Youth Camp 2011. July 22, 2011
For a lot of teenagers, summer means a break from school, sleeping well in to the afternoon, and swimming as often as possible. But sometimes an opportunity arises to do something a little different. The youth group at GracePointe took advantage of one of those opportunities earlier this month and spent a week serving the community of Greenville, SC through a variety of service and missions projects.
Our middle school group spent the week working outside on painting and construction projects. They spent two days at Apalache Baptist Church, a church that uses all of its resources to take care of the surrounding area by providing food, home repair, clothing, and other needs to its low-income neighbors. The middle schoolers served them by helping take care of their property so they would be free to continue the work they do. They painted the church building and missionary housing and cleaned up the landscaping on the property. The other two days were spent building a community garden space in the neighborhood that will allow residents to grow and maintain their own vegetable gardens to feed both themselves and the community at large, and painting a local youth center (before taking on some of the local kids in dodgeball).
The high school group worked more directly with the people of the Greenville area through social ministry opportunities. They spent a day working in Miracle Hill Thrift Store, a ministry that operates solely on donations on volunteers, cleaning and organizing the store and helping customers. All the money made by the store goes to support a local shelter for battered women and children, and our group provided over 100 hours of volunteer support for them. Another day was spent providing a place of fun and rest for local families through face painting, balloon animals, sports and games. They used the last two days to visit low-income housing developments for senior citizens, spending time talking to them, playing cards, painting nails and sharing life with them.
We’ve worked hard in GPYG to create a culture of service, and the teenagers we work with give of their time and resources gladly. This week was no exception. It was moving and humbling to watch them work so hard in so many different ways to help take care of people they don’t even know. The middle schoolers spent all week outside in the heat, covered in paint and dirt and sweat, and left the area clean and ready to go for the fall season of ministry. The high schoolers put themselves out there in some awkward situations, talking to strangers who may or may not even be conscious of their presence, in order to make sure they know they matter and are cared about. They gave selflessly, even when they were exhausted and it was hard to tell if they were making a difference.
This is a really special group of teenagers, and I am proud and honored to get to work with them every day. They really believe that they are called to serve, that their role as believers is to help bring glimpses of the kingdom to the people around them. Sometimes that means traveling two states away, sometimes it’s spending a Saturday working at Edgehill or Hard Bargain. Often it looks less like a service project and more like a conversation, learning each other’s stories and helping to carry each other through hard times. This is a group of students who not only take care of the needs they see out in the community, but who take care of each other and the needs they see within their own community. It’s a rare thing for teenagers to have a place to be themselves, where they are free from judgment and can be honest about the issues they struggle with. These kids provide that for each other, and it’s a beautiful thing to witness.