Working for the Lord
LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS Members of Salem-St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Kresgeville, youth group and their adult leaders and chaperones spent a week in Cherokee, North Carolina, as a part of TEAMeffort, an organization that helps people around the country fix up their homes. They are, standing left to right: Matthew Miller, Karinsue Miller, Katey Smith, Christian Harding, Ken Jablonski, Spencer Yeakel, Adam Jablonski, Brijanna Dunlap, Sally Jablonski and Kim Perry. Sitting, front, left to right: Brittney Gonzales, Katie Green, Taylor Miller, Tommy Tabzres, Jacob Miller and Ruby Dunlap. Kylene Slater was on the trip but not present for the picture.
On Karinsue Miller's first day of her weeklong vacation, she tore down walls, carried out garbage, hung Sheetrock and spackled.
Just another day in Paradise?
Well, it was for Karinsue because she watched young people grow in faith and understanding.
Miller, a confirmation teacher and youth group leader at Salem St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Kresgeville, and four other adults accompanied twelve of SSP's youth on a mission trip to Cherokee, North Carolina the week of July 10-17.
It was hard word, hotter than all get out, and one of the best week's of her life.
"We started going on mission trips with TEAMeffort three years ago as a culmination to our two-year confirmation program. The first year we went to Copper Hill, Tennessee, and did a house repair. Last year we went to Sautee Nacoochee, Georgia. There we worked on three trailers in a Mexican migration camp and helped with Vacation Bible School. This year, as a group, we went through TEAMeffort's catalog of various mission camps held throughout the country and overseas. The majority of the kids voted for the Cherokee, NC one for our trip this year," says Karinsue.
Cherokee, in northwestern North Carolina, is home to a large population of Cherokee Indians. There are numerous neighborhoods and families in great need.
TEAMeffort groups have the opportunity to reach out to struggling families while helping with home repair and renovation. The smallest amount of help brings new hope to this impoverished area.
In order to pay their way, SSP youth group spent the year fundraising by holding pizza and candy sales, a car wash, a flea market and a quilt raffle of a quilt donated by a church member.
They thank the sponsors who helped make the trip possible: Benchwarmers Sporting Goods, West End Motor Sports; Nazareth Machine Works, Inc.; Arndts Flower Shop; Sunny's Pizza; Sunshine Dance and Gymnastics; Kresgeville Garage; Green Excavating & Landscaping; Dance with Kim; 1st Rate Motors; Mountain Warrior Karate; Blue Mountain Baton, Dance, Tumbling; Universal Ropes Course Builders, Inc.
TEAMeffort missions give youth a chance to put their faith into action through hands on projects while showing the love of Christ to people who are struggling to just get by.
It was with this purpose in mind that the SSP group left at 9 a.m. Saturday morning on July 10, stayed overnight at Camp Bethel, a Baptist camp in Virginia, and arrived at Western Carolina University, NC, on Sunday. They were joined by 10 other church groups for a total of 176 kids and adults.
"The dorms had no air conditioning and it was hot. The first thing we did was go to Walmart and buy fans," Karinsue says.
SSP was the first group to begin work on a house. The family of a mother and two children were very reluctant to leave their home while the group went in and basically demolished the inside.
"We gutted the home that had asbestos and mold. It was important to do this because the two children have asthma and had been hospitalized over the last year," says Karinsue.
The SSP group, in addition to the adults, ranged in ages from 14-18. Some had never hammered a nail before but they tore down walls to the studs, carried garbage to the dumpster, hung drywall, hammered and spackled.
And all the while, they interacted with the mother and children they were helping, gaining their trust and acceptance.
It wasn't all work and no play.
After a hard day's toil and dinner, there were games, entertainment and Chapel was held each night. Chapel was, according to the group, their favorite part of their day. It reinforced the theme of "Building Good Scaffolding Around Yourself."
Tom Tabzres, 17 of Kresgeville, says Chapel was "filled with love and passion."
He went on this mission to feel the Holy Spirit.
"I'm so glad I went because I helped a family in need and met great new people. We worshipped every night. We focused, talked and shared our lives with one another and helped grow in God's love. Our group has become much like a family, a support group for all of us, whenever we need anything."
Tom is planning on joining the TEAMeffort staff and do mission work all next summer.
