Hancock Church Youth Sunday Sermon - Russell Gens
April 21, 2013
What is perspective? Messrs Meriam and Webster define it as “the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance.” Sounds pretty important. I think we could all benefit from some true relations and relative importance. Unfortunately, speaking as a someone who has lived his whole life in the little blue and gold bubble that is Lexington, I feel perspective is one thing I have an acute lack of.
This was brought to my attention day one on my worksite. There we were on lunch break, chowing down on meat sandwiches and talking coal with our Foreman Dave. For those of you unfamiliar with the socioeconomics of east Kentucky, they love their coal. Unfortunately for them, in recent years, the industry has been slowing down in a serious way. With national energy demand shifting toward natural gas and more renewable sources, the Coal fired economy of Kentucky has been suffering. Anyhow, as the topic of natural gas came up whilst chatting with Dave, One of the other HYGers in my group mentioned how great it is that Natural Gas is on the upswing and how many jobs are being made. Makes sense. We want to use cleaner fuel, reduce consumption of foreign oil, and everyone digs some good job production. It’s really a no brainer. At least to a New Englander.
That’s where this whole perspective piece comes in. Growing up in Lexington we are taught that the environment should be protected, welfare programs are important, and that social justice is totally legit. In short, We are raised with just a little bit of leftist bias. That’s not a bad thing though. It’s just the environment we grew up in. Our perspective.
So are we innately at odds with the more conservative, coal loving people we meet in Kentucky then? Absolutly not.
This is what makes our trip, if not an entirely unique experience, one of profound meaning. Perspective is dynamic. Every little thing, each infinitesimally small event in our lives changes and shapes our perspective, and when placed in a foreign environment, the effect is compounded. By bussing down to Neon and spending the week living and working with these people who live such different lives, we learn so much.
By no means am I saying that I agree with everything they believe. I still think that it is important that we transition away from inefficient fossil fuels and I’m a long ways away from registering as a republican, but I have still been changed. Things that so recently seemed clear to me have now become blurred. While I don’t want to keep using coal power, I understand that completely cutting consumption would plunge an already suffering region deeper into poverty. My perspective has been fundamentally changed. My understanding has I see the difference between what WAS my perspective, and the perspective of those in Neon, and have grown for it.
It is this growth that I will take away from the trip. By allowing us to come work and welcoming us so readily into their community, the People of neon have given me more than I ever could dream to give them. They have taught me how to understand differences between people and accept them and learn from them with an open mind. The people of Neon opened my eyes, and for that I thank them.
My name is Russell Gens, I am a co-president of the Hancock Youth Group, and this is my fourth year with the HYG
Hancock Church Youth Sunday Sermon - Laura Zanin
April 21, 2013
Making God’s Love Visible
“Jesus did not come to make God’s love possible, but to make God’s love visible.” Good morning everyone. My name is Laura Zanin. I am a senior and a co-president of HYG. Last week I embarked on my fourth and last trip to Neon, Kentucky as a member of the group.
One of my favorite parts of the trip is when we visit the First Church of God. One HYG member described the church and its congregation perfectly in saying that the “they may not be the biggest in size but they are the biggest in heart.” I always enjoy seeing the smiling familiar faces as we walk into the sanctuary for Sunday worship. Before sitting down, we are greeted with a handshake and a “good morning” from Pastor Mark. During this year’s service at the First Church of God, a woman got up to sing a song for us. Her name was Linda. As she reached the front of the church, she shared how nervous she felt about singing. Linda explained that as a child, her mother always pushed her to sing in front of the church. The song that she was going to sing for us was one that she had only ever sung with her mother by her side. This would be her first time singing it on her own. The background music began and Linda’s voice carried throughout the room. Despite her nerves, Linda was able to sing and share her gift of music with us. I sat in the front row, struck by the courage of this lady, who had stepped way out of her comfort zone. This courage stemmed from the community around her. Everyone in the room was connected because of the belief in God’s love.
God’s love seems to be especially visible when we journey to Kentucky each spring. It’s apparent in the church, on the worksites, throughout the group, in the environment and with members of the community in Neon. When I board that big yellow bus, a certain feeling overcomes me. Its a combination of many things; happiness to get out of town for the week, excitement for the water balloon fights, fearful of the pranks that the boys might pull, hopeful to make connections with the new members, and grateful to do God’s work. Not many people would voluntarily spend their vacation in an old mining warehouse in rural Kentucky, but for me, I can’t think of a better way to spend it. In fact, it’s become a trip that is long awaited, with a countdown starting earlier and earlier each year. This especially is caused by my desire to continue the personal growth that the trip provides me with.
Over the years, I have stepped outside my comfort zone. Although I was never a big risk taker, my awareness of God’s love allowed me to break through the walls I had built. During my first “HYG Idol” experience, our talent show that happens mid-week, I refused to perform, insisting the audience was the best place for me. Yet, halfway through the show, I stood in front rapping with a couple other freshman and a senior who had pushed us to do it. When I sat back down in my seat afterward next to the senior, he gave me a tight squeeze around my shoulder. In that moment, through the senior’s hug, I felt safe; that little push outside of my comfort zone allowed me to see the importance in trusting others.
During another experience on my first trip, I felt uncomfortable as I stood looking out on the unfamiliar setting of the Appalachian mountains around me. We had loaded up the vans and took a road trip to Kingdom Come, a state park. On the way, we stopped at an overlook. I stood separately from everyone taking in the view. I felt the goosebumps spread across my forearms as I looked out only to see miles upon miles of green mountains. The moment is saved in my mind as if I was there yesterday.
