By Rev. Mark Cordes
I got in my car, podcasts ready, playlists done, and began to drive. It was going to be five hours or so. As I drove, I realized it had been at least two decades since I’d headed that way. North through the redwoods, across five watersheds before finally arriving at Smith River.
Early in my journey the podcasts and playlists were forgotten, replaced by the sounds of the wind and reflections on ecology, place, and people. Inevitably the NorCal fog surrounded my car. I am coming home.
Smith River site – a small church across the street from a school and a dairy farm. The smell of sea fog…well, mostly sea fog. Small knots of youth and adults wandered during free time. Dylan and crew welcomed me. Dinner, program, lights out…the first day.
Visiting work sites, spiritual sandwiches, youth with tools, removing invasive beach grass, napping, water day, program, crammed into cars. Talking about SSP’s past and present, sharing in the sacrament of service, and the gift of working with our hands. Staff counselor meeting, air mattresses, snoring…the second day.
“…sharing in the sacrament of service, and the gift of working with our hands.”
Cutting potatoes, prepping dinner, cleaning up, shower, bathroom duty, staff hugs, more stories from first-time youth sure to be lifers about what it means, what it is, what they made, dug, built, cut, hammered, hung, accomplished. Knowing I have to leave soon hangs over me. At the beach talking about God…listening to the wind, those precious voices of faith, renewal, discovery, hope, transcendence, glory, wonder…Sierra Service Project in halting, shy, deep, prayerful reflections amidst the sounds of the sea.
I drive to my other home. My kindergartener greets me…I dream of he and I at SSP learning together about God, building faith, strengthening communities, and serving…it can’t come soon enough.
On behalf of the Board of Directors, let me say a heartfelt thank you to all of you who make Sierra Service Project possible.
Rev. Mark C Cordes
Editor’s Note: We are very grateful to have such an active and supportive Board of Directors behind our work. Mark’s article appears in SSP’s 2016 Annual Newsletter, which you can read in full by requesting a copy on our website. Groups or individuals interested in serving in Smith River should contact Veronica Russell, SSP’s Volunteer Coordinator, for more information.