Community Church youth group finds new perspective on mission trip



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Mary Snow tears up the floor at a church in Newark. Lauren Tiner. (click for larger version)
August 19, 2009
Twelve teens set out to Newark in upstate New York this summer for Gilford Community Church's annual mission trip, lodging at a local high school and working onsite at churches, nursing homes, and victim centers.

For the last few years the church youth group has traveled on weeklong missions to places like New Orleans, to aid in hurricane relief, and Rutland, Vt., for community service. One organization the youth group has worked with is called Reveal, a group work camp that means God is revealing himself through the work that the youth group achieves, said youth director Scott Hodsdon, who also joined the Newark trip.

Hodsdon explained that it was mostly up to the organizations and businesses in need to determine where Gilford youth volunteers would travel and what type of volunteer work they would complete each year.

"There are countless organizations with worksites and camps around the country. We were doing more construction services in the last few years, so this year we were more community service based," said Hodsdon.

The campsite itself in Newark had over 90 youth members from around the country helping out, which forced students to branch out and work with different members. Gilford members had never been separated on previous mission trips before, and Hodsdon found this to their benefit in the end.

"We had to come out of our shell a little bit. After a while, the kids enjoyed working with other youth groups and made new friends," he said. "Every member from our youth group went to a different worksite. We met back up at night and every member had their own story to tell and talked about how their experiences affected them."

Youth members also worked in Bible schools for low-income families and learned how to be positive role models in the children's lives at these schools, said Hodsdon.

Hodsdon himself worked at a nursing home. Some days he was needed for painting, while other days he was simply able to socialize with nursing home residents, and said he got the most satisfaction from these interactions.

Youth members also had "devotion time" everyday where they reflected on their day and read scriptures. Hodsdon described it as a time to understand why they were on their particular mission.

"It was great for youth members to get a sense of accomplishment through others," Hodsdon said. "Every year we take on a mission, we are more comfortable in the atmosphere. I am proud of the way we handled ourselves at the worksites. We set the example. As youth director, I'm proud to see we became the leaders, and we will continue to be leaders next year."

Not only did the teens get a sense of accomplishment, but also an awareness of the hardships that some people face. They worked in places such as "poverty houses" for people who can't afford a home, and at homes of families that can't afford the luxury of fixing up their own home.

"You don't see the poverty level there right away. It could be anywhere," said Hodsdon.

For next year, Hodsdon said he would like to plan a different trip location and volunteer work for the church youth group. Though they wouldn't mind going back to Newark, Hodsdon said they should be exposed to new places and develop new perspectives first.

The church will base their next annual mission trip decision on which work group organization reflects their goals and needs the most hands on deck.

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