Kimberly Perry, 16, of Jonas wanted to go on this mission trip because she went on the mission trip last year.
"I enjoyed it and wanted the same experience. But it was a completely different and I loved every minute of it. Thursday night's chapel service was very emotional and I had a Mountaintop experience. It allowed each and everyone of us to experience God. I'm glad I went because I was able to realize that God is always there, even through the hardest times of my life. I had a life-changing experience that allowed me to grow closer to God and my youth group," says Kimberly.
Brijanna Dunlap, 14, of Kunkletown, felt she needed this trip.
"Everyone coming back from the previous trips talked about their experience and moments. I wanted that and found it. I found God. It was more than a Mountaintop moment," says Brijanna.
Katey Smith, 14, of Lehighton "wanted to see what it was like not to get everything you want when you want it. I was able to help a family that was less fortunate than I am and I was able to teach a young girl ballet."
Christian Harding, 18, of Kresgeville went because he wanted to be a mentor and role model to the younger people. "I was in a different position than other years and got closer to the group members."
Taylor Miller, 15, of Kunkletown, wanted to go to help people who need help.
"I learned how good I have it," Taylor says of his experience.
Spencer Yeakel, 15, of Kunkletown, knocked down walls, literally and figuratively. His best memory is what he experienced at the Thursday night Chapel service and he's glad he got to help people.
Brittney Gonzales, 15, of Kunkletown, was hoping to help make a difference in someone else's life. She believes she experienced a closer connection to God.
"It really changed me, in a good way," she says.
Katie Green, 15, of Kunkletown, says "It changed my life so much. This trip made me look at life in a totally new perspective. Thursday night during Chapel when we dropped our bad scaffolding in a bucket ... it renewed me. It was great."
This was the second mission trip for Jacob Miller, 18, of Albrightsville. He wanted to serve as a leader for the younger first-time mission people and says he had a very powerful Mountaintop experience.
"I got to know our church's new confirmands and I helped some of them find their faith, which was why I went on this trip. I went on SSP's first mission trip and enjoyed this trip just as much. I would continue to go on our church's mission trips as long as I can play a part in shaping the youth's religious foundations," says Jacob.
Adam Jablonski, 16, Kresgeville, went on the mission trip last year and had a really good experience and wanted to go again this year to experience God and help people.
"Our Thursday night group experience was great. I had a life-changing experience and I have made life-long friends," says Adam.
This was Matt Miller, 49, Albrightsville, third mission trip and counting. He wants to serve others and to connect with other people serving the Lord.
"It was great seeing several of our youth discovering the Spirit working through them. I'm glad I went because it reminds me that I am a servant of the Lord."
Ruby Dunlap of Kunkletown was one of the adult chaperones. This was her second mission trip. Her first was to Biloxi, Mississippi, after Hurricane Katrina
"I enjoy helping people. It was wonderful to watch everyone come together and support one another. I learned that we need good scaffolding in order to have a solid foundation and of course I really got to know a lot about our youth group, not just from the church or Bible school, but in general," says Ruby.
Sally Jablonski, 52, Kresgeville, went on her first mission trip last year and had a wonderful experience.
"I wanted to go to work with the Cherokee people this year and gain the same experience as last year. I think the most amazing thing about this trip was the way we went down to NC as individuals and returned as one body in Christ. It will be a trip that I'll never forget. My husband and son were also on the trip and it was a memorable family vacation in a beautiful part of our country," says Sally.
Her husband, Ken Jablonski, 53, went to help the needy while serving in God's ways.
"It was great seeing the youth change and all coming together as one. I came home with so much more than I gave," says Ken.
"We went to serve others and learned that we 'get' more from our mission trips than we give. The missions are important because the kids find who God is to them. It keeps them involved in their faith walk and in our church. After the trips they become members of the Lite Group, which is our high school group," says Karinsue, who feels she has a calling to help kids come to God in their own way and that these mission trips helps them do that.
When asked, everyone who went to Cherokee, NC, said they hope to go on a mission trip again next year.
They're planning a more local mission trip and maybe invite other local church youth groups to join them.
TEAMeffort promises that one of its mission trips will be a life-changing, eye-opening, faith-building experience filled with meaningful service, challenging work, spiritual growth and good, clean adventurous fun.
SSP's youth and leaders says they got all that and more.