St. Andrew Methodist students, both high school and middle school, spent a memorable, inspirational, and impactful week, June 6-10, serving others locally in Dallas as well as in New Orleans. Sixty-five high school students, accompanied by 10 adults, traveled to New Orleans, where they worked through Rebuilding Hope in New Orleans (RHINO) to serve four organizations: Okra Abbey, a community garden and food pantry; Mission New Orleans, a homeless shelter and ministry; Rebuilding Together, a national nonprofit for providing safe and healthy housing; and Culture of Cleanliness, an organization focused on beautification of the city. In Dallas and Plano, 35 middle schoolers, accompanied by eight adult leaders and one college student, served at St. Philip’s School and Community Center and at The Storehouse of Collin County.
“What impressed me about all of our students was how eagerly they jumped in and began serving no matter what the task,” said Brian Colligan, St. Andrew’s new director of student ministry. “In fact, they wanted to do even more!”
In New Orleans each day began at 7 a.m. with breakfast and a devotional. The students then traveled to their job sites, where they worked from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Students painted homes through Rebuilding Together, and they planted, harvested, and served produce and other food donations to the neighbors at Okra Abbey. Okra Abbey also has a program with outside refrigerators, covered, powered, and stocked by the neighborhood. People who are hungry can come to those and get food.
“One day we had extra lunches, and we put them in the refrigerators and watched as neighbors came for food,” added Colligan. “It was an interesting concept and one that we learned other groups have implemented throughout the city.”
At Mission New Orleans the students painted, cleaned, and washed rooms. One day they took hot breakfast meals out to the homeless. Another day they distributed non-perishable bags of food and visited and prayed with them. Additionally, the students spent time with those staying in the shelter by participating in some of the Bible classes. Through Culture of Cleanliness the students participated in trash audits, picking up trash and logging what they picked up. The organization works with companies that cover the cost of recycling the items. In the evenings the group, staying on the campus of Loyola, would enjoy free time followed by worship and teachings of stories of Jesus serving others.
“I have been on six mission trips over the years, and this was one of my favorites,” said Brody Lofgren, 18. “I felt more connected and fulfilled, and I really wanted to be a light for those we served. I spent some time with one of the homeless men we were serving, and he was a good guy. I had heard before that often homeless are very depressed and just want their life to be over, so I stopped and prayed with this man. All the men were very respectful of prayer and longed for that human connection.”
The middle schoolers cleaned, painted, and organized items at St. Philip’s School and Community Center. Some worked in the onsite food pantry while others picked up trash and pulled weeds on the grounds of St. Philip’s as well as in the surrounding neighborhood. The students also assisted with preparations for an upcoming camp for kids to be held at St. Philip’s in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club. Additionally, they assembled 750 kids’ snack bags for children who visit the food pantry at The Storehouse of Collin County. Each child who comes to the pantry receives a snack bag to remind them they are always welcome there, and The Storehouse is a safe place to ask for help. Lastly, the middle schoolers participated in a poverty simulation, organized by Unite, where they learned what it was like for a homeless person trying to escape poverty.
“This was my second mission trip, and it was a lot of fun,” said Addison Eagle, 12. “We stayed at St. Andrew and went to St. Philip’s during the day. We helped clean up the playground, organize school supplies, work in the office, set up a classroom for summer camp, and basically helped with whatever they needed. “I think one of my favorite parts of the week was the poverty simulation. We pretended to be a homeless family, learning to navigate social service organizations, shelters, and trying to get a job to get money. It was very eye-opening to see what it is really like for them.”
“I’ve spent 15 years in student ministry prior to coming to St. Andrew, and I’ve been on a lot of mission trips,” added Colligan. “I was very impressed with all our students, who consistently served from a place of humility and love. A highlight of the trip for me happened while we were serving at Mission New Orleans. I looked over and saw one of the students, Brody Lofgren, praying with the homeless. I began noticing even more students praying with the homeless. After visiting with them, the students realized that they were not any different from them. Various life circumstances and problems had contributed to their situations. Without question, the students each brought this year’s theme, The Parable of The Good Samaritan, to life. They did not walk by those in need. Instead, they took the time to get to know them, serving, praying, and staying on mission.”
To see Mission Trip 2023 in action, visit this video link: https://vimeo.com/836616137
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St. Andrew Methodist Church began in 1986 in the spirit of its namesake, a disciple of Jesus. The life of the Apostle Andrew embodies the church's mission, which is to invite the Christian-ish and the unchurched to become passionate servants of Christ. The congregation of St. Andrew follows Jesus, lives in relationship, serves others, and takes risks in faith. Worship includes four services each weekend on a 21.2-acre campus at the corner of Plano Parkway and Mira Vista in Plano, Texas, where more than 2,000 people worship each weekend. The Sanctuary hosts worship in both a traditional style with the classic pipe organ and a contemporary style with an LED center screen and lighting technology. Small groups and Bible studies gather on campus and throughout the region every day of the week. Mission opportunities serve our local area, neighboring regions, and global communities. The church has been repeatedly selected as a "Best Place to Worship in Plano” by the readers of the Plano Star Courier. St. Andrew Methodist Church is located at 5801 W. Plano Parkway, Plano, Texas 75093. Visit www.standrewmethodist.org; call 972-380-8001.