Fifty-nine (59) youth and adults from the Dakotas Conference recently served others in the Racine, Wisconsin area. Participants travelled by bus, stayed in churches along the way, and through fellowship, learning and fun became a team serving others.
The Dakotas team felt very welcomed and grew in fellowship. Duston Gilseth, a high school participant from Langdon United Methodist Church, said, "The pastors and adult leaders were so welcoming to all who were on the trip. I will never forget everyone that was on the trip and the new friendships I made. It was an amazing experience that was life changing and eye opening."
“We gathered in Sioux Falls and traveled all day to get to Racine. On Sunday, we worshipped with members of our host church and then headed for the zoo. After the zoo we had fun getting to know each other as we had fun playing Wacky Olympics,” said Pastor John Britt, co-coordinator for the high school mission team, serving Winner United Methodist Church
Team members served at homeless shelters, food banks, care centers, and working on several people’s homes. At the shelters teams cleaned, scraped and painted, cooked and served breakfast, organized pantries and kitchens, and spent time getting to know many different people. At the care centers, participants played lots of games and talked with many residents, put on a fashion show, danced with a Greek dance team, sang songs, painted nails, and helped with puzzles. At the homes crews cleaned a lot, tore out and installed carpet, painted floors and walls, did yardwork, and fixed a lot of drywall.
The work at the Grace Welcome Center significantly impacted the Racine team. Each team began their day with a prayer walk.“It was at Grace that we met the face of God in people like Jim, a volunteer at Grace, that has walked a very hard road in life, but has still come to love Jesus. Jim serves the Lord daily as he serves others in need. All in all, our six teams accomplished much and were quite a blessing to the many places that we served,” said Steve Hilton, co-coordinator for Recovering Racine and member of Piedmont Grace UMC.
Beata Ferris, adult participant and member of Pierre First UMC, described the highlights of the experience this way. “Prayer walking through an economically disadvantaged neighborhood and praying for the people who live there was very moving. Also, serving people in need with dignity by helping them shop in a grocery store style food pantry was awesome. Another cool thing was praying in the sanctuary of a downtown UMC with an older congregation. We blessed their ministry spaces praying that new life would spring forth in the life of their church.”
The Recovering Racine team served the communities and people of Racine, Kenosha, and Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin. They were blessed to experience the presence of Jesus. Some youth met a woman named Betty. Betty came to the host church where the team stayed looking for food for herself and her grandsons. After hearing her story, those present were led to pray for her. Then the Spirit went to work and convicted those present to do more. They joined together with some friends to raise $200 for a car payment that Betty needed.
Other youth brought tears to a care center resident when, after painting her nails, told her she looked beautiful. She shed a tear as she shared that no one had ever told her she was beautiful before.
"It was amazing to see just how God works through the lives of the youth while doing His work and seeing the youth breathe hope back into people's lives," said Pastor Justin Schnackenberg, Langdon UMC and participant in Recover Racine.
The youth were not the only ones touched by the power of the Holy Spirit. One of the adult team members shared that he did not know that the level of poverty witnessed still existed. He shared, “I see a lot of food go to waste on my family farm. Each year we plant an acre of sweet corn but barely make a dent in it. I could take all the sweet corn that my family does not eat on a semi-truck down to Sioux Falls. I can donate it to the Banquet and to the Food Pantry.”
Several youth felt the call of God upon their lives of the week-long journey. Youth shared the response to God’s calling on their heart through their experiences out in the community or during one of the worship services. Pastor Britt said, “It is powerful to see God at work in the lives of these wonderful young people. There is definitely a sense of call that can arise when one is out being Jesus’ hands and feet!”
At the end of the week the team traveled to the Wisconsin Dells and spent some time playing together at Mount Olympus. Participants had tons of fun as they rode roller coasters, drove go karts and enjoyed water slides.
The closing worship was held at Rochester where Steve Hilton shared a powerful message and all shared in Holy Communion. Worship included lots of time in prayer. "My highlight of the trip is the last worship service we had," said Andrea Hult, high school youth from Brookings First UMC. "It was a time that you could sit and talk with God and be prayed over. It was a very moving service to reflect on all the events that happened earlier in the week."
Pastor John and Steve said, “Thank you to the many who were a part of this awesome trip who made such a difference in Wisconsin and in each other. Thank you for your willingness to step out in faith and to allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through you. Our wonderful mission family grew once again. God’s blessings to you all.”
Abby Ferris, youth from Pierre First UMC, encourages other high school students to consider going on a mission trip like this. “High schoolers should consider going on a mission trip because you get to see more of the world, get to make new lasting friendships and are able to make a difference in the world, or at least someone else’s world.”
View more photos of the Racine trip here.