Although they are over two decades removed from the destruction caused by the 1989 San Francisco earthquake that rocked much of Northern California, this small church of nearly 40 members still feels the effects of the trembling that took place on that chilly October day. Once the after-shocks had ceased, the church learned that they had lost their building and because of financial difficulties, they were never able to rebuild. 23 years later the Patterson Church of Christ continues to meet in a Masonic Lodge on Sundays. Despite the challenges the earthquake presented, the church never let it stop them from being a Spirit-filled presence in the community.
Hilburn, along with her fiancé, Weston Perry, are leading a group of eight students back to her home church for this first-year Lipscomb mission trip. She is most excited about the chance to expose the eight students serving with her to a church situated in a culture very much outside of their Bible-belt comfort zone. The simple fellowship and unique community of the Patterson congregation, which Hilburn believes resembles the early church in Acts, is what drew many students to take part in this inaugural trip.
“It’s very different from churches in the south because everybody knows each other so well. It’s almost like you know them too well…but it’s great because what we have in common is the Lord. The church is just bare bones. It’s very simple. They know how to take care of each other,” said Hilburn.
Hilburn is excited for her home church to see a group of faithful college-age Christians, because it’s rare in her hometown to see young followers of Christ.
“I didn’t think anyone would want to go on this trip, and then He sent me 8 wonderful people whose faith I admire,” said Hilburn. “We have the most incredible group of students that the Lord totally put together. I look back at my time in college and my faith was definitely not where they are today.”
As Hilburn stated, this trip to Northern California will not be “glamorous”. Their main purpose is establishing relationships with the community of believers in Patterson that rarely gets encouragement. “My hope is that we are a breath of fresh air and encourage them to get out in the community and be Jesus to their neighbors in ways they might not have imagined,” said Hilburn.
One of those breaths of fresh air will be in the form of Walt Leaver, pulpit minister from the Brentwood Hills Church of Christ and Vice-President for University Relations at Lipscomb. Leaver, who himself has led spring break teams to Hamilton, Ontario for the past three years, was a late addition to the team, serving as a guest speaker. His focus and purpose will be to encourage the Patterson church through the week’s theme of “Big Faith, Small Church.”
Charli Shelby, a senior English major from Memphis, is one of the members of the team. In her time at Lipscomb, Shelby has participated in trips to Honduras and Dallas/ Ft. Worth during Spring Break, but felt called to go on the NorCal trip this year.
“I decided to go to NorCal this year because I felt such a peace about this trip and its purpose. It has already been such an amazing journey to see how God has pulled a team of such spirit-filled people to help organize and pray over our trip and the church family we are going to encourage. I attended my first trip as a Freshman to Dallas/ Fort Worth and it was humbling to watch as God continually provided for not only our mission team but also the needs of the church. I know this trip will be the same way, and I cannot wait to see how God uses the hearts of the people in California, as well as the people on our team, to bring encouragement to the body of Christ.”
One of the great blessings of a trip such as this will be the relationships formed between the team and the local church. Various families from the Patterson church have stepped forward to serve as host families. During the days the team will be focusing its efforts on serving members of the church, visiting local schools, assisting at a local teen center and organizing a women’s ministry event for the church. Evenings will be spent sharing meals with the families.
Hilburn is excited to expose Lipscomb students to her church upbringing, and she hopes this trip will continue for years to come. Says Hilburn; “You know someone is really serious about their faith when there is nothing else drawing them in. It’s not like there is some awesome youth program or great speaker. You’re just there because that’s your family and that’s all you have."
Click here for more info on this mission effort: http://www.lipscomb.edu/Missions/NorCal