A few months back my friend in ministry, Vik Schaaf, shared about how she caught a vision to restore a park in the town where she grew up with her student ministry. Its been a long and winding road, but it is hurtling toward it conclusion! Vik took a risk, innovated, and is causing a change. Yet again, the Kingdom breaks in!
Here is the rest of the story in her words:"When I last left you, I was getting ready to build a preschool playground structure at Lion’s Park in my hometown of Reedsport, Oregon. The three days I spent building this equipment with my students and the community were an extremely positive experience. I have to admit, going into the renovation I became reminiscent on the pilot episode of Parks and Recreation. In this certain chapter, Leslie Knope’s character decides she is going to turn a hole in a vacant lot into a park and sets out on a mission to do just that. In this process, I have aspired to be even an ounce of the character Leslie Knope embodies; resilient, hopeful, committed, life-giving, the kind of person with which other people desire to associate. However, when we pulled up to the park in our 15 passenger van, I was taken aback by the blank space that used to be a deteriorating preschool playground. On truck beds adjacent to the vacant lot sat thousands of pounds of equipment. I was overwhelmed. All I could do was rally the troops and begin moving the playground into place piece by piece. It was an emotional learning experience watching it all come together. The sweat poured out by eleven middle and high school students digging holes, calculating cubic feet of concrete, pouring cement and hauling wheel barrel after wheel barrel full of wood chips was a labor of love. The saving grace of the wood chip spreading was when a local company driving by saw us in dismay and offered to send over a Bobcat back loader to help spread the chips. At the end of the week, I sat down on a brand new picnic table freshly installed by our group and stared out at the upper-age structure with uneasiness. I had come so far, and yet, I had so much left to do before this park renovation was complete.I am a person who is not satisfied with a project until it is complete. This has always been a struggle for me; finding a way to enjoy the process and the journey in anticipation of the destination. I knew there was so much to be grateful for as I was seated at the table. We had raised over $62,000 for this project so far, but with a budget totaling over $130,000 for the entire park, I knew I still had a lot of work to do.I am not one to rest on my laurels. Or as Leslie Knope says, “Slowing down is not really my jam.” I got to work on the fundraising efforts immediately. More grant applications, spamming the internet and Facebook friends with awards offered for their contribution to the project and inserts in community electricity bills begging for financial support. The process seemed never-ending, but with each $50 or $100 contribution, I lit up, became more motivated and believed what we were doing was going to make a huge impact on a small community.A month ago I took a weekend to return to Reedsport with my boyfriend. I showed him where I grew up and made an intentional stop at Lion’s Park. I played on the new swings and the new teeter-totter for the first time and reflected on the adventure of the last ten months. We took inventory of the rusted old structures that needed to be replaced and remained confident it was only a matter of time before that would happen.I was about to leave the park when I saw two young girls playing on the upper-age, broken down structure. And though I knew I would probably be shouting “stranger danger” in my approach, I asked to speak with them. I said, “Hey, did you know there is going to be a new park soon?” Words that honestly, should not have come out of my mouth based on the fact that I did not know where the funding for said park would be coming from—but hey—call me faithful. Their excitement was intoxicating. They loved the new preschool park and could not wait to see the rest of the park updated. I told them to tell everyone at school, their parents and anyone they met that a new park was on its way Spring Break.Finally, in October, everything seemed to come together all at once and my words were not in vain. Within a one week period I received a State grant for over $59,000 and two generous private contributions totaling over $21,000! We officially had enough funds to get started on the upper age structure and were confident the remainder of our grants would come through in the months following.Alongside the fundraising campaign, pictures and messages from local people began to roll in thanking us for all we had done so far. This became an excellent avenue to see the playground in use and also draw support from volunteers for the next build this coming March.However, as is true with anything in the non-profit world, things do not move fast. Fundraising and garnering support are one thing, but bringing the project from an idea to a reality is something completely different. Our Renovation Board is now faced with how to spend the money. What kind of equipment do we want to install in the premier area of the park? Ideas have been as simple as swings and a play structure to as elaborate as a giant climbing rock and water features. Vendors seem to take forever to get quotes back to you and my math is always off the first time. Working together and compromising as a small group can be challenging, but it really is the only way to get anything finished. We are bound and determined to get a huge thing done with this renovation.
Another challenge we face is garnering enough community support to complete the build. This time around we are going to be installing three times the amount of equipment and wood chips. It is going to take a large team of volunteers to accomplish this goal. Together with the City of Reedsport and a host of community organizations, we are recruiting volunteers through an online sign-up database. We have reached out to Reedsport high school and invited students to participate as a means of earning their 48 hours of community service required for graduation. I am also recruiting volunteers of all ages from our congregation here at Westminster. This helps to fulfill our mission of being an intergenerational youth program! As usual, my hospitable home church in Reedsport will be hosting our group for the week. Our goal is to have 20 volunteers over the age of 18 on the ground each of the five days it will take to complete this project. We have also reached out to construction and collision repair shops in Reedsport about donating their time and resources to moving wood chips via machinery. As a group, we are taking every measure possible in planning to have a successful build this coming Spring Break! It will undoubtedly be a group effort and will not be conceivable without the contributions of hundreds of hands and feet.So here I stand, 11 months and countless anxious days later, humbled by the grace and provision provided to myself, our Renovation Board and my students by so many strangers and friends. I look forward to working alongside my students this Spring Break, helping to develop their character, faith and construction skills. I am confident God is doing a good work in Reedsport through this project. That we are reviving hope for children and families in a community that has been stricken by a dwindling economy and many hardships. I know that a small group of people has come together with the intent and purpose of empowering others to be involved in changing their own world. And as far as I am concerned, that is my jam! Or as Leslie Knope would say, “We get to do work worth doing, alongside people we love.” Amen, Leslie."Blessings Vik! Keep on Risking!
Tales of Adventure Blog
Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.