Mission trip to help families devastated by the 2013 E-F5 tornado also marks one-year anniversary of Reese Popst
as Youth Ministry Director of St. Andrew United Methodist Church
As school begins again, a youth group from St. Andrew United Methodist Church will have some summer stories to share as they catch up with their friends. On June 15, 144 youths, grades 6 – 12, and 30 adults headed to Moore, Oklahoma, for a memorable week of working together in teams to help the community in the rebuilding phase from the deadly E-F5 that ripped through the town on May 20, 2013. Partnering with IMchange, an organization that coordinates customized mission trips both stateside and internationally, the group divided into 14 teams to tackle a variety of projects which included roofing, fencing, building, planting, and painting, including re-painting more than 200 fire hydrants.
"We painted the fire hydrants because after a year, the firefighters still had not had time to do it,” said Wells Lofgren, 12, one of the middle school children on the mission trip. “Painting them, in a way, washed away the bad memories that the tornado caused. It was a yearly task of the fire department, but since the tornado and all of clean-up process, they hadn’t had time to paint them. It was hard and messy work, but my team alone painted 90 of them, and it felt good to help the firefighters and end those reminders of the tornado.”
Many of the families now have newly rebuilt homes but no fencing yet. Six foster children of one of the families whose home was destroyed by the tornado were taken away from the family after the tornado and placed back with their parents. This put them in a dangerous situation, which proved deadly for the 2-year-old boy. The foster parents had now been in the new home for two weeks, but in order to continue with the adoption of the children, a fence had to be constructed.
“This family shared their tragic story with us and allowed us to love on their children, making this such a special and important project,” said Cheryl Kool, an adult volunteer with St. Andrew United Methodist Church who was on the trip with her daughter. “This was an important job for everyone, and we had a large group working on the fence, and many of our youth played with the children. Everyone was impacted by their story which gave us the energy to work hard and never complain. When we were finished, the family came out and hugged each one of us and cried saying how much it had meant to them that the youth had taken the time to love on the kids through games of soccer, chase, and piggy back rides. This is not a project any of us will ever forget.”
Other families needed old sheds demolished and new ones built while others needed sheetrock or roofing assistance as well as landscaping.
“The kids worked very hard on a variety of projects and did a great job,” said St. Andrew United Methodist Church Youth Ministry Director Reese Popst. “They couldn’t believe all the devastation as we drove along and all the property still with nothing but a slab left. They also learned some very valuable lessons including that you can’t always judge a situation from what you see on the outside. The foster family’s home was nice and new on the outside, but on the inside, the family itself was dealing with tremendous struggles. Our youth were very happy they could help, and many of the recipients throughout the trip expressed their appreciation with kind deeds including ordering pizzas or providing cookies for the kids at the sites.”
“It was an amazing week watching all different ages and experience levels work together for the common good,” added Kool. “Not for any other reason other than it is what Jesus would do – help those in need. Why? Because we could.”
The trip also marked the one-year anniversary of Reese Popst joining the staff of St. Andrew United Methodist Church as Youth Ministry Director. A long-time member of St. Andrew, Popst first came to know the Lord in a personal way while in 9th grade on a trip and knows the impact that experiences such as this can have on young lives.
The weeklong mission trip included worksite projects as well as worship time each morning and evenings, at which Reese preached.
“In my new position, I now have a different perspective, and I wanted to replicate for the kids what I had gained from mission trips where I helped build houses in Mexico,” said Reese Popst. “How do I replicate my experience for them? This was always top of mind throughout my conversations with them and during the worship services.”
“Reese is an amazing youth pastor, not only because he is so incredible in sharing the Gospel but mostly because God shines in him through the love and genuine concern he shows each person around him,” added Kool. “He did a fabulous job on the mission trip and always knows how to make everyone feel comfortable no matter what happens.”
“In just my one year at St. Andrew, I have seen growth in these amazing young people,” added Popst. I love preaching and teaching and have been excited to see that there is not a divide among the kids in the different grades. They work together well and understand the value of what they are doing.”
Prior to joining the staff at St. Andrew, Popst worked as a CPA, but always stayed connected to ministry, looking for the right opportunity to respond to what he has always loved and feels called to do: teaching others about Jesus. He is a graduate of Texas A&M and while in college served as a youth pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Caldwell, Texas. His love for teaching has grown from a passion into a calling into ministry, and he plans to start seminary in January.
“I tell people that my job now is so different from being a CPA,” added Popst. “I feel very lucky to be doing something I’m passionate about for a living. I get to read my Bible for work and teach kids why Jesus is important in our lives. The Bible is not just some old storybook. The stories in it happened a long time ago, but God is still doing the same things in our lives.”
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St. Andrew United Methodist Church is a vibrant, growing, intergenerational church. Begun in 1986, St. Andrew is located on a 21.214 acre campus at the corner of Plano Parkway and Mira Vista and includes a sanctuary, education, music and nursery wing, completed in 2003. Nearly 2,000 come together every weekend through six different worship services: Saturday Night Alive!-5:30 p.m.; Sunday Early Service-8:00 a.m.; Teaching Service-9:30 a.m.; and progressive traditional Service-11:00 a; The Well contemporary worship at 9:09 a.m. and 10:39 a.m. St. Andrew is an outward-focused church striving to lift the world around us toward God and provides a number of local and global mission opportunities including the Seven Loaves Community Center, which provides a myriad of services to qualifying residents of all Collin County zip codes directed at improving lives and breaking the poverty cycle. A number of caring ministries are in place to support members in all phases of life from support groups to career care in addition to ministries focused on each age group. Additional ministries include a strong music program with choirs, instrumental groups, as well as the Academy of Music, offering private lessons. St. Andrew provides each individual with opportunities to connect to the community and contribute their unique gifts to the congregation's spirit. St. Andrew United Methodist Church is located at 5801 Plano Parkway, Plano, TX 75093. Additional information can be found at www.standrewumc.org