AUMC Youth Travel 600 Miles To Lend A Hand
It all started back in 2014 when the now Seniors were in 8th grade. We had a youth event where we stayed overnight at the church and through conversation some of the kids said it was on their bucket list to go on a mission trip someday. Forward 3 years later and with a coin flip and many donations from the church we were headed to West Virginia over South Dakota.
During July of 2017, 16 senior high youth and 5 youth leaders of the Albany United Methodist Church began the trek to Clendenin, West Virginia which is about 30 miles east of Charleston, charged with excitement to serve others. Just a year earlier a massive flood hit areas of West Virginia, including Clendenin. Destroying homes, businesses and schools, the flood devastated many communities. In the midst of the craziness Group Mission trips, an organization aiming to help youth experience mission work and encounter Jesus, stepped in to help organize a mission trip to Clendenin, West Virginia to help the community rebuild. Youth from across the country gathered to offer their time and talents to help others, spread encouragement, and grow in their own faith along the way.
Upon arriving at the school in Sissionville, West Virginia, which is approximately 10 miles north of Charleston, where campers would be housed at for the week, camp staff greeted us and the excitement and work began. The Albany Methodist Church group was split into three crew, all assigned to a different work site or home. This allowed us to help more people and experience different aspects of the damage. This was a new experience for most of us, having never previously attended a work camp. We are happy to report that our week in West Virginia was packed full of activities, devotion and service.
After a 30 minute drive, a typical day for a work camper would include spending a large portion of the day at our work sites. We would assist the residents with projects around their homes. When noon came, it was time for lunch and devotion with the crewmembers and residents. After lunch and devotion, crewmembers were refueled and ready to continue their projects. When the time came to pack up for the day crewmembers tidied up their workstations and boarded the vans to head back to the school. Upon arrival, it was time for dinner and socialization with the other work campers. However, the fun did not end there. Next, we would gather in the gymnasium for a message and worship. This became a very powerful experience and fed the conversations that work campers would have later during youth group devotion time. This was a time at the end of the day dedicated to devotion and worship in a smaller more intimate setting. The things that we learned about each other and the spiritual growth that occurred during youth group devotion was astounding!
This spiritual growth occurred due to the experiences we had throughout the entire trip. One topic explored largely throughout the trip was the idea of God sightings. These are people, experiences, or things throughout the day that help you to feel the presence of God. It is truly amazing how many different ways that God touches our lives every day that we do not even notice. I would recommend writing down a God sighting every day to remind yourself that God is always present. Keep an open mind and you will be in awe of the different ways God shows himself to us.
Personal growth also occurred on the trip. Everyone was able to learn new skills, often having to work of projects we were not familiar with. Whether it be painting a house, replacing a soffit, or building a porch everyone contributed and worked as a team. Team work was crucial when working on such large projects and this teamwork helped to build new relationships and strengthen old ones. We also had the opportunity to make connections with the residents. Some of which have continued such as exchanging letters and learning about the continued progress in Clendenin.
Group Mission Trips and the Albany United Methodist Church provided a great experience for the youth and the adults of the church to have new experiences, leave their comfort zone and build confidence. It just goes to show that an idea can become reality if you take action. We will be going again in 2019 but we have not decided where to go next.
Written by: Hailey Stefanik