Most often, when God provides us a place to reflect and pray, we discover that sitting fosters an attitude of introspection, silence, and connection with our God. On the edge of a parking lot and a bike path in Beresford, South Dakota, a bell tower has stood as a quiet sentinel for years, beckoning people to reflect, to slip a prayer request into the box on the prayer cross in its shadow, and to connect to the ageless voice of a ringing bell. The bell tower, and now a prayer bench, are part of the Beresford Zion United Methodist Church.
Last fall Alex Jensen, a junior at Beresford High School, was contemplating an Eagle Scout project that would give back to his church, which he feels has poured so much into him. Alex was raised in the Beresford Zion UMC, confirmed, supported through scholarships to attend camps, and enjoys an active role in the youth group, as well as offering the Easter sunrise service message for the last three years. When he finally hit upon an idea, he pre-planned as much as he could, and then approached a meeting of his church’s administrative board.
“My Eagle Project was at times easy, and at times tough,” Alex recalls. “I wanted to do something to give back, and although my project ideas didn’t include the church, it quickly became clear that the church gave me so much through camp scholarships, youth group, and years of fellowship, and I wanted to give something back.”
Alex presented his original idea– to add a bench for prayer to the space below the bell tower– to the administrative board, which gladly embraced his plan, and helped it to become an even larger project. As he learned, they had already budgeted for enhancing that space with black rubber landscaping mulch, but not a prayer bench. Eventually, Alex organized the entire project, the work crew to assemble it all, and found a nearby company, Hydro Extrusions in Yankton, South Dakota, to not only manufacture, but also donate the aluminum bench for his project.
In 2021, when the project day arrived, Alex guided his volunteer crew of 19 people, including mostly members of the church, through ground prep, landscaping, rubber mulch placement, and installation of the bench. As is required for Eagle Scout projects, Alex had to present his project’s results to a board of review. He was pleased to hear their positive response, and even an “Awesome” comment from one board member.
Now the belltower and the space around it provide a lasting place for anyone to sit and enjoy a break from the bike path, take in the sunset, or simply pause to pray in silence and reflect on the beauty of God’s creation around them.
The Dakotas Camp and Retreat Ministry and his church family have been huge parts of Alex’s faith journey. He’s extremely grateful for the inspiration and mentorship he’s received from Rev. Clay Lundberg, who he met when he attended “Elementary Sampler”, a middle school camp experience that focused on the issues and questions middle schoolers face and gave them an outlet for learning and sharing.
In October, 2021, while playing football and keeping up on classwork, Alex finished the requirements and earned the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank in scouting. He’s now transitioned to wrestling season, hoping to earn a chance to wrestle in the State Tournament at 220 lbs. In between sports seasons (he’s also active in track and field), he’s planning his Eagle Scout Court of Honor, for spring or early summer, where the rank will be officially conferred.
Asked about his project, Alex recalled, “I thought it would be neat to say more than, ‘Yeah, that was my Eagle Scout Project,’ but to see how it could be there for as long as possible, and later inspire others to sit, to use the prayer cross, and even be inspired by the bench.”
The Conference Council on Youth Ministry is also inspired by Alex's participation as a CCYM member, being active in planning DakYouth and many Conference-wide youth events, and representing CCYM in the Very Dakotas Christmas responsive reading, seen by many of our Conference churches.