By Fred Koenig
In 1997 Beverly Boehmer took a group of 40 of Missouri’s United Methodist youth to Kansas City for a week of mission work. This year she concluded her summer, her last for leading the mission teams, in Kansas City.
A lot has happened since that first summer mission work camp for youth. The idea started as a way to offer small churches that didn’t have enough youth for a group an avenue to have their youth participate in a mission trip. The youth missions still serve that function 17 years later.
“My smallest group here this week is three, one adult and two youth,” Boehmer said. But that same week in Kansas City, Boehmer was also hosting groups from Morning Star UMC in O’Fallon and La Croix UMC in Cape Girardeau, the two largest churches in the Missouri Conference that each average about 2,000 in weekly attendance.
“Because planning and coordinating a week like this can take so much time, the larger churches are finding that they can participate, and it frees up time for their youth leaders to focus on other things,” Boehmer said.
Adam Lauman, middle school pastor at Morning Star, agreed. On the morning of July 30, he was serving breakfast and lunch to the homeless at Hope Faith with nine of his middle school students. “This has been a great experience,” Lauman said. “Having a pre-built mission experience, for only $110 a week, really makes (the decision to come) a no-brainer. And I think it’s a great opportunity for our kids to get to know kids from other churches.”
Matt Slater, youth leader at North Star, also appreciates having all the details worked out by someone else. “When I’m here I have time to just hangout and facilitate, and set back and watch God do great things through these kids,” Slater said.
Lauman believes it’s good for youth to see a different side of life in Missouri. “Many of these kids have lived in a bubble. When they do mission work somewhere like this, they are seeing the faces of poverty for the first time,” Lauman said. “We’ve had homeless families come through here today for meals. Our sixth graders are handing a tray of food across the counter to kids their same age but in a very different situation.”
The 150 youth, who were staying at Gashland UMC, were working 10 different sites across Kansas City. Other sites included ReStart, Della Lamb, Hillcrest Ministries, Synergy, and Renaissance UMC.
Some of the youth didn’t travel far. North Star UMC and Red Bridge UMC both had groups at the Kansas City work camp. Even though they are local, they still stay at the church so that they get the full range of the experience, which includes nightly worship services lead by youth from the Conference Council on Youth Ministries. Many of the youth feel empowered on their return home.
“After my first Conference youth mission trip, my group came back and started a leadership team,” said Brody Smith, a CCYM member who was a leader at the mission work camp in Kansas City.
This year Boehmer opened registration to other Conferences for the first time. The Kansas City week included a group from Nebraska, the Sikeston week had a group from Kansas, and the Oklahoma week included a group from Texas.
In Alabama, the youth stayed at West Wilmer UMC, about 30 minutes from Mobile. People from the church came every night to worship with the youth. On the last night the youth cooked an open-invitation dinner, and about 50 people showed up.
“We really connected with the community there,” Boehmer said. Go to www.moumethodist.org/youth to see the schedule for youth work camps in 2014.