Our journey to Merrill was a smidge more eventful than expected. We blew both tires on our trailer within the same hour. Luckily the second tire blew right in front of a local garage about 2 miles from our destination. Even cooler, the garage was owned by a local Christian who knew our hosts. He lent us a spare tire which tied us over until we could buy new ones.
I'm glad we were all safe and it was nothing but a few blown tires. We hit the road again tomorrow for another 4 hour leg. Here's hoping Saturday's trek will be boooring. lol
Tonight was our second and last night in Merrill. It was also our first show of this leg of the tour. We were hosted by a youth drop-in called OTTS Garage. The youth pastor Justin has been serving with the kids here for the last three years. It was great to hear his heart for the youth of his community and the burdens they carry.
Merrill is a small town and based on our first hand experience Thursday night, there isn't much for recreation here. Justin shared how he saw that many youth lacked hope for their future. There is a lot of depression, addiction, self harm and the like among the kids. He sees leaving as the best bet for most of these kids and if they don't get the chance to leave, it is that much harder for them to make it.
In the midst of all that, it was sweet to meet locals and here their stories. One of the teens we met is Destiny. She is a beautiful soul. She spent the day helping and serving at the event and hung out with us at the end of the night. She shared about her passion for photography and her plans for college. I am more than certain she will reach all these heights and more. Check out her photos here: https://www.facebook.com/Destinys-Photography-1000954249952947/
Another person I met in Merrill is Nancy. She helped prepare us lunch with such grace, joy amd charm. I had a blast chatting with her. Hearing about her family and their life in Merrill. It was like having a Merrill mom. She's great.
The big focus of the day was the concert of course. We started setting up at around two and spent most of the day praying that it wouldn't rain. Ultimately the vent was a success and it did not rain at all the entire event. I performed a 25 minute set alongside No Lost Cause, We Are ONe and DJ Grand Mill. It was cool to hear my travel mates do what they do best. They performed with heart, care and compassion whether there were two or 15 people in the room. Just outside of the building they blocked off the street and set up skate ramps. Kids competed in a skateboarding competition as well as something called the Tampico Challenge. If you've never experienced Tampico, it's something else completely. Two people compete to see who can chug a gallon of Sunny D like orange beverage in under 5 minutes. The first to complete it and hold it down wins $100. No one won. Unless you count the trash can. Let's just say there may have been some upchucking.
Ultimately I had a great time in this cute little town. Some of the youth stuck around and I got to hear some of their stories. There is much heartache and brokenness here, but there is also hope, and love. There are people who love beyond themselves and give of their resoucres, time and gifts to those around them There are those like Justin standing in hope for those they love. Others like Destiny proving the stats and the odds wrong. There are places like OTTS where you can come and just be. The seeds are many.
The future is bright.