It often seems that the term mission trip is associated with loading up the church bus and heading to some distant city or perhaps even country to serve complete strangers in the name of Jesus Christ.
In the Wytheville District, however, a different type of mission trip has taken place. For the second time now youth, in the Wytheville district, have been involved in what we call a District Mission Tour.
Three years ago, when the District Mission Tour began there were two main goals: to provide an affordable mission trip to all United Methodist churches in the district and to serve those within their own community. For the second time, on July 5-7, the District Mission Tour was a huge success. Forty-six youth and 10 adults served three communities within the district.
On the first stop, Camp Dickenson in Fries, Va., youth built a much-needed fence around a small family cemetery dating to the late 1700s. They also built a gate at one of camp's many roads, built a campsite to be used in conjunction with summer camp, spread gravel throughout areas where erosion had occurred, and worked around the camp’s yurts. Not only was Camp Dickenson the first stop on the tour, but it also served as the central base of operations for the mission team. (See photo.)
The second day students traveled to Riner, Va., where they served at Auburn United Methodist Church. While there, youth worked in the flower beds surrounding the church, washed and waxed the church sign, and made blankets to help with one of the church’s prayer ministries along with other various cleaning jobs. (See photo.)
For the last mission site of the tour, youth found themselves working at Flat Rock UMC and First UMC in Independence, Va. The youth helped convert an old barbecue pit into a picnic shelter, painted a fellowship hall, and prepared for a community wide day camp as well as various cleaning tasks.
During the District Mission Tour, Camp Dickenson Director Michael Snow led the youth in worship each night.
As district youth co-ordinators, Ashley Raines and I would like to thank all of the parents and youth workers that made this trip possible. It is so amazing each year to see the youth of our district truly living in the connectional church, with the ramifications of that as they participate in other district and conference events. Most importantly, it is amazing to watch them grow in Christ as they serve others.
Chris Luper is director of youth ministries at First Galax United Methodist Church and coordinator for Wytheville District youth ministries.