Because need knows no boundaries and people everywhere are hurting, the youth at St. George’s United Methodist Church in Clarksville took their mission trip this year without even leaving home.
Their first annual mission trip was last year, to a small town in West Virginia. The group had to raise thousands of dollars to get there. While the work was tough, they did it and had a great time. But for youth leader Joy Griffith, taking a different route this year seemed the way to go.
“The kids loved to go away and experience a different area and a different culture,” said Griffith – who, along with her husband Doug, took the kids on their first mission trip last year. “Last year, we had to raise $10,000 to go, and we did it. It worked, but it was tough. So, we decided to do it this way this year.”
Griffith said they now plan to alternate mission “trips” each year, with one year being a trip out of the area and the next one concentrating on things near home.
For this year’s trip, which had a theme of “Freedom,” the group plans to use the Youth Works model that they used last year, with morning devotions, skits with praise and worship in the evening and about four projects to accomplish in between.
The group, which consists of about 10 teens and four adults, plans to do projects right in the neighborhoods of Clarksville, Frankford and Ocean View, with the farthest afield being in Selbyville.
They plan to help with home repairs, including patching holes and painting; doing weeding and outside work at their neighbor, Union Wesley Church, in preparation for the annual camp meeting; visiting a nursing home in Millsboro; and doing yard work for people who cannot do it themselves for physical reasons and cannot afford to pay someone else to do it.
“It’s awesome,” said Joan Kehoe of Ocean View, beneficiary of a yard-work project. “I have an attitude of gratitude. They are doing God’s work.”
The teenagers – who sacrificed the use of any electronics, such as cell phones and iPods, for the duration of the project and will have their meals and sleep at the church, and take showers at Fenwick Island State Park – have the same attitude toward the projects: They are glad to be a part of something that affects people right at home, where they can see their work and its effect.
“Why do you have to travel when there is work to be done right around here?” asked Veronica Townsend, one of the high school students involved in the mission, rhetorically. Her brother Chester, or “Ches,” added that it feels good to be able to ride by and see people who need help and then be able to help them.
“Seeing the impact you have is very self-satisfying,” echoed fellow worker Jake Seiders.
Others shared that it was a good feeling to be helping people in their own communities, rather than traveling far and spending money to do so. Griffith said that many gave up a week of their jobs or made other sacrifices to be a part of the mission.
“One young man had a choice to play All-Star baseball, or this,” said Griffith. “Last year, his sister went and he didn’t, and he really regretted it. And this year he chose to do this. It’s really awesome.”
She added that, this year, by focusing the whole week on service, they could really help out people who need it right at home.
“It’s good for the community,” Griffith said. “The majority of the people in our area are pretty blessed,” she said. “We don’t realize that people right here in our back yard are in real need of our help.”
But Griffith doesn’t have to worry about the youth at St. George’s not realizing the need, because they’ve gotten to see the fruits of their labor firsthand.
“It’s a good feeling of helping other people,” said Mikeal Musgrove.
“You are helping out the community that you live in every day,” agreed Storm Miles.