Thursday, March 16, 2017

Students on Mission

William stared out of the window in disbelief. "Why are the houses in such disrepair?" He felt the weight of his decision to go on a mission trip. I knew my answer mattered. After a quick prayer, I said, "The best answers to your question come from the residents. Would you like to talk to some of the home owners?"

We learned that many communities in Youngstown, OH tell of Black Monday. On September 19, 1977 (5) five steel mills closed on the same day. Families were left scrambling for answers. The result has been a decades-long recovery effort in places like Youngstown. Change and hope have come through the efforts of mission trip partners like Neighborhood Ministries and Heart Reach.

At Neighborhood Ministries, an after-school program was offered in community centers. Children gathered for games, snacks, homework help, and a Bible lesson. Our team helped in each area. We were also asked to bring content to enrich the children. Each child learned how to write "Jesus" in Chinese characters. French worship songs filled the air as children clapped and danced to the glory of God.

Heart Reach is a Christ-centered ministry offering lunchtime programming for public school students. Skits, snacks, and video presentations were offered during an elementary school lunch hour. Thanks to a provision in the Ohio State constitution, buses can pick the children up, provide lunchtime biblical education and drop them off at school to finish the day. Churches closest to the schools serve as hosts for the midday gatherings. One of the churches is Metro Assembly, led by Paris and Al Yanno. Paris is also the Executive Director of Heart Reach.

Each team mission member visited local churches, partnered with the YMCA and slept on couches in a mission center. A communal kitchen allowed friendships to form over food and conversation. We even doubled as unexpected plumbers when a hose cracked at 2 am. All in a day's work for students on a mission.

A mission to see students of the world know, worship, and grow (KWaG) as disciples of Jesus Christ was accomplished. Youngstown was one of many examples of the Holy Spirit's work among college students.

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