Traveling is an experience that many teens wish to have. For some teens the traveling also includes spreading God’s love. Members of the United Methodist Youth Group were able to do just that earlier in July.
By Melissa Anderson
Dustin Gilseth and Dameon Bernstrom, of the Langdon United Methodist Church, and Kaylee Kemp, Cavalier Methodist Church, along with their chaperone, Jolene Halldorson, traveled to Kansas City, Mo. visiting both sides of the city located in Kansas and Missouri on the banks of the Mississippi River. The three youths had been working hard to make the trip possible since the summer of 2018.
In that time, the youth who went have held numerous fundraising activities from bake sales and movie nights to serving morning coffee before church services- all to travel on this two part trip that combined Urban Plunge and Youth 2019.
“Among the Langdon Mighty Methodist Youth that attended, there were 177 youth and adults from across the Dakota Conference who reached out to ‘Love Well’. This was the theme for the Youth 2019 convention in Kansas City, Missouri,” Halldorson said.
Halldorson explained that there were four buses filled with youth ready to assist the people of Kansas City in whatever ways they could. They first took part in the Urban Plunge. During this time, the youth and their leaders worked in the urban areas around the city in many different ways.
“[It] consisted of volunteering at local thrift stores, yard clean up at safe and sober homes, listening to testimony from people in recovery and making connections throughout the week,” Halldorson said.
“The thrift store we worked at said they did the work in two hours that would have taken them three weeks,” she added.
Much of the work done by the youth was in downtown Kansas where poverty is very low and addiction is high, according to Halldorson. In order to combat this, there is an organization that is buying property to reduce the number of drug houses and turn them into homes for recovery.
The group also spent an afternoon at a local non-profit Heart to Heart, making over 1,000 personal hygiene kits for victims of flooding or other natural disasters. They also packed 33,000 meal kits for Rise Against Hunger, a non-profit that provides food to some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
One activity that helped the youth in attendance learn to share the love of God was the Prayer Walk. Halldorson shared that this was one of the most moving to see and participate in.
“We were given training in the morning from the Urban Plunge leader, and we walked into parks where homeless people would frequent daily,” Halldorson said.
During the Prayer Walk, the youth and their leaders encountered many homeless people. They started conversations and heard their stories. To love well, the youth and leaders asked those they spoke with if they could pray for them.
“It was a humbling moment that you will never forget. It’s life changing,” Halldorson said. “We all go on trips such as these, both youth and adults, in hopes of seeing God in new ways, growing in our faith and understanding of the world around us, and making new life-long friends.”
Throughout all of this, the youth built relationships with one another. Working together to help others create better lives themselves helped the youth find their own inner strength, becoming leaders.
“There were people that didn’t talk the first day,” says Dustin Gilseth said. “By the end of the week, they were being leaders of groups and making tons of friends.”
After two days in the mission field, the youth were able to spend some of their trip enjoying what Kansas City had to offer. One such activity was spending time unwinding at Worlds of Fun, an outdoor amusement and waterpark.
“With temps in the high 90’s and 90 plus percent humidity, it was a welcome break,” Halldorson said.
During down time, the youth explored the city getting to enjoy a little shopping and touring. Worlds of Fun and the explorations helped to make a connection with other youth. It seemed like everyday someone new was added to my little group of three.
The bonds that were created during this experience will last a lifetime. When they were dropped off in Fargo to come home, there were a lot of tears shed when they left the bus; a lot of bonds with a lot of youth were created throughout our state in that short amount of time.
“I am so proud of these kids. When we arrived they were in a shell, nervous about meeting people, talking in front of people,” Halldorson said. “By the end of the week, they were all out of their shell; they were looked at as leaders. They stepped up to lead, without even being asked, every time they needed to in a small group.”
Youth groups can make substantial impacts on the communities where they live in various ways from assisting within their own church to community projects bringing many members of the religious community together. The trips that they take together build upon the lessons they learn at home when the work of their faith shines brightly and they learn to “love well”.