RAINSVILLE, Ala. - Instead of basking in the sun on a beach in Hawaii earlier this month during her spring break, 12-year-old Logan Etheredge of Darien, Conn., spent a week with her family rebuilding houses in DeKalb County damaged by the April 27, 2011, tornadoes.
Logan convinced her family to change their Hawaii vacation plans to work on a church mission trip in Northeast Alabama.
That's right - a seventh-grader chose a vacation of hammers and nails, power tools and removing debris, over a beach chair and softly breaking waves.
Logan said she always had wanted to go on a mission trip and when her church, Noroton Presbyterian, decided last year to come to DeKalb County during this year's spring break to help with rebuilding efforts, she knew she wanted to go.
And since her younger brother, Grayson, 10, was now old enough to go, Logan said she began talking to her parents about going on their first mission trip as a family.
"I just always felt that mission work was something I want to do," Logan said, "I've always been interested in getting involved and helping, and so I thought Alabama would be good starter for me. Mission work just seems like the right choice, especially since it's a good change, and you can help spread the word of Jesus and you can just really open up to a lot of people."
There was one problem. Her parents were considering a family trip to Hawaii during that time.
Oh well. Time to start packing the bathing suit and suntan lotion.
Not Logan. She really, really wanted to go on this mission trip.
"I did a lot of begging, that's for sure," she said.
Logan knew she would need a great argument to win her parents over, and her parents thought if they kept mentioning the Hawaii trip, she would give up.
They were wrong. Logan developed two PowerPoint presentations outlining the pros and cons of each trip.
"I may have been a little unfair to Hawaii by saying the only pro was to get a tan," she admitted.
"At the end of each PowerPoint, I put 'what would Jesus do.' I think that was one of the guilt factors that really won them over," she said.
Logan kept asking that every day, and her parents finally relented.
Her father, Elliott, said his daughter's desire to go on the trip eventually won them over.
He said parents always try to push kids in the right direction, to give them a moral compass and instill discipline. "When it starts coming from your kid to you as a parent, especially when she's 12 years old, you can't say no," he said.
Mother Julie added, "When it has to do with helping others, that's right. ... Our actions speak louder than our words - saying 'do good' when you could go do it, too."
Logan said it's been a great experience and she's looking forward to future trips.
"At first I thought I would wish I was on the beach," she said. "But now I see it's really great, an awesome experience. I loved it. I had so much fun."
At one site, she helped rebuild a porch. "I got to use some power tools," she said.
Logan said she enjoyed picking up debris and to tried to imagine it as part of the house and what it was used for.
Grayson was in favor of Hawaii and thought Logan was crazy to pass up a vacation there.
"I couldn't believe she would give up Hawaii for the mission trip," he said. "Now that I'm on one, it's a lot of fun."
He said he'd like to do another mission trip, but he still missed Hawaii.
Both parents said they also have enjoyed the trip, and that the family is likely to go on other mission trips. "You definitely feel like you have a purpose when you're here," Elliott said.
He said their children saw the rough shape the tornado-damaged area remains in, and the progress the group made in "putting the pieces back together."
But is Hawaii still in the future for the Etheredge family?
"Oh yeah," Elliott said. "We've been very clear with Logan, no PowerPoints this time."
Julie added, "We'll get there this time."