Making a Difference in Lynn, MA – DUMC High School Missions Trip…

July 20, 2011

This past week I had the privilege of leading my first Missions Trip with my new youth group. Five of our adult leaders and I took a group of 39 High School-ers to serve the community of Lynn, MA (right outside of Boston).  It was a phenomenal week and one that I will never forget. I was blown away (again) by the way my new students welcomed, supported, and loved me. I wasn’t sure of what to expect going into the trip, but now that it’s over I realize that I had no reason to worry. I believe that bonds were formed, friendships were strengthened, and lives were changed because of this trip and I am so thankful that I was able to be a part of it all!

The leaders and I picked up the vans the day before we left and we had the students meet at the church the night before to load the vans. This was an exciting time because we all knew it meant that we would get to leave soon! We also spent some time decorating the windows of the vans to let people know who we were and what our purpose was (to spread the love of Jesus)! Once we had the vans packed, and the names checked off on the list of attendees, we all got to go home and get a good night’s sleep before we embarked on our journey to Massachusetts. We pulled out of the church at 8:30 AM and after two bathroom stops, one of which was extremely long (on account of the Starbucks that distracted our kids), and one lunch stop, we made it safely to the church we stayed at in Lynn, MA.

On our first night in Lynn, we had a leaders meeting where we spent time assigning all of our students into the work groups/locations that we thought would best fit them. Being that this trip was my first time meeting some of these students; it was a very difficult/stressful thing to figure out where they best fit. Thankfully, I had some veteran youth leaders there with me who were able to help me out.

Surprisingly there were no problems with the groups or who the students were paired up with. A few of the students weren’t happy with the work that they were actually doing and expressed to me that they would rather have been doing something different but I just used that as an opportunity to stress to them the importance of stepping out of their comfort zones and sticking it out to make a difference in peoples’ lives! I told them that we weren’t there that week for us, but for the people of Lynn, MA. These students really stepped it up after this and I was very impressed with them.

Being that I am the youngest leader in our group, I got assigned to do sports camp where we played football with community kids aged 10-14 all week. I got to take 6 of my students to the sports camp to help lead with me. It was great to see my students stepping up and being a positive influence in the lives of these community kids. I saw tremendous leadership qualities in all 6 of those guys and I think they learned a lot from the experience. Some of the community kids we worked with were tough and did not want to listen or follow rules, but overall it was a great experience for everyone involved. After we were done with sports camp each day, both I and Steve (the youth pastor from the church in Minnesota who was on the trip with us) drove the community kids back to the church. This was one of my favorite times of each day because as the kids were piling out of the van and we were waiting in the parking lot, I had the opportunity to sit and watch/take pictures of some of my other students loving on their group of community kids. It is great to see true ministry taking place and the love of Jesus being shown!

Each night, after we finished our work for the day, we got to do a fun, evening activity. On Monday night we got to go to Nahant Beach. It was a beautiful beach and provided for a great group photo.

If I could do one thing differently about this beach trip, I would make sure guitars do not get left at the beach. We had an incident where a guitar was left at the beach and no one told me it was missing until three days after the fact. By that point, kids had convinced themselves that it was brought back and was either stolen or hidden in the church somewhere. Long story short, the guitar was found and turned in to the police station and the student’s father will be picking it up during his already scheduled trip to Boston in August. On Tuesday night we got to ride the subway into to downtown Boston and spend an hour shopping and exploring the city. This was probably one of my favorite evening activities that we did. I got to walk around the city with 17 of my students and see all that that part of Boston had to offer. We also got a plethora of pictures and videos of a few of my students doing “The Bernie.”

For those of you that don’t know, “The Bernie” is based on the moves of the dead guy Bernie from a movie made in the 1980’s (Weekend at Bernie’s). Apparently it is a new dance craze that is sweeping the South…and apparently it has made its way to Doylestown, PA and now Boston, MA! Our group loves “The Bernie” so much that we got all of us together for a “Mass Bernie-ing” and recorded it with an intro tutorial! And yes, it will make an appearance in church whenever we talk about our trip!

