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Appalachia – Tuesday – 3.27.18

We started off the day again at 7:15 for breakfast and devotions. We talked about being open to the purpose that God has for us here, and to go into it with an open mind. Then we headed off to each of our work sites. We made a lot of progress today and all worked very hard to get the job done. We replaced flooring, painted inside, and replaced some of the porch and painted it. The thing that really stood out for me today was how even though the work might seem like it will be boring and not fun, it’s different knowing that you are doing it to help another person. It makes your work meaningful and can be life changing for someone else even though it didn’t take much for you to do it. This taught me to have an open mindset throughout my life. We never know when the opportunity might come upon us to help another person, but we have to be willing and go into it knowing that I can make a difference.

– Haley, 11th Grade

We all arrived at the job site this morning tired from our previous day’s work and a little unmotivated. But when we started getting down to work, our spirits picked up. We started with stripping all of the old shingles off of the roof and we learned how to lay new shingles. The work was tedious, but we found a way to make it fun. We noticed the carpenter was saying “shangles” instead of shingles. So everyone started saying “shangles.” Then I said we bang the shangles because we nail them in. So we developed into the “Shangle bangers.” We were all in a great mood and we worked more effectively. This just shows that even though you may not want to do hard labor, you can make the work enjoyable. Not to mention, helping those in need results in a happy attitude.

– Grant, 10th Grade

Today, we started the day by unloading the old shingles in the dumpster before going to the work site. While we were down there, Mr. King decided it would be fun to throw rocks at a “target” (really an old saw blade in a tree). We had a great time, but no one was good at aiming. When we got to the work site, we immediately started working on the old shingles from the other side of the roof. Personally, I worked on the edge of the roof pulling old nails out. I am not a fan of heights but it is amazing the things we will do to help people. My favorite part of the day had to be after lunch when I got to help put the new shingles on. It was very satisfying to see the final product start to come together. The little girl at the house was sad because she thought we were destroying her grandfather’s house but I think she will love it when we are done. I have truly enjoyed learning how to shingle a roof and my group makes it so much fun. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us the rest of the week.

– Erica, 10th Grade

Thank you everyone for being in prayer for our safety, attitudes as well as for opportunities to glorify Christ. Your prayers are proving fruitful. The students on the Appalachia trip not only are so thankful for being here, they want to make a change. Students are coming face to face with stunning poverty right here in the United States. Today, students gave up their lunches, bought bottled water/snacks and showed the light of Christ to the neighbors of our work site. They immediately started to put plans into place to help improve the lives of an additional family that are in dire straights. They know that giving food and shelter are a temporary fix, but they are praying for the conviction of Christ’s living water. Our students are thoughtful and giving – they are also beginning to see that less is more. Over and over this week, they are peeling back the onion on the noise we all have in our lives: technology, social media, work, and athletics. Many students explained, “I always want more, and that does not make me happy. These people have so little, but they are so happy.” God is moving in a powerful way at the intersection of all of our lives. Parent’s provision of the trip provides the materials to fix the houses that students receive the blessing of helping others – and this grows in students confidence and expands our comfort zones. We are all doing well after a bonfire night, fellowship and s’mores. We are looking forward to a day of rest and enjoying God’s beautiful creation tomorrow. – Mrs. Tracy Hollars

Cuba – Monday – 3.26.18

Monday brought another beautiful sunrise in Cuba along with the warm greeting of our rooster friends. We ended last night with a devotion from Señor McDonald looking at 2 Corinthians 11 and 12 being reminded to make much of Jesus…let’s lift Him up above everything else this week. Several on the team shared highlights of their experience so far. The general theme has been one of pleasant surprise about how warm the people here have been. We are excited about what God has in store for this week!

Breakfast today was scrambled eggs, fresh pineapple, and rolls. We are all enjoying the Cuban coffee and cocoa and hot leché. Each meal continues to bring great conversation and lots of laughter. Three meals a day together really does bond a team! We spent time this morning praying for the rest of the Spring Term teams that are getting underway today. It’s exciting to consider what God has in store for 19 teams serving all over the place full of people who have put their “yes” on the table to truly living out the gospel.

We did a passport check before loading up today and everyone is still looking good to return home with no problems 🙂 The bus departed a few minutes after 8 headed to the farm we will be working at in Jovellanos. Based on the tour yesterday, some of us will be collecting pineapples, some will plant coconuts, some will do some canning, and others will do a variety of odd jobs. This is a sharp crew full of hard workers, so this is bound to be a great day!

