Summertime = Youth (and Grown Up Youth) on a Mission

Date Posted: 8/14/2014

From Colorado to Costa Rica, young people joined mission teams of all ages to go forth and make disciples in a variety of ways. Here is a sampling of summer mission stories from across the conference.

?"My summer mission experience changed the way I look at others,” admits eighth grader Rylie Patrick of the First UMC Brenham youth group. “I was there to serve everyone -- it didn't matter if it was a child at the Indian Day School, a family at the soup kitchen, or cooking and cleaning for the others in our youth group. It was amazing to see how one small act of kindness from me could make a difference in someone's life.  Our theme was John 13:15 - For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you”.
This summer, Brenham youth went to the Osage Nation in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, utilizing the youth mission organization called Youthworks.  “It is a great organization to work with in executing a fantastic mission experience,” says Jennifer Patrick, Director of Student Ministries. “Our group worked with other youth from Colorado, Wisconsin, Arkansas, as well as, another group from Texas. We helped the elderly by cleaning their yards, volunteered at the Indian Day School and the Boys and Girls Club. We worked in a soup kitchen and food pantry, built a baseball press box for a local pastor who bought a baseball field for the community, and helped the local school district by cleaning out school busses.” In the evenings, the group explored the town and its history, worshiped together and then spent time with their respective churches processing the day’s events.
Shares Jennifer, “We have already brought our spirit of serving back home this summer.  A group of our youth helped lead worship with our Associate Pastor, Kay Reed, at local nursing homes. Additionally, the youth sponsored a Christmas in July and asked our congregation to purchase $10-$15 gift cards to local grocery stores and gas stations that the lead pastor, Jon Stouffer, will use to help people that come by the church needing a little assistance.  The students are amazed at the generosity of the church for this concept – already donating close to $1000 in gift cards and the cards are still coming in!”
She adds, “The youth group of FUMC Brenham thanks the West District for the gift of a Missional Excellence grant to help pay for our summer mission activities!”
Colorado or bust
Over 30 high school youth literally hit the trail this June to share Christ in Colorado according to Stephen Gertson, who is a farmer by day and the volunteer youth director/coordinator at the First United Methodist Church, East Bernard by night. Stephen says the teens did outdoor ministry by volunteering with park ranger Bob Hawley with the Colorado Springs Parks Department. “Since he is in charge of the North Cheyenne Canon Park in the Colorado Springs area, he has a tremendous task to keep the park safe and enjoyable for the many visitors that come to the area,” notes Stephen. “We were blessed to be able to help Bob with some trail maintenance, parking lot and trail cleanup, and picnic table painting. In addition, Bob was able to share his testimony with us as we worked beside him for three days.”
Unique Way to Share God
Adds Stephen, “We were also able to share with many of the visitors that walked the trail we were working on by handing out  rubber bracelets with a summary of a key verse we chose for that particular trip.  We hand these bracelets out from the time we leave our church parking lot to the time we return to our church parking lot as a tool that allows us to share our scripture verse and to open up conversations with others.” This year. East Bernard youth shortened 1 Corinthians 3:7 to the bracelet-sized phrase, Grow with God.

Just for Fun
While in Colorado, youth went to a Sky Socks minor league baseball game, visited the Olympic Training Center, rode the Cog Train to the top of Pikes Peak, visited the Garden of the Gods, Cave of the Winds, and went white water rafting. “Every evening we had devotional time led by one of the youth, and everyone did a wonderful job sharing from their heart.” Watch the highlight reel here:
ABCs of Missions: Alabama, Brenham and Costa Rica

According to Shelby Smolen, director of student ministries at West University UMC, Houston,  the West U Youth Group enjoys three summer outings as well as hosts a variety of activities to keep students involved while they are out of school.

