Each year, associate pastor Kathy Pickett meets with the seniors to discern where to go on the summer mission trip.
“We first discuss the available options offered through Passport’s Mission Exchange ministry (www.passportcamps.org/2009/youth/mx.html) and then, which opportunity fits us best,” she said.
“This year our seniors narrowed their decision down to three choices and said, ‘Tell them to send us where they need us most.’”
They were needed in Bay St. Louis, Miss. Four years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area, the youth were astounded by the work left to be done.
“Many people had to just leave their homes and property because they were not allowed adequate insurance coverage,” Pickett said. “Some families did not receive any assistance at all.”
She said that FEMA is removing their housing trailers, but many homeowners still have need assistance with housing restoration.
The 36 Holmeswood youth and adult counselors divided into three work teams to work on damaged homes with Mission on the Bay (www.mission
onthebay.org). “We put in insulation, sheetrocked ceilings and walls, cut bathroom tile and mudded an entire bathroom, leveled a kitchen floor and then put in sub-flooring, painted, caulked, cleaned out a church fellowship hall that had been home for many hurricane residents, were trained and used electrical carpentry tools that some of us had never seen before, cleared a lot creating a backyard space and, in the process, discovered how important a sense of community is to God, ourselves and others,” Pickett said.
She added that the mission trip mantra, “be flexible,” was very helpful during the course of the week.
The only information she received beforehand was that the team would be helping with hurricane response and relief. “What I did not know is how God would reveal the power of community through our experience there,” she said.
The Mission on the Bay construction crews are made of almost entirely of volunteers. The organization provides a means for volunteer crews to travel to Bay St. Louis and serve the area. Pickett said 11,000 volunteers have assisted Mission on the Bay since the ministry began.
She said each of the crew members described “how each day God reveals God’s self to them through the generosity of the volunteers who travel many miles to ‘be the presence of Christ’ to them and with them.”
God’s work was also apparent during the closing worship and communion time the team had together, Pickett said. “I heard several youth describe how through their busy, chaotic lives at home, they had been struggling to see and experience God.
“One student even said he had been questioning God’s existence at all. Each of them also shared that our experience at Mission on the Bay, through listening to and working alongside this faith-filled community, had renewed their hope, faith and trust in an amazing God who stands firm in the midst of all our storms.”
Jennifer Harris is the news writer for Word&Way.