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

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YouthWorks takes over Youth Specialties…

November 21, 2009

For the last month or so, there has been much uncertainty in the youth ministry world as to what would happen to the youth ministry giant Youth Specialties after 7-year president Mark Oestreicher was released from the company. Marko was released and all the info that was given to the youth ministry world was found at this link: Statement by Moe Girkins, President and CEO of Zondervan.

This is my third convention and because of the uncertainty of what was going on with Youth Specialties, I had mixed feelings about coming to the National Youth Workers Convention this year. I didn’t know how it would be without Marko and Tic Long and I honestly wasn’t sure if I wanted to find out. But I came (obviously) and I was very glad that I did. After Andy Stanley’s message to us about uncertainty, the announcer for the convention (who I think was Mark Matlock) called a youth worker named Paul Bertelson up onto the stage for what appeared to be one of their normal interviews where they ask long time youth workers questions and give them a huge round of applause and a thank you! But this was different. After we found out that Paul was a 38-year youth ministry veteran who started his own company (YouthWorks) to help youth workers get the resources they needed. After we found out a little info about who he was, the announcer then called out another special guest, Moe Girkins, the President and CEO of Zondervan.

The announcer then proceeded to ask Moe some questions. He started off by saying that there are a lot of youth workers out there who have written nasty blogs and said some harsh things about her and her company after they released Marko. After that, his main question was: “Does it suck to be Moe Girkins right now?” She answered that yes it does suck to be her right now, but not always. She then said a few nice things about Tic and Marko and thanked them for how much they meant to the company and the youth workers all over the world. She announced the opportunity to write Marko and Tic a note to say thank you. Now (the day after), there are boxes set up for both of those guys and they are filling up pretty quickly. After that, Moe began to announce the shift that is going to take place where youth specialties will be sold to YouthWorks. The link to this acquisition can be found here: – – – -> YS gets sold to YouthWorks

When I first heard this, I was a bit skeptical. And now that I’ve had a few days to think about it, I realize that it was for selfish reasons. I love YS the way it is and the way it has been since I have started coming to their conventions. I did not want to see change, and I honestly (along with other youth workers) thought that it was going to be a change for the worse. But after doing some searching around on the internet and reading some of my youth ministry friends’ blogs, I found a very encouraging note about the deal between YS and YouthWorks. It comes from YS’s Online Marketing and eCommerce guy, Adam McLane. Adam said this:

“So the news is out. I am very happy the news is out. When I saw the presidents of Z and YW together yesterday I really hoped that the news would come out. It was a very exciting/somber (and a bunch more adjectives/adverbs) moment to be a part of. For me, the bottom line was that the news was getting out and that is good.

The people at YouthWorks are good people. (That’s been clear in the blogs/twitter/Facebook) The people at Zondervan are good people. (That hasn’t been clear, but trust me when I say that they are good people, too.)

Now… this weekend isn’t about Youth Specialties, YouthWorks, Zondervan, or even me. It’s about serving and encouraging youth workers!”

To see someone on the inside of Youth Specialties say such encouraging words is a great thing. It certainly changed my outlook on the whole deal and now I am hopeful for the future of the company and conventions that I learn from, grow during/from, and love so much!

It backed up Andy Stanley’s message that uncertainty is always going to be a part of ministry. My post about that message can be found here.I don’t know what the future will hold for these two companies, for the conventions, and for the thousands upon thousands of youth workers who attend the conventions each year. But I do know that it is a necessity for us to pray for them. So regardless of our negative thoughts/opinions on the whole ordeal, let’s leave it up to God and start/continue to pray for it and all the people that are involved!

–          paulg


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