Traveling to the farm is another visual of what a paradox modern day Cuba is. We are passing Chevrolets from the 1950’s which are riding past horse or mule drawn carriages. We are riding in a school bus that was originally from North Carolina at some point and seeing Mercedes that were imported within the past few years. Several people are riding to work and the other day’s activities on horseback. And all of it seems to work together just fine.

When we arrived at the farm, Willie greeted us and introduced us to the rest of the farm staff. Our team was divided into four groups: planting coconuts, moving rocks, replanting palm trees, and sifting gravel. The crew got right to work. This is a competitive group…so we were timing our wheelbarrow loads and challenging each other to get more work done. Everyone was drinking water and helping each other out. We took a break at noon to eat an awesome lunch of fried chicken, rice, red beans, fried plantains, boiled bananas, potatoes, and a bread dessert. After lunch several napped while others sat around talking.

Willie had us load up to visit some of the church planters in town so that we could see their house churches. Both house church pastors were very hospitable and seemed to enjoy sharing with our group about their ministry. The pastors were very passionate about reaching their community for Christ! Our  students enjoyed the opportunity to pray with and over the pastors. The last stop on our visit was to meet a young man named Leo. He has some physical challenges, but his mind is very sharp. Our team enjoyed visiting with him and also exploring the baseball field across the street that had two beautiful horses in the outfield.

We had an hour drive back to the guesthouse and several kids napped and others hung out. There was a quick dash to the showers and then we had a few hours to relax  before dinner. Dinner was wonderful! We feasted on fish, pork, chicken, beans and rice, salad, potatoes, and a table full of desserts.

While we were eating, the salsa band arrived and started playing music. Melissa (our host for the week) and the musicians taught our group several authentic Cuban dances. Most of the group was really getting the hang of it! We’ve got some great pictures and videos to share when we get home. Mrs. Epp did an awesome job representing the adults!

Erika Garcia helped us close out the evening with a devotional from Matthew 6:14-16 and Psalm 119:105 reminding us to be a light for Christ in all that we say and do. After a quick check in to hear how everyone is doing, we laid out the plans for our day in Havana tomorrow, and then everyone headed to their rooms for the night.

Looking forward to posting this blog from Havana when we can catch a few minutes of WiFi!

Megan Strange, Cuba Team Leader

Our trip is off to a great start! Everyone has been able to grow closer and we’ve laughed until we can’t breathe. On Sunday, we had the opportunity to go to church. It’s really been an eye opening experience to see how much people appreciate what we take for granted. The joy and happiness that filled them with dancing and singing left me in awe. On Monday, we had the opportunity to work at the Experience Mission headquarters and speak with local pastors. Cuba is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Until later! –

Briley Lawson, 12th grade

This morning we worked at Willy’s pineapple farm in order to assist with their production and efficiency. The farm is all organic and sustainable and feeds about 70+ people, but it is not profitable because they give all of their food away to the people in need in the neighboring villages. Our work, whether transporting rocks to later form into gravel, planting trees, or other tasks, was to help get them a couple weeks ahead of schedule so that they can serve their community well. Although it was hard work, we had a fun time, even competing how fast my group could fill a wheelbarrow with the rocks(we have the world record of 8 seconds by the way). I hope that tomorrow we can have another good time serving so that the community is provided for!

Robert Mathis, 12th grade

Today the team worked on the farm with no complaints despite the hot sun and inconveniences of a farm. I was on a team that was planting and preparing soil for palm trees. It was a very repetitive task but the friends, kids, and kindness that was all around me drove any bad idea out the window. After we worked we had the most amazing lunch (I don’t know why so many American travelers say their food is bland because holy moly it’s the best food I’ve had in so long!) with all of my friends joking and having a good time!

Connor McArdle, 11th grade


Marine Biology – Wednesday – 3.29.17

A theme throughout the day was the amazing privilege of stewardship God has entrusted us with over His earth. Marine Biology began our day in the best way possible– taking care of this miraculous landscape God has blessed us with! We split up into groups and cleaned up the Army Corps property around NCCS. While it wasn’t the most fun or clean activity, it was an amazing opportunity to reflect on the impact we have on the environment as well as serve the school that does so much for us.

