This post is part of our Storytellers Series. The series shares stories of members organizations and how they use stories to grow their mission. 

As soon as word spread about the fires in Oregon, our Smith River, California staff was immediately concerned about our neighboring Sierra Service Project (SSP) site and it’s staff in Chiloquin, Oregon. As the fires raged on, our worries grew and we didn’t know about the possibility of the continuation of the work there.

We wanted to help anyway we could and when we got the call early into our week 5 that the 60 volunteers from Chiloquin would be making the trek down to Smith River to continue their week with us, we couldn’t wait. We were nervous to host the biggest week of SSP that had ever been. We didn’t know what to expect, if there would be enough room, enough food and enough work. Despite all of the challenges we saw, we knew that our staffs were capable of overcoming them and that God was on our side.  Above all we were excited to embrace this new experience with open arms and open hearts. 

So in 24 hours we called in some community favors, a couple of port-o-potties and our construction team came up with as many community projects they could think of. We arranged new sleeping areas, bought food and prayed for the safe travels of our Chiloquin friends. 

The Chiloquin staff and volunteers beat us to our own water day at Jedediah State Park and what a joyous celebration it was. Our staffs embraced each other as well as the different youth and adult volunteers we have gotten to work with at past SSP’s. There was so much love and welcome in the air as the two sites became one and SSP Chilo-River Megaweek commenced. It was by far the most adventurous Adventure Wednesday that I have ever been a part of and that was only the beginning. 

Our mega-songtime is something that I believe will live in the hearts of many for years. Our guitar players sat in the middle facing outward and everyone else formed a giant circle surrounding them. We played the SSP songtime classics, sang, danced and rejoiced in the community that we were building. Was it chaotic? Absolutely! But in the chaos there was joy and beauty. 

Throughout the week we combined work teams to advance our bigger projects. We also had many service opportunities in crescent city community gardens, churches and faith centers. There was plenty of work for all of our excited volunteers.

As for the spiritual program, I don’t think there could be a more fitting program theme for Megaweek to take place in. Love Courageously! It was a perfect opportunity for our volunteers to practice opening the doors, making room for others both physically and in their hearts and to put their love into action. 

Matthew 18:20 says “when 2 or three gather in the Lord’s name, God is among them.” Well what about when 140 gather to serve God, the community and each other? I can tell you for certain that the presence of God was amplified among the 140 and beyond. These volunteers were able to touch so many lives both in the SSP community and in the Smith River/Crescent City communities.

Amen for Megaweek and may anyone who has the opportunity to participate in the future open themselves to the beauty of the experience!

Kelsie Currie is serving on summer staff at Sierra Service Project for the 4th year—she is returning to Smith River this year as the site director.