If I have learned anything from my four years of youth ministry, it is that teenagers tend to be the most underestimated members of most communities. And at the end of June, our teenagers at All Saints Church proved that to me once again.
Ten youth, our brave adult volunteer, Amy Hopson, and I all drove to Oliver Springs, TN, just northwest of Knoxville, to join up with over two hundred other campers at a REACH Work Camp. These amazing youth spent six nights and five full days doing renovation and construction work on nearby homes in the community. They spent their evenings at a local High School, at their meals there, and worshiped there alongside other youth from all over the country, including Alabama, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
They were each placed on teams, split up among the other campers so that only a few people from each church would ever be on one team. They painted, swept, calked, demolished, rebuilt, framed, and roofed houses badly in need of repair and attention.
Many of the people whom they served were disabled, elderly, or lacked the means to care for their home. Our youth turned dark and abandoned places into warm and light-filled places. These “Neighbors,” whom they served were blessed by this outpouring of care and hard work, but they also blessed in return either through gifts, or prayers, or feeding us some local TN BBQ at the end of our last day.
Our teenagers made connections with other students from all over the country, and the time they invested into this community is something they will never forget. Thank you to everyone who prayed for this camp, who prayed for our youth, who gave sacrificially to make this trip possible, to parents who both allowed and supported this chance for their children to do missional work, and to the youth themselves for giving away a week of their summer instead of spending it by the pool or in front of television screens.
Our church is blessed with amazing students. I pray God continues to walk with them and guide them for all their years to come. They have already been a profound blessing to me and my family.
I know they are and will continue to be an invaluable gift to this church.