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Dakotas Youth 'Love Well' in Kansas City

By: Dave Stucke, communications associate, Dakotas UMC, Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas UMC, and Beata Ferris, marketing and outreach coordinator, Dakotas-Minnesota Area Camp and Retreat Ministries

Dakotas youth and their leaders pose for a photo on the steps of the Kansas City Convention Center at Youth 2019. Photos courtesy of the 2019 Dak youth Urban Plunge Youth 2019 Facebook page.

Did Dakotas youth and their leaders have a great time in Kansas City at Urban Plunge | Youth 2019?  'Ough Yeah!' they did! Several holy moments were experienced in mission work, a prayer walk, a baptismal remembrance, communion outside on the convention center steps, awe-inspiring worship, DIG groups, and Bishop Ough's presence.

In all, 177 youth and adults from across the Dakotas Conference reached out to 'Love Well'—the theme for Youth 2019, in Kansas City, Missouri, last week by participating in a two-pronged trip, Urban Plunge and Youth 2019.

Four bus loads of United Methodist youth and their leaders descended upon Kansas City to participate in Urban Plunge. This mission experience, happened in groups at a food bank, a homeless shelter, a clothing thrift store, an outreach for at-risk teens, and an addiction recovery ministry. At each site, the teams of participants helped wherever they could with cleanup, home improvement projects, and just spending time with those in need of connection. Some participants even gave of their blood. 

"I decided to go because I have never gone before and have always wanted to do mission work," says Keara Peplinski, who attends First UMC in Pierre, South Dakota. "I also donated blood for the first time, which was terrifying but well worth it!" She was also rewarded with friendships, saying, "It's a great opportunity to become more independent and make new friends."

Four teams of youth were scrambled each day and sent to two mission destinations each day. The experiences they had were eye-opening.

Dakotas youth gather in prayer around Bobbi Jo Reed, founder of the addiction recovery ministry, Healing House.

Alyssa Hatcher, 16, a member Valley City Epworth UMC, says, "I saw God's presence during the mission work. Each place we went, there was a different story on how they are helping somebody in need. I mostly saw God's presence in the Healing House through the head lady, Bobbi Jo Reed, the founder of the addiction recovery ministry."

After two days in the mission field, youth spent some time unwinding at Worlds of Fun thanks to the support of the Dakotas United Methodist Foundation. Dakotas UM Foundation also provided prayer journals for all of the participants. Everyone explored the city, also doing a little shopping and touring. For some, Worlds of Fun and the explorations help make a connection with their colleagues. "There were people that didn't talk the first day," says Dustin Gilseth, a member of Langford UMC in North Dakota. "By the end of the week, they were being leaders of groups and making tons of friends."

One of the real Holy Spirit highlights was a prayer walk of the city of fountains. Everyone attended training and then divided up to walk the town and prayer with and for those they encountered. "Usually I'm pretty awkward about going up to someone and asking them if they need to talk or putting my hands on someone's shoulder when praying, but this week brought me out of that shell," says Gilseth. 

At the end of the prayer walk, one of the bus drivers asked to remember her baptism. So Rev. Holly Sortland, who serves Open Heart UMC in Rapid City, South Dakota, and Rev. Jeanne Sortland, who serves at Kensal and Wimbledon in North Dakota, made it happen, in one of the fountains of the city. 

Youth 2019 kicked off with awe-inspiring worship. Dakotas Youth flooded the Kansas City Convention Center in bright blue t-shirts, featuring Dakota Wesleyan University. "I saw God in everyone there, all those youth that showed up just to worship God," says Payton Cass, 18, who attends First UMC in Huron, South Dakota.

Bishop Ough pauses for a photo with Gage and Darcie from Prairie Winds UMC in Dickinson, North Dakota.

Romal Tune was the preacher and leader of worship throughout Love Well, Youth 2019. One of the key messages from Romal was: "Don't worry about proving your haters wrong...they hate you. Focus on pleasing and empowering the people who root for you and love you and lift you instead."

The music group "I Am They," embellished the worship experience. "I Am They, a Christian band that lead worship and concert one night, was probably one of the best parts," says Callie Campbell, who attends First UMC in Pierre, South Dakota. "Seeing everyone get into a worship song was amazing!"

Youth and their leaders attended DIG groups and workshops throughout the three-day event. DIG groups were small group discussions with youth from throughout the United States. Rev. Holly Sortland from the Dakotas Conference led a workshop on bullying titled, Haters back off: How to deal with relational aggression the Jesus way.

Bishop Ough joined the energetic group from the Dakotas on Thursday. He served on a panel with other Bishops discussing the future of The United Methodist Church. Ough also delivered the message and communion at closing worship on Saturday.  

Rev. Dayne Zachrison, is the lead pastor at Epworth UMC in Valley City, North Dakota, and served as the dean for Urban Plunge | Youth 2019. He notes that the trip, with a price tag of $1,000 per person, was life-changing for many thanks to the efforts of many. "We have so many to thank. First those youth and their leaders that took a risk to 'Love Well' Jesus and their neighbor. For all the local churches that held fundrasiers and donated to each and every participant from the Dakotas. We also want to thank Central Methodist University for lodging. Pierre First UMC and William Jewell College for meals. We are grateful to Dakota Wesleyan University and the Dakotas-Minnesota Area Camp and Retreat Ministries for t-shirts. Several United Methodist Women's groups contributed. The Dakotas United Methodist Foundation who sponsored the trip to Worlds of Fun and provided us with prayer journals. We are grateful to Bishop Ough for his leadership and presence," says Zachrison.  

Beata Ferris, one of the adult leaders, says, "I witnessed our youth growing in amazing ways. They looked physically smaller at the beginning, but by the end of the week, they were visibly becoming leaders, including, reaching out to others, going from a shy, ingrown kids, to welcoming, joyful, loving leaders."

How did Urban Plunge | Youth 29 impact those that attended? Here are just a few reactions: 

"This experience has changed me in many ways. I now know that after I graduate, I want to stay involved in the mission ministry and help in the youth ministry as many ways as I can." Rylee Honomichl, a member of First UMC in Brookings, South Dakota. 

"My eyes have been opened to how other people live their daily lives. It makes me feel so fortunate for what I do have like a home, loving family, and food on the table. I thought I already had a general understanding that other people have it worse than I do, but going on this trip is a whole different perspective." Keara Peplinski, First UMC, Pierre, South Dakota.

"Jesus wants us always to follow the path he has taught us and be a Christian. I constantly feel I have fallen short of that. It's when I look back on my moments on the mission trips I start to realize that maybe I fell just right." Payton Cass, First UMC Huron, South Dakota.

"I have grown spiritually and changed immensely through this." Alyssa Hatcher, Epworth UMC, Valley City, North Dakota.

"I decided to go because my pastor said it would be a once in a lifetime experience, seeing that the UMC Youth gathering only happens every four years I only get to go once. I did not expect what I encountered while I was there, I expected that I was not going to have fun, but the conference and the worship and my Dakotas team completely changed that around." Dustin Gilseth, Langdon UMC, North Dakota. 

View all the photos here:

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Youth 2019 - Love Well

UMC

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