Doing a week’s worth of mission work has been a tradition for many youth and their adult sponsors in the Missouri Conference. This summer 555 people from the Missouri Conference participated in the Youthworks mission camps.
The camps were in Missouri and neighboring states. Sites for this summer were Cairo, Illinois; Marvel, Arkansas and Kansas City (one camp each), Chattanooga, Tennessee, (two camps) and Davenport, Iowa, (three camps). The minimum size for a camp was 65 participants, the maximum was 82.
The last week in July in Davenport was for youth ages 10 to 15. One group spent the week at In Touch, an adult daycare facility that Youthworks goes to every summer. They did some projects around the facility, but also spent a lot of time interacting with the people who were there, which are primarily senior citizens or people with disabilities that prevent them from spending the day at home without care. Lynn Lyons is the activity director at In Touch, and she loves to see the Youthworks group arrive.
“Around January people start asking, ‘When are the kids coming?’” she said. “They can’t wait for them to get here.” Morning Star and The Way United Methodist Churches teamed up and brought 22 youth to the mission camp. Adult leader Megan Lauman said most of the youth were having a good week at the center.
“They are excited to be able to just hang out here and be themselves,” Lauman said. “Yesterday we were dancing, and they enjoyed the music, and just acting silly.”
At the Youthworks camps, the teams are usually assigned one site at the beginning of the week, and they keep that site all week.
“The kids have been able to build relationships, and they are excited to come back each day,” Lauman said.
Lauman’s husband, Adam, is middle school ministries director at Morning Star. His group was working with the Salvation Army in downtown Davenport, putting on a day camp for low income elementary age children.
“Some of our youth are about the age of some of the older children there, so they are making peer-to-peer connections,” he said.
One evening Adam Lauman led the nightly worship time. He explained how you can learn a lot about the creator by studying creation, and referenced Romans 1: 20, in which Paul wrote “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse.”
“Paul is telling them three things: There is a God. God is in charge. God is loving,” he said.
Marshfield UMC also had 22 youth the camp, the same number as Morning Star, which is impressive, considering the church’s average attendance is around 300, compared to Morning Star’s 2,000. But this is just a typical summer mission trip for Marshfield, which sends out a youth mission team every year.
James McAnarney, a parent, teacher and coach at Marshfield, was on his ninth mission trip with the youth this year. “I enjoy watching the kids interact in these different situations,” he said. “Some of them love working with their hands, others are more involved with interacting with people.”
Susan Newcomb, also from Marshfield, got started in youth mission work camps with her two girls, and continued helping after they graduated.
“We like to be able to see a project through in a week, and feel like we made a difference,” she said. “These kids don’t like downtime. They came to work.”
One evening the group took a prayer walk in a downtown area that is a mix of grandiose historic mansions, and former mansions that have been converted into multiple apartments. Some of those apartments are low income, and there are also other newer, large low income apartments in the area, making it a mixed demographic. The groups walked in silence to be attuned to their surroundings, and paused several times to pray aloud.
Later in the week they returned to the same community to host a free cook-out in the park. This was the first youth mission work camp for Avie Smith of New Hope UMC near Moberly.
“My mom mentioned it to me, and I thought it would be fun. The more I thought about it, the more excited I got,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed it, and have gotten to know a lot of great people.”
The other youth from New Hope was Skylor Tuner. She spent the week working in community gardens.
“I’ve liked the hands-on, and being able to do something that actually helps people,” she said.
Her mother, Cathy, had taken her three older children on mission trips. One year she had all three on a mission trip at once. That year they helped rebuild a house in Caruthersville, and got to meet the home owner.
“They enjoyed doing something that makes a difference,” she said. Annie Brunner was one of the youth who spent the week at In Touch. “It’s been better than I expected it to be by far,” she said.
Addison Hitt, a youth from Morning Star, had recently felt that she had been growing stagnant in her faith, and was praying for God to help show her a way to grow more deeply in faith. She found that this summer as she developed a new passion for teaching and helping young children at her church’s Vacation Bible School. She was thrilled to be able to do the same kind of work at the Salvation Army’s day camp in Davenport.
“Being able to connect with children’s ministry like this both at VBS and here has been awesome,” she said.