On Wednesday night we got to go have dinner with people from the community at a soup kitchen called “My Brothers Table.” It was great to see my students and leaders sitting and eating with the people we were working with all week. And on Thursday we got to go to Gloucester, MA for a cookout/hangout time at the beach. We got to swim, play football, play volley ball, and climb rocks. It was a beautiful place and everyone had a blast. I treated everyone to ice cream in Gloucester and I think I won everyone’s heart because of it! haha

After we got back from the beach cookout, we had a worship service followed by a foot washing ceremony. This was one of the most powerful things from the entire week. YouthWorks washed the adult leaders’ feet and then we washed our students’ feet and prayed with each and every one of them. After some of the students’ got their feet washed, they went around the room and prayed with their friends. It was a very powerful and emotional evening and I was blown away by it.

A parent of two of the girls in my youth group asked me if I would have done anything differently. Now that I think back on it I realize that I wouldn’t change a thing. It was a great experience and a huge trip for me in terms of getting to know the students and building relationships with them. I am so thankful that God had His hands all over this trip!

A Special Thanks to Katie, Joel, Dan, Meredith, and Jenna!

Special thanks to Katie, Joel, Dan, Meredith, and Jenna for providing an amazing trip for us!

Now I have the Middle School Missions Trip to Charleston, WV to look forward to. We leave this Sunday. Woooohoooo!

–          paulg


The Art of Doing Nothing…

September 1, 2009

For the last 3 days I have been on vacation. This is the first vacation I have taken in an extremely long time. I am at Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina and I’m loving every minute of it, except for the extreme sunburn I have on every part of my upper-body, but I guess it’s my own fault for only putting sun screen on my tattoos! I’ve mastered the art of lying on the beach; the art of lying on the couch and reading; the art of eating good food; the art of trying to take on the waves with lowered shoulders; but I have not been successful thus far in the art of doing nothing…

beach 2

The art of doing nothing that I am referring to is simply that, the art of actually not doing anything important! I am on vacation and I promised myself and friends that I would not do any work while at the beach. I have had a busy and stressful summer, and I was in very high need of a break from it all. I thought it would be easy to not do ministry or think about work related things for a week but so far it’s proved to be extremely difficult.

Almost every day I make a to-do-list and a “things to get done in the next week” list and most of the time, I get these lists done.  However, some of those times (which has happened a lot as the summer nears to an end), I get extremely unmotivated and only get about half of each list done in a given day or week. The reason I mention these lists is to lead into my topic for this post…

I have an extremely hard time mastering the art of doing nothing…

I am here to relax, be refreshed, and get away from the stresses of youth ministry and all I can think about is work. I feel like I should be doing something productive. I feel guilty for relaxing and not having anything to do.

I think my time in New York trained me for this. While up there, I was constantly going. While I was in school, I took 18-24 credits a semester and went from class to class. After classes I would go to work. After work I would go to the next activity. After I graduated from college, I stayed in New York and spent 8 months working 3 jobs and having a girlfriend who lived 40 miles away from me. I ran two youth ministries (one at a Christian and Missionary Alliance Church and one at a Lutheran Church), and I worked part time at an auto repair shop. When I wasn’t working (and I don’t know how I found any time where  I wasn’t working), I drove 80 miles round trip to spend time with my girlfriend (now my ex). I was constantly going and I rarely had time to relax and just do nothing.

Ever since I moved back to PA in February and started at my new church, I have struggled with taking time off. I am required to take one day off a week, for which I am very thankful, but during those off-days I find it hard to get away from ministry and not do any work. I guess I’ve just been too busy for too long and there are a few things that I need to do. I need to train myself to find peace in my off time! I need to remember that my ministry won’t fall apart if I turn my thoughts and efforts away from it for a day or a week. I need to remember that “nothing essential stops when I rest!” I need to discipline myself to master the art of doing nothing!

***I found the quote in the last paragraph in Mark Oestreicher’s book “Youth Ministry 3.0” (page 114…side of page…written by a youth worker named Ben Kraker…original author of quote is unknown)***

–          paulg

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