“In early June, we took a group of senior high students to Costa Rica to a 7-day mission journey, where we participated in a construction project on a local church, held VBS for some amazing kids, and enjoyed the beauty of God's creation. In late June, we attended Student Life Camp in Orange Beach, Alabama with kids ranging from 6th-12th grade, worshiping together and bonding on the beach.”

Adds Shelby, “Our final outing of the summer was an outreach called Big House in Brenham, Texas. We helped the local community with various service projects.” And the youth activities do not stop there. “Throughout the summer,” she shares, “we hold Wednesday night Bible study for students of all ages, a Hang Time on Thursday afternoons, and on every other Sunday we host Methodist Youth Fellowship, a time for the students to get together and fellowship through organized games.”

Jamaica, Mahhn”
Every spring break for the last 20 years, high school seniors from St. Peter’s UMC, Katy have gone to the same parish in Jamaica and worked in the community of Hamstead.  As the youth became young adults, they wanted to continue this tradition, so the church added a second trip. This summer, a team of 16 from St. Peter’s and Grace UMC. Katy traveled to Jamaica to continue the ministry that was started more than 20 years ago by Sandra Roberson and St. Peter’s high school students. The team served in the communities of Hampstead and Free Hill.
Notes Rev. Nathan Bledsoe, pastor of missions and evangelism, “In Hampstead, we sponsored a two-week summer school program that helped students prepare for the year ahead and allowed the teachers to learn about their new students. We also sponsored a lunch program and provided Vacation Bible School for the group of 100 students while we were there. “
In Free Hill, Methodists-in-mission painted the school. Adds Nathan, “It was a large task, but our team partnered with members of the local community and in five days we used 68 gallons of paint to paint the school purple and yellow. Principal Martin Murphy was beaming with pride when the job was finished, and he cannot wait for school to start in September. Our team also led Vacation Bible School for the children of Free Hill as well as provided lunch for them each day.”
In addition to working, this group attended a spirited worship service on Sunday, enjoyed some free time each evening, and experienced a taste of Jamaican culture with some live music.
Six former students from St. Peter’s were able to return to Jamaica this summer, the site of their senior mission trip where they had helped with a sports ministry for the children, provided building repairs and construction of new facilities for churches and schools, and brought much-needed educational supplies.

Putting Others First
Atascocita UMC Youth Ministry Director Susan Sanders took a group of 13 youth (7th to 9th graders) and 5 adult leaders to Coldspring United Methodist Church with seven other groups.  About 85 youth and adults working with Big House (Believing in God, Helping Others Understand through Service Everywhere) did yard work on parsonages and area churches. “They painted a senior center, built shelves for a thrift shop, painted a floor and poured a cement walkway for a food pantry, and scraped and painted a local church,” shares Susan, “which means the youth paid to go work and help others in need. The evenings were spent with activities and worship. This camp created the perfect opportunity for the youth to put others first, go outside their comfort zone, and to put in action being the hands and feet of Christ.”
For U.M. ARMY (United Methodist Action Reach-out Missions by Youth), a group of 9 high schoolers and four adult leaders traveled to Kilgore, Texas. “We stayed at the host church with three other groups for a total of 57 youth and adults. Notes Susan, “The youth were divided into 6 teams and were dispersed to homes in the area of Kilgore, Longview and Gilmore.”  They worked on projects ranging from replacing door/window frames, scraping and painting an entire house to building 40-foot and 60-foot wheelchair ramps.  “Once again,” she adds, “these youth used their time off and paid money to spend a week doing hard labor in the hot Texas sun, just to meet the needs of others.  While the youth enjoyed doing the work and feeling a sense of real accomplishment, it seems their true joy came from meeting their clients on a daily basis, talking to them, getting to know them and seeing them wheel down their wheel chair ramp with a huge smile on their face.” Adult leaders could witness transformation before their eyes. “This experience gets students out of their own little world, and allows them to see needs of others not far from home,” adds Susan.  The theme for U.M. ARMY this year was Light Bearer, which drove home their responsibility to be the light of Christ and to take it out into the world.