Friday, March 14, 2008

Growing Closer to God While Serving Others

by Guest Blogger Deb H

The Group Workcamps Foundation, located in Colorado, exists as a nonprofit organization to serve churches by providing Christian mission trips that help children, youth and adults grow in their relationship with God.

Over the past eight years, the youth group at my home church in Westborough has participated in seven Workcamps in the southeast and midwest, leaving memories that profoundly changed the lives of those who participated. An eighth trip is currently being planned for June 2008, allowing our youth to serve the community of Youngstown, Ohio. I have participated in all of these Workcamp mission trips. Community service has always been an important part of my life and I am very excited to participate once again and contribute my time and effort to providing for the needs of others in other parts of the country through these Workcamp trips.

You hear the word “awesome” so often it can lose its punch, yet it is the best word to describe a week with the Group Work camps Foundation. The Perfect blend of morning prayers, work, afternoon lunch and devotions, more work, returning to our living site (generally the local high school where we sleep on the floor in classrooms and shower in the gym locker room) for dinner, evening programs, free time and late evening devotions comprised each of the five days with a slight variance on Wednesday when we had the afternoon free to tour the area and have dinner on our own before returning for an outstanding teen variety show. Watching our teens grow and bond with each other and with strangers that they had never met, singing and clapping and dancing by the end of the week, sharing faith in Jesus Christ, working hard in a spirit of humility and doing the “at home” devotions on their own upon returning, tell me we were divinely inspired to make this trip as a call from God.

A typical week serving on a Workcamp mission trip involves our youth in one or more of the following tasks: light carpentry including building or repairing porches, steps or wheelchair ramps, roofing, interior or exterior painting, weatherproofing and insulating. Students work in groups, or crews, of 5 -6, with crewmembers coming from all across the U.S., each learning new skills as they provide home repairs to the elderly, disabled or disadvantaged. Each student’s service experience provides a truly rewarding spiritual growth experience as well.
Following each Workcamp mission trip, our youth prove that nothing promotes spiritual growth like putting Christian faith into action. Students travel to various communities through the U.S. with a goal of serving God by serving others, providing an opportunity for God to nourish their hearts by serving people in need – an experience that profoundly changes their lives.

To help in understanding just how powerful the Workcamp experience is, several of the youth offered to share their thoughts: a senior at Westborough High School, states, “It’s not just the friends you make on the trip that make it such a memorable event. The people you help create the biggest impact on your heart.” Another senior at the High School had this to say: “The Workcamps were really eye opening and humbling experiences. Seeing the way that some of the residents lived just created an instant desire to want to help them. The trips are rewarding for both the worker and the resident because you each learn so much about the values of helping others. They also teach you not to take anything for granted and to appreciate what you have. It is easy to take for granted the blessings in your life when you have not experienced life through the eyes of someone less privileged than you. I have been blessed with so much but until I saw firsthand how others are forced to live in poverty under conditions that were difficult to witness, I felt within myself the power to make a change in someone else’s life. I have never experienced a more emotional journey with a group of teenagers, each of us knowing we had made a real difference, and that God had provided us with a rare opportunity to serve others in this way. In doing so we returned to our homes much better people, inspired by the work we had done and committed to do more in our own communities now and in the future.”

As an adult youth leader, it is an amazing experience to see the enthusiasm of the teens as they fund raise all year to earn the money for the trip. The cost is over $500.00/person by the time we rent the vans, buy the gas and pay for the workcamp itself. They willingly give a week of their summer and before we arrive home exhausted, they are already asking, “Where are we going to go next year?” So, let’s start thinking about 2009!

Deb H lives in Westborough, MA a transplant from the North Shore. When not in the office or hanging out with the youth group,
Deb likes to go to the beach, cook, taste good wine and spend time with friends.

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