This year during a worship service at the First Church of God, the congregation belted the words to “When You’re Happy and You Know It” with their own variations. One of the verses was “If you’re happy and you know it, hug one stranger.” When I heard that was the next task, I felt a bit intimidated. Was I really expected to hug someone I didn’t know? It seemed too awkward for me to want to do it. As soon as the line was sung, we all turned to our closest neighbor for a quick hug. Without much thought, the hugs continued. Soon there was a swarm of people crowding the middle aisle as everyone hugged anyone they could see. What was supposed to take a couple seconds, ended up taking several minutes before everyone returned to their seats.
During this trip, I was put on a landscaping project. In the 80 degree weather, raking rocks down a hill and taking them off the property isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time. The manual labor was tough, not something that any of us were used to. Seeing the daunting amount of work we were expected to finish made me uneasy. It was too hot; too difficult; too much. Yet, after two long, ten hour days, our group drove back home, covered in sweat and dirt, but feeling accomplished because we had finished our work.
I have experienced great personal growth through my four trips to Neon, Kentucky. What was once an unfamiliar place is now considered almost a second home to me. I’ve learned to trust those around me; whether that was other HYGers, the congregation at the First Church of God, or the foreman on the worksite. My experiences over the years in Kentucky have pushed me outside my comfort zone, with the help of God’s love that surrounds me on the trip.
Hancock Church Youth Sunday Sermon - Lucy Galvin
April 21, 2013
Hancock Church Youth Sunday Sermon - Natalie Puschak
April 21, 2013
Hancock Church Youth Sunday Sermon - Sam Eddy
April 21, 2013
Hello my name is Sam Eddy. I am a senior officer of HYG and have just returned from my 4th trip to Neon Kentucky.
There is something great about April Vacation and that is the word vacation. A time when students every where can escape their every day lives, filled with school work and the familiar setting of their dreary home towns, and go to a beautiful new place, stay in a beach side hotel, and experience new and exciting things. They can sleep in, and wake to the gentile and repetitive sound of the ocean beating against the white sandy beach just outside their window. But no, not me, instead, for the past four years, I have chosen to stay in an old, run down mining warehouse and to do manual labor in the pounding sun for 8 hours a day. I go to a place where the nearest super market is four hollers away and instead of sleeping in, I get woken up at 6 in the morning by a man who is a little too fond of the whistle he wears around his neck. Yet, Ironically, I feel bad for all of the kids who do not get to spend their April vacation in Neon Kentucky.
There is a plethora of things that make this trip amazing, like stops at the local dairy bar for some deep fried pickles and late night dance parties that I wont get into, but there are two aspects that make me so excited to return each year. The first is going to the First Church of God. It is an amazing little church filled with the most genuine and welcoming people you will ever meet and I love seeing the familiar faces and learning about their years. The best part about going to the First Church is their Pastor, Mark. Every year I get to hear him speak, and I could listen for hours. There is something about the way he speaks that immediately lets you know that he loves and welcomes any one who wants to listen. One of my favorite things he talks about is his church family and how blessed he feels to have them. And I love the Idea of a church family, a group of people who you are not related to by blood but that you love so much and go to, to say whatever is on your mind or in your heart and knowing that they want to help you no matter what. Each year we have a potluck dinner with the members of the Church and this year, I was lucky enough to sit with Pastor mark and converse with him. He told me all about his life as a pastor and a teacher, his family, and the town of Neon that he loves so much. Speaking with him only solidified my claim about how much he truly loves all of Gods people, especially toward the end when the topic of the Boston Marathon arose. He lives almost 1000 miles away but speaking about this tragedy immediately brought a tear to his eye, and just before he gave his input on the matter, I watched as he closed his eyes and said a short prayer in his head for the people of Boston. After we conversed upon the matter he told me that Boston is a city that he has always wanted to visit. He told me how much he loves the Patriots and the Celtics and the Red Sox. This was uplifting for me because he made me feel an over whelming sense of Pure Bostonian pride. He helped me realize that despite this tragedy, we, the people of Boston should be so proud to be apart of such an amazing city. In addition, the way that the Boston police handled the situation with such determination proved to me that we are strong and will overcome any obstacle in our way. To quote the Sandelles “love that dirty water” and Pastor Mark showed me that others do to.
This year at church, Pastor Mark spoke about envisioning how you would like people to think and talk about you and making yourself into that person, and being that person in all situations. He talked about how he tries to be the same character no matter what setting he is in or group of people he is with. This leads me to the second aspect of the trip that I love so much, and that is the sense of self I feel during it. There is no other time each year when I can be so truly myself. I can dance in outrageous ways, sing out of tune, and make ridiculous noises with out so much as a mean look from the members of the group. On this trip I can voice my opinion and not be judged in the slightest. I express what I feel and never worry about getting embarrassed or saving face. In fact, last year, my secret buddy bought me pantie hoes at the dollar store as a joke. To show my appreciation I decided to wear them to dinner underneath my shorts. I put them on without a reluctant though in my head because being embarrassed just isn’t an option in Kentucky. Instead of making fun of me, I got compliments on my leg attire and pats on the back for the new trend I started. This respect and acceptance for who I am, and the goofy things I do, makes me so willing to share the deepest thoughts in my head and the most profound sorrows in my heart. It lets me know that I can trust each member of HYG. It also makes me want to listen and to help everyone else in the group. I know that every one is being so genuine so I try to open myself to others, make them feel welcomed, and let them know that if they ever need me, I’m there. I hope to bring this state of mind back to Lexington so I can truly be my self in all settings and situations, and hopefully make Pastor Mark proud.
Kentucky has shone me so much about myself. From how I look in panty hose to the pride I feel for my hometown, and the person I want to be when surrounded by true friends. Thank you.