Two CA youth groups work together for week

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Kingsburg, Traver youth serve side-by-side to benefit Traver church

By Kathy Heinrichs Wiest

Some 30 students from two Central California USMB congregations spent a week cleaning up the Traver church grounds, doing small repairs and tidying up the cemetery. The teens from the two communities located just six miles apart built relationships that seem to be sticking.

How many churches were represented when youth from Kingsburg (Calif.) MB Church and Templo de Oracion, Traver, Calif., joined efforts for a week of service?

Just one, says Traver Pastor Juan Pacheco: “The church of Christ.”

About 30 junior and senior high students from the two congregations descended on Traver April 1-5 to give the town a spring cleaning makeover. For that week, they were one in service.

The teens picked up trash, cleaned yards, trimmed palm trees, did minor repairs to the Traver church building and tidied up a cemetery maintained and used by Mennonite Brethren.

It was hard work, to be sure, but laced with fun and motivated by mission, so that the teens worked willingly. “The work was hard and dirty, and I never heard a complaint,” says Kingsburg volunteer Steve Wiest.

Youth stayed at the Traver church—girls sleeping inside and boys in tents on the church lawn. “Even those whose homes were just a few blocks away came with the understanding that they were missionaries for a week,” says Kingsburg volunteer Melanie Weber.

The Traver congregation cooked breakfasts and dinners; Kingsburg MB provided lunches. Volunteers from both churches supervised.

Spiritual input for the week came from a “Life Journal,” which provided Scriptures related to Holy Week and opportunities for the youth to reflect and pray. Some of the youth also worked together on a crucifixion drama that was presented at a community Good Friday service and during the Kingsburg MB Easter service.

By the end of the week, the group had 60 bags of trash and some tired muscles to measure their success. But the most important accomplishments were the relationships that formed. Pacheco says that churches even in the same community are often like family members who retreat to separate rooms in the same house, choosing not to interact or build relationships. “I hate that,” he says.

In contrast, these two congregations—from cities only six miles apart—built the kind of unity that pleases God. “God has started the togetherness and he wants to finish with togetherness,” Pacheco says. “He wants to reconcile people.”

Although the Traver congregation is Hispanic and the Kingsburg congregation is primarily Anglo, cultural differences among the youth were minimal, says Pacheco. All spoke English and had grown up in American culture. “We’re a little darker,” he says. “That’s about the only difference.”

As the youth worked, played games, worshiped and interacted in the evenings, they built relationships that already show evidence of sticking. Weber says, “I saw God working on the hearts of the youth as they got to know each other better in a different setting away from phones, Internet, TV and their own busy schedules.”

Pacheco is grateful that Kingsburg, the larger of the congregations, provided the funding for the mission week. He calls their input of funds, equipment and willing workers “a little push” for the smaller church’s ministry efforts. Traver is a town so small that it doesn’t show up on some maps and deliveries can’t find Pacheco’s address, but he says, “They found us here.”

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