By LINDA M. LINONIS
Youths from Zion Lutheran Church found themselves a world away from home, family and familiar surroundings though they were just 70 miles south of Youngstown.
The young people along with the Rev. Duane A. Jesse, senior pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, 3300 Canfield Road, participated in a June mission trip. The week-long project involved volunteer service to help poor and disadvantaged residents of Steubenville.
Through JOSHUA, Journeys of Service Helping Upper Appalachia, the youths were involved in projects that required painting, cleaning, repairing, building and interaction with recipients of services. JOSHUA works under the umbrella of Urban Mission Ministry, an ecumenical Christian social service agency. It serves the needs of the poor and disadvantaged with the motto, “to listen with compassion, to serve with love.”
The Zion group numbered among 70 Lutheran young people and 10 adults from Mahoning, Trumbull and Ashtabula counties who participated. It was the first time for Zion; other churches had been involved previously.
Pastor Jesse, who had pastored at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Cortland, said churches in Trumbull County including Emmanuel Lutheran, which sends a large group, have served with JOSHUA. He wanted to introduce it to Zion. “When I first pitched the idea, it wasn’t met with great enthusiasm,” Pastor Jesse said, noting there were questions why participants had to pay to volunteer. There’s a $175 fee for each team member, which covers the cost of lodging at Joshua House, a former convent, where volunteers stay.
The pastor pointed out a banner at Zion provided the directive — “A church defined by action ... prayer, study, worship, invite, encourage, service and give.”
The Zion team consisted of Pastor Jesse and youths — Adia Muntean, 13, daughter of Alexandra Galvez and Dennis Muntean; Brandon Chamberlain, 13, son of Brad and Jeanette Chamberlain; Gavin Harris, 13, son of Chris and Brice Harris; and Corey Sharp, 11, son of Carole and Michael Sharp.
They participated in the third week of the 13-week JOSHUA summer projects. They sometimes worked together and at other times were with other volunteers. Also assisting on the mission trip were Dana and Ross Duffett and Marilyn Chiu.
“It’s a great way to get youth motivated in the Christian faith,” the pastor said. He said the project serves others, a concept promoted and exemplified by Jesus.
The youths echoed that. “I wanted to go to help others