, Gustav and Clay). Our “homebase” for the week was Atonement Lutheran Church in Boulder. They graciously opened their doors to us, allowing the group to bunk on the floors of 4 Sunday School rooms, use their kitchen facilities and their fellowship areas. During our week, we had a variety of service experiences throughout the area.

Monday: Habitat ReStore (Longmont): Habitat for Humanity not only builds homes for families in need to purchase, but they also operate ReStore retail facilities which are much like a thrift store but with more of a focus on building/home improvement merchandise. The proceeds from these stores fund their building projects. The staff and volunteers of Longmont's Habitat have been particularly spread thin due to the flooding, building and repairing more homes than usual. Because of this, their store facilities has been neglected. We were able to come in for a day of work doing things like washing windows, painting curbs, as well as pulling mountains of weeds on the property.

Tuesday/Wednesday: Helping families in Boulder: Lynn & Cindy: This was a couple in their 70's who's property surrounding their home had been destroyed by the food waters. Lynn was suffering from Parkinson's disease. Although they wanted to do the work themselves, they simply were not able to tackle the enormous clean up job on their land which included a pond. Our group did a lot of debris removal, unclogging the waterways into their pond. They found large railroad ties, among many other things, that had, no doubt been carried in from a long way. Chris had the first time experience of walking through a pond with water proof boots to move a log. He said, "That was an adventure!" The crew not only made a huge difference for this couple with their work, but blessed them emotionally. We were there on the anniversary of the death of their youngest son, by suicide. They shared with us, through a note afterwards, that the presence of our young people was a comfort and ray of light to them.

Jorge: On the same day, the other half of the group worked for a man named Jorge. He was originally from Peru. Although his home was spared, this extensive flower and vegetable gardens were washed away by the wall of water that moved through his property. His neighbor's home was destroyed. We discovered that the after effect flooding is the movement of massive amounts of dirt. The ground level at Jorge's property was probably 2-3 ft. higher than it had been. Add to that water and springtime sunshine and the weeds took over, growing 3-5 feet tall on top of that. Our crew pulled the weeds and then dug out all the excess dirt. We moved the dirt to the area where the water had entered his property, creating a new, higher berm which will hopefully protect him from future flooding. Once again, we were able to see the emotionally toll this flooding had taken on the residents. Jorge's wife only came outside one time; he explained that she was still very emotional about the destruction of their once lovely garden. Jorge, with our help, was trying to restore this for her. TJ struck up a conversation with Jorge, taking an interest in the fact that he was a ti chi instructor. After our second day of work, Jorge, gave us a short lesson, which was new and interesting for all of us.

Thursday/Friday in Four Mile Canyon. Just a short drive outside of Boulder are several little communities up Four Mile Canyon, where we worked for 2 days. This area was hardest hit, with many of the residents stranded up there for weeks with no access in or out and no power or other services. Steven and Esther: This home, build in the 1870's, was next to a creek. When the creek flooded, all the water rushed under the foundation of his home. He was evacuated, via a helicopter. He snuck back to his home and brought 6 gallons of gas for his tractor and was able to build a berm to save his home and that of his neighbors. The end result of the flood was that it deposited 2 foot of rocks, dirt and boulders in around and under this property. The crew had to shovel out all the sediment and rock under the foundation, basement, and porch (created 2 seven foot mountains of dirt!) Tabi discovered her love for manual labor....particularly digging! Steven told the workers that they had saved him MONTHS of his own time, which can now be invested in the protection of his home. Tabi said they got to talking to the couple afterwards. They told her how important their home was there and the work had given them renewed hope. Wolf: As mentioned at the start of this article, Wolf's home was spared, just barely, as it rested right next to the 20 foot drop off created by the flood. Still unable to live there due to no power/sewage. As a general contrac tor, Wolf had thousands of dollars of tools and equipment in and around his garage, which was not far from his house. Much of the machinery was washed away, with him finding very little. His garage building was intact but the contents were a jumbled mess of tool, mud, debris, etc. Our job was to empty the garage, salvage and clean everything we could find and then put it back together. We were able to buy him new shelves to help with the organization. Wolf was an interesting guy with stories behind every item that was pulled out and salvaged. At the end of the days there, his garage was transformed and he was once again equipped to resume his livelihood. As Samual simply stated, "It helped him a lot." So true, on many levels. Fire Station: The fire station is the "home base" of safety and relief for the residents of the canyon. A small group of our workers helped them out with projects such as reframing a transmit- ter station on the top of the mountain as well as doing repairs and maintenance at the firehouse.

After our long days of work, we would hit the showers at a Boulder Community center. Our group was divided into team which nightly shared responsibilities for food shopping, cooking, cleaning and planning evening worship. (TJ was always jumping in on everybody's team to lend a hand!) These experiences, as well as cohabitating with friends offered plenty of chances for fun, patience and learning. Sean's take away was that you have to "be kind to all." Chris made the honest observation that "Teenagers stink!" Our evening worship times were great, with lots of songs (Clay and Chris on guitar!), thought provoking stories and times for prayer together. Tabi and a girl from Bethel led the group in worship dance during a song. One evening we had an opportunity for everyone to share affirmations about the good we'd seen in each other through the week. We also had the chance on several afternoons to have "God Time" which was quiet time for Bible reading, journaling and silent prayer. We created a new community of faith among the participants throughout the week. "Being part of a church community is new to me so that was awesome." said Sean.

Of course, there was some time for fun. We spent one evening in a park playing Ultimate Frisbee and other playground games. We hung out at the church and did group games there on night. Wednesday was swimming at the rec center. Thursday night, we took our 27 person group out to dinner and explored the sights and sounds of the Pearl Street mall. And we capped off the week with a night at Coors Field watching the Rockies...a first for Samual and many others in the group.

As the chaperone, I would to share with all you that we had a wonderful group of kids on the trip from Faith. I say without hesitation, that they were all so hardworking and well behaved. They were friendly and open to new experiences. They were wonderful ambassadors for our church but more importantly, for Christ. Thank you to everyone at Faith who helped make this trip possible. Also, our thanks go out to the staff of RTLC, who did a great job leading, teaching, having fun and keeping us safe all week. I think we'd all echo Chris' comment, "I saw people actually rejoice in God's name for the work we did. It was awesome!"xxx



Tons of fun was had by all 27 youth and young adults joining in the Vessels For Honor rafting trip. We were surrounded by one of God's beautiful creations; Bighorn Sheep Canyon. We praise the Lord that we once again were able to participate in another awesome gathering!

Please click on the link to see photos:



Youth Gathering New Orleans July 2009



Youth Mission Trip Washington DC June 2011