After the clean-up, we headed up to Lake Lanier for a day exploring the water. We made it safely to the lake, where we paused for lunch and to enjoy the absolutely beautiful weather and scenery. Before we started the boat tour, our guides gave us a little insight into the history of the lake. Lake Lanier, named after poet Sidney Lanier, is a man-made lake that sits in a valley where a great deal of people used to live; when the water is low, sometimes you can still see parts of the town! Some of its original purposes included drinking water, flood control, and generating hydroelectricity from the dam. Our guides led an interactive and informative session about the nature of the water on earth. We discovered that even though almost 70% of the earth is covered in water, less than 1% of that water is readily available for our use. It was eye-opening to realize how much we truly need to care for our environment the same way that God cares for us.

Once this session concluded, we all piled onto a boat to visit different parts of Lake Lanier. Our mission for the boat ride was to discover what the water quality index of the lake was through various tests and experiments. Factors like water temperature, pH level, oxygen levels, and nitrate/phosphate levels all play a role in determining the quality of the water.

It was beautiful out on the lake, and we were lucky enough to see two different species of bird that call this area home. We spotted a nesting site, or rookery, of the great blue heron as well as the nesting site of some ospreys. Our guides told us about several other species living in the area such as deer, foxes, coyotes, and several different species of fish. It was very interesting to see the diversity of life, as well as learn about how interconnected all the species were.

After a while of boating, we reached a spot to test the water quality. We split into groups to perform different experiments to determine different levels of various substances in the water. It took precise measurements and as we worked, everyone hoped that we were getting top-notch results from the tests. Our guides were helpful and enthusiastic, and it spread through the whole boat as we turned it into a floating chemistry lab! The results we ended up with were a little bit surprising– Lake Lanier turned out to have a high water quality index! Most of us were expecting average if not fair results, but the quality of the water was a pleasant surprise. So if you’re looking for a fun and safe place to spend the day on the water, Lake Lanier is open to you, your family, and the other 8 million tourists who visit each year.

The big take-away from today was the importance of keeping our environment clean. It’s all too easy to toss trash out the car window or dump waste water down the sewer, but it’s so important that we remember how much we affect the environment by our every action. Amazing places like Lake Lanier exist, but for how long if we don’t care for our Earth the Creator has provided for us? Marine Biology really got a taste of how much we impact our environment and everything we do has a lasting effect.

With the knowledge of our importance to the environment seeded in us today, we can only hope that tomorrow we can all expand our knowledge and appreciation for the amazing creatures that God has placed on this earth alongside us!


Guatemala – Saturday – 3.25.17

Early, and I mean early, Tuesday morning, the Guatemala peeps got up at 4:30am and left at 5:30am for a delicious breakfast at the “Guatemalan Cracker Barrel!” Here we ate mush, which is similar to oatmeal, scrambled eggs, pancakes, and toast with fresh cheese and jelly. All of us were stuffed and could barely get back on the bus!
Halle R., 12th grade

Immediately after consuming this glorious meal, we hopped back on the bus and drove two hours through beautiful countryside to go and see the Mayan Ruins of Iximche. The drive gave us all a new perspective of the country where we were sent to serve. We no longer just saw the broken parts we were trying to fix, or the danger that prevented us from walking the streets after dark; we also got to see the beauty of Guatemala, as well as God’s astounding creation. The ruins themselves were amazing. Our guide, Alex, was incredibly well educated on the ruins and even spoke two of the dialects of the ancient Mayan people. He was able to point out every piece of the city and tell us its history as well as some obscure facts that none of us were aware of. After the tour, we all gathered on the grass under the shade of a huge tree with Jose. After about half an hour’s rest and some hilarious story sharing (and great power naps for some), we were back on the bus to head to our next destination
Alex T., 11th grade

We then arrived at Antigua where we went shopping in the market for some souvenirs. There we haggled with the locals to get some good deals. After that we walked around the beautiful city and went to McDonalds. It is so much better than McDonalds in the United States, which says a lot. After that we came back to where we are staying and had devotion/worship. Mr. Ray started off by singing “Here I Am to Worship,” “This Is Amazing Grace,” and “I Will Follow.” After, Mrs. Dignon gave a message talking about our need to follow God. She gave a testimony as to how she has seen the need to follow God and then opened up it up to us. We talked about what we want to accomplish on this trip and how God is going to do amazing things through us. By letting down our own walls and putting everything in us into Guatemala, God will change lives.
Trey C., 12th grade

Scuba – Thursday – 3.31.16

Today started off with a wonderful surprise of getting to sleep in, followed by a typical Coach Konchak wake up call impersonating the front desk clerk.   After a stop by the manatee refuge and a very passionate informational run down over the manatee species we headed to Crackers for the second time because the food is that good.

