by Amy Banta*
A diverse youth group from Ridglea UMC recently returned from a successful mission trip in Eureka Springs, Arkansas that left such an impact on the mission’s recipients, Elveto and Theo Walker, their tales of their generosity found the ear of the local newspaper, the Arkansas Carroll County News. While diversity in a group of missionaries from the CTC may not be all that unique (and ain’t that a good thing?!) it is the particular brand of diversity of which this group was forged that is so interesting. You see this “youth group” was made up of folks spanning ages 11 to 87. This group of young and young-at-heart alike joined together with the national group TEAMeffort, an organization that conducts interdenominational mission trips, in order to spruce up the Walker’s home in time for their 62nd wedding anniversary.
From the very first moment this group began to come together, Ridglea UMC Youth Director, Wendy Coleman began to pray for the mission trip. Soon, the entire congregation became involved with the preparation, encouragement and support of the mission and its team. One member of their church, Sarah Andrews, purchased soft cover English bibles for all the youth. For some of the high school students, this was the first bible they ever owned. Troy Shepherd, Ridglea’s UMM president, carved two crosses for the group made of Honduran Mahogany, a special wood that darkens when handled. Whenever the group came together, they prayed for the college student that would join them in their mission from TEAMeffort. After the end of the mission trip, during their final group devotion time, they presented the special “prayer cross” as a gift to Robert, their TEAMeffort teammate. The second cross was passed among members of the Ridglea congregation as a reminder to continuously pray for their mission team. In addition to prayer for the mission and team as a whole, the Church passed out paper bracelets with each team member’s name on it so that that person could be prayed for by name. Wendy emphasized the impact this had on their team, “It felt like the church was behind them with not just money, but spiritual support as well.”
The Ridglea UMC mission team was composed of 20 youth and 10 adults. As indicated earlier, these 10 adults did not go to just be chaperones, but to become partners in mission alongside the youth. While the experiences on and before the trip were fabulous, what made this particular mission trip team so extraordinary was just how well the youth and (ahem) more seasoned members of the congregation blended together so well. A former Habitat for Humanity builder joined the team, along with a couple in their 60’s who wanted to come out and just, “be in service with the youth.” Described as “the movers and shakers of the Church,” Chuck and Carol Middleton (Carol is pictured left with her shovel buddies Dzi and Ignacio) , age 84 and 77, chose to come along and partake in some hot weather work as well. A bridge across the generations was not only built, but easily and often traversed.
The Ridglea mission trip far exceeded anything anyone imagined for those receiving the assistance as well as those providing the work. According to Wendy, “It couldn’t have been a more powerful week.”
If you have a powerful story you would like to share as well, please contact the CTCUMC Communication Team at CTCnewsdesk@ctcumc.org.
*Amy is a member of the CTC’s Center for Evangelism & Church Growth team and a regular contributor to news and feature stories here on ctcumc.org. firstname.lastname@example.org