“Connecting with God, Connecting with Others and Connecting with Creation” was the theme of recent mission work of the youth group at Community United Methodist Church (CUMC) in Pasadena.
For the second consecutive year, the youth decided as a group that their annual mission “trip” would stay local.
“They wanted to stay and serve in their own community,” said the Rev. Ali DeLeo, pastor at CUMC.
She said community service projects are at the heart of the group’s work, not just for summer mission trips, but year-round.
“We look for ways to connect people and develop friendships,” DeLeo said.
Each day of the week-long mission in August, 14 youth and 10 adults volunteered at different organizations and completed projects in and around Pasadena. They completed nine service projects during the five days, with each one relating to one or more parts of the mission’s theme.
To connect with creation, youth and adults spent an afternoon at the beach at Fort Smallwood Park picking up trash, which yielded about eight industrial-sized bags in an hour. A second creation-oriented project was helping to harvest food at First Fruits Farm in Baltimore County, a nonprofit that donates all its food to Maryland and Pennsylvania residents in need. Another project included making flood buckets for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). The buckets were sent to Florida after Hurricane Dorian.
Two activities involved connecting directly with others in the community. One morning, the youth made and shared breakfast with residents at the Arundel House of Hope in Glen Burnie. Another morning, youth participated in a Bible study led by DeLeo at The Way Homes center in Pasadena.
“It's a great way to learn what's happening with people and learn to grow in community,” DeLeo said.
Other activities focused on connecting adolescents with others at their own church. One day, the youth made and served lunch to a group of seniors at CUMC. The intergenerational project involved eating together, with seniors sharing stories with the youth. The group also made a meal for a summer worship service. Additional activities included making picnic tables for the church and volunteering in the church's food pantry.
The youth said the week's activities gave them a sense of purpose, though The Way Homes activity was the most meaningful project according to youth leader Kristal Neale.
“The youth loved how the participants opened up and shared, and they wanted that for their own group,” Neale said.
Michele Drocella, an adult volunteer, added that interacting with residents at The Way Homes center gave the youth a sense of worth, and residents also enjoyed bonding with their young visitors.
Youth group members became closer with one another as well during their mission week.
“I really think we connected with each other and with God, all while we were worshiping, building, connecting and growing,” said Billie Volker, a member of the youth group.