After lunch we headed to our mission project and everyone complained  while we cleaned up itchy algae to save the manatee population. Overall it was an exciting, exhausting, and all together, bonding experience. The real bonding honestly happened when Scuba Rob locked his keys in his car and everyone pitched in to bust the lock. Thanks to some old wire and random shrapnel, the impossible task was accomplished.

A quick dinner at McDonalds led to an hour long drive back to Devil’s Den where we would get to night dive. The unexpected dive was going to include flashlights and computers and hopefully the chance to see new and different fish than before. It was an optional dive and about half of the group decided to hang back at the bonfire which I’ve been told consisted of multiple rounds of “what are the odds” and lots of screaming (which is typical for this group). I really enjoyed our last dive because diving is really tricky and takes lots of practice before you even begin to feel comfortable under the water. The extra opportunity allowed me to really enjoy myself underwater.

I feel that I have finally gotten the hang of things and this last dive came with much more freedom and luxury because I could use the skills I’ve been able to learn through all of the previous dives.

Today was a really nice day to end our trip on, the weather was perfect and the dive was amazing. All in all this spring term has been one of my best and I have loved almost every minute. Despite the boys constant screeching pterodactyl noises and the smelly damp bus, the trip has been an amazing and unforgettable experience.

Amber Conti

*See more pictures on the NCCS Facebook page –

Washington, DC – Tuesday, 3/31/15

Tuesday was packed with a trip to Capitol Hill and Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home. We began by praying for our nation in front of the Capitol. After praying, we visited the Supreme Court building and were able to go inside the Library of Congress to see some of the awesome treasures there. The Gutenberg Bible and Thomas Jefferson’s library were amazing. We ended our morning with a guided tour of the Capitol where we learned about the beginnings of our nation in this incredible place. After lunch at the Reagan Center, we headed out to Mount Vernon. At Mount Vernon, we were able to visit the Wharf and the barn before touring Washington’s home. Time was even spent relaxing on Washington’s front lawn. We also saw the tomb where Washington and his wife rest. Following dinner at Carmine’s, the day ended with an evening tour of the Tidal Basin Memorials where we learned about Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas Jefferson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Wednesday promises to be an exciting day as we explore more of our nation’s history.

Angie Brock

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Baseball Missions Team – Day 5

What an incredible week!

We woke up yesterday morning, got packed up and loaded everything onto the bus. After cleaning our cabins thoroughly, we went down to the dinning hall at Camp Grace and ate a fantastic breakfast. Then we hopped on the buses and made our way to Turner Field home of The Atlanta Braves.

The funny part about this portion of the trip is that NO ONE stayed awake except for Coach Pager and myself, of course.

We got to Turner Field and it was pouring down rain, but we started our tour anyway. Getting to hear some things about the stadium that we never knew was really cool – which window is the press box, where does the announcer sit, who keeps the official score, how they keep up with statistics during games. All of this was really interesting. I think for me the most interesting part was getting to go on to the field and seeing it from the perspective big league ball players see it from. We were then able to sit in the Braves dugout and dream a little bit, then went through the museum and saw the history of the oldest baseball franchise to date. It was just a really neat experience over all.

After our tour, we continued up interstate 75 a couple miles and ate at the Varsity. This is always just a great experience and for me a tradition after going to a Braves game. So it was only fitting that we went as a team and enjoyed our last meal of the week together.

What a cool way to close out our week!

We had the privilege of serving at a homeless shelter, playing baseball with the Miracle League, serving at Camp Grace, and touring Turner Field. In between all that, we also managed to pick up two region wins! But more importantly, and above all else, we were all able to bond closer together as a team and see each other open up, become more vulnerable with each other, and found new ways that we can encourage each other with confidence and God’s perfect love. I personally was blown away this week and based on the response from the guys, I think they were too.

Thanks for such a great opportunity and for sending these guys on this trip. We had a Blast!

Blessings to you all!

Coach Poplin