“Be Bold,” the theme of this year's trip, inspired students and adults to boldly step out in their faith as well as participate in St. Andrew’s new Kindling Ministry by implementing simple random acts of love at each worksite
“Be Bold, step out in your faith, and watch God boldly change lives,” said Michael Agnew, student ministry director, at the start of the 2019 St. Andrew United Methodist Church Mission Trip. As the group received t-shirts with the theme “BE BOLD” (based on the Book of Acts) and loaded the 18 passenger vans headed to Oklahoma City on June 9, little did they know the impact those two words would have on their lives and the lives of those they would serve throughout the week.
This year, 202 students and adults worked at 17 different worksites, coordinated through Heartwork Missions. Sites included Habitat for Humanity, Operation Paint Brush (a federally funded program helping families in need with code violations by providing paint and supplies for volunteers), Reaching Our City (a nonprofit ministry providing community services), Pivot (an organization that helps people, ages 12-21, with overwhelming barriers in their lives and no resources to overcome them), the Boys and Girls Club, a food bank and a homeless shelter.
Each day following morning worship, teams arrived at their worksites by 9 a.m. and worked until late afternoon. While there, groups were inspired by St. Andrew’s new Kindling Ministry to find additional ways they could serve through random acts of kindness. Looking for projects that were small but immeasurable in impact, groups were encouraged to act in the moment, and St. Andrew would reimburse projects up to $200. Kindling projects were implemented at each worksite and included purchasing 50+ pairs of summer shoes for kids in the Pivot program; paying for the towing and repairs for a single mother’s car; purchasing supplies for a Vacation Bible School program; providing lunches for construction crews; mowing yards of neighbors near a worksite; providing solar panel lights for a wheelchair accessible ramp; and completing new landscaping for an elderly woman.
“It was powerful to see the middle schoolers serve lunch to residents of the homeless shelter and help others shop for groceries and load them into cars at the food pantry,” said Holly Blais, student ministry associate director. “At the Boys and Girls Club, I loved seeing both the middle school team and high school team making great connections with the elementary students. Additionally, our group serving at Pivot joined youths in the program for lunch and a tour of the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial. It was great to see all of the kids discover how much they had in common.”
Not only did the students serve others, they were also served by others. At the Operation Paint Brush worksites in Midwest City, two groups scraped and painted two houses and replaced rotting wood. The code officer, who checked on them to make sure they had enough supplies, told the city manager that this was the most efficient and hardest working group of students he had ever seen. A resident who owned a snow cone business stopped by and was amazed to learn the group came from Texas to help. He called the city to tell them what a great job they were doing and brought a snow cone trailer with free snow cones for all. Additionally, Midwest City Mayor Matt Dukes and City Manager J. Guy Hansen came over to personally thank everyone for giving up a week of their summer to help others in need and presented each student with a nylon bag with the words, "Neighbors helping Neighbors.”
For Regan Chapman, 18, who worked at the Midwest City sites, this was her eighth mission trip, and she shared that it was just as incredible as all the others. “Mission trip allows me to serve others in different communities, putting them before myself and serving like Jesus did. On this trip we had the unique opportunity to meet and pray for one of the families we were helping. I would not be where I am today without my faith walk or, quite honestly, feel as deeply about my St. Andrew church community if I had never experienced mission trips.”
At another site in Oklahoma City, a group worked at the home of Jacquelyn Dubose, an elderly resident. They painted the inside of her home and landscaped the outside. She was overcome with joy and loved getting to know the students, who were also very fond of her.
“I enjoyed working with my friends on Ms. Dubose’s home,” said Ben Judkins, 18. “She was a very spiritual and comforting woman who gave it all to God.”
Others who worked at the sites shared their faith journeys with the students. A food pantry manager shared how his life was transformed from drug addiction into 16 months of sobriety. A staff member from the Boys and Girls Club joined the group on their final night of worship sharing the wisdom he gained after his freshman year in college nearly destroyed his faith.
“Seeing God working through people in their darkest times impacted me the most,” said Bryce Farnham, 18. “We always need to act and stand up for the faith we believe in. On mission trips you not only learn more about God in your small groups, you also get to know new people as you work together. Mission trips have allowed me to have amazing friendships with five guys who have shaped me into the person I am today.”
“Of all the things I volunteer for as a parent, Mission Trip is my favorite and the most impactful,” said Diane Farnham, leader of a group at an Operation Paint Brush site. Getting a group of high school students from different schools and grades to work together and accomplish a goal with joy is incredible. You can see God’s love exuding from each of them every day. They motivate, encourage, and appreciate one another always making sure no one is left out or behind. In this day and age, it is a rare thing to see.”
“St. Andrew’s annual mission trip is so much more than hammers, saws or paint,” said Agnew. “We had full days of serving, worshipping, laughing and singing in fellowship with one another. With boldness in mind, we heard of many students, staff and volunteers praying for strangers in and around work sites. In all of this, we came to understand that each of these moments are God moments. They may not all appear as miracles to us, but we know God is there and gives us the power to be bold.”
St. Andrew is located at 5801 W. Plano Parkway, Plano. Visit standrewumc.org or call 972-380-8001 for more information.