Youth respond to community’s needs with local mission ‘trip’

Categories: Around the Diocese,My Page Essays

By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor

Every year the Becker/Big Lake youth group from Mary of the Visitation Parish participates in a mission trip. For many years, they traveled out of state. This year, for the second time, the group, which calls itself, “Youth for Truth,” served the local community instead of heading somewhere else.

The group’s youth ministry director, Doug Watercott, said the idea came from the kids.

“Some youth approached me after returning from a mission trip four years ago and said, ‘What about the need in our area? Could we create a similar experience as our out-of-state trips but only do it in our own community, in our own backyard?’” he said. “It was our young people wanting to do more, wanting to serve those that they see regularly in the community and at church. We decided to go out of state every other year and on the off years stay home and serve people in our area.”

Seeing the impact

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Emma Pace, Catie Eisenreich and Samantha Perovich, members of Mary of the Visitation Parish in Becker/BigLake, weed a garden at one of 24 work sites during a three-day youth mission ‘trip’ from July 15 to 18.

Four adults and 19 youth made up four groups that served two different community residents each day for three days for a total of 24 different sites. Each member of the team contributed his or her own funds — $50 — to pay for the needed supplies and each was assigned a role on the team such as prayer leader, tool supply manager or lunch coordinator.

After each day’s work, the teams boarded a bus and went to the community center in town to shower. Afterward, they came back to sleep at the church’s un-air-conditioned youth center. Before they turned in, they shared a meal and some programming that Watercott said “helped to tie the experience of the day in with their faith and baptismal call to service.”

“The big difference was we were serving those we will see regularly in our community and at church,” he said. “This added a whole new dimension to the experience as the youth will continue to see and hear about the positive impact they had as they see these people throughout the community in the future. It will also help to open their eyes to the many needs around us every day.”

Humbling experience

The home of Donnie Schueller, a parishioner of Mary of the Visitation, was one of the work sites the group visited. Watercott reached out to Schueller whose husband unexpectedly passed away on New Year’s Day.

“It was so different for me to have people helping me,” Schueller said. “I have always been a caregiver, caring for others, and this is the first time I have had people ask if they can come and help me.”

Schueller has a large yard and needed help spreading wood chips around the trees, moving some rocks in her driveway and also help with trimming.

“I didn’t know if they would get it all done but I was grateful for any help and they were hard workers. They got it all done,” she said.
Three girls, including Catie Eisenreich (see her reflection below), and two boys helped Schueller.

“They brought all their own supplies and they brought their own lunch. I made homemade cookies for their morning break and root beer floats at lunchtime. We had a good time. Everyone came with a smile and left with smile,” Schueller said.

About a week later, one of the youth called and asked if he could come back and help again. Schueller said since the workday, the two have become good friends.

“He comes to help but also to spend time with me and I appreciate the companionship,” she said. “We do outside work together and he likes me to work right with him. He enjoys hearing my stories about the way things used to be. Last time, we went for a bike ride around the lake.”

At each site, the residents were given an invitation to attend a closing Mass at the church followed by a barbecue and concert.
“At this event, both those we served and the youth serving were able to get up and share about their experience,” Watercott explained.

“Through a lot of laughs and tears we heard the impact that this had on our community. With genuine appreciation, people shared from their heart what those last three days meant to them. It was a touching and humbling experience for all.”

 

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Catie Eisenreich is pictured with her Youth for Truth team. From left are Samantha Perovich, Eisenreich, Emma Pace, Christina Watercott, Donnie Schueller, Reed Kraus and Jacob Scott. Eisenreich is a 2015 graduate of Big Lake High School.

“Our church community has always been important to my family, and we’ve made great friendships and memories over the years. When my mom was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer, our church supported and prayed for us. Serving others and trying to be Christ’s hands and feet has also always been a high priority for my family. Through my youth group at Mary of the Visitation, I have had great opportunities of service, big and small. The most recent and dear to my heart is the local mission trip.

“Our youth group, Youth of Truth, has participated in out-of-state mission trips and led monthly service projects since before I joined the fun-loving group. After coming home from other mission trips, the Youth of Truth recognized the need in our own community and decided to volunteer our time and talents toward helping those who need it in the Becker/Big Lake area.

“This summer on July 15-18, 19 youth and four adults participated in Mary of the Visitation’s second local mission trip. Included in the group were my parents and my younger sister, Rachel. Our youth group wanted to make a positive difference in our community and ended up impacting a total of 24 homes by splitting up into four groups and working at two sites per day.

“Although the yard work and cleaning we did was our initial objective, the most meaningful part of our mission trip was taking time and getting to know the people that lived at the homes we were serving. Some residents worked alongside us or made us snacks, others had incredible stories or family photos to share. No matter who we worked for, every resident thanked us and showed their appreciation to us, and that’s what made shoveling rock or picking weeds in the hot sun worth it.

The local mission trip helped bring our community together, and everyone who participated on either side of it was blessed by what was accomplished. It showed us what it really means to love thy neighbor as God commands us to. Every one of us throughout the four days saw Christ in each other and were Christ for each other, which is something Mary of the Visitation and my family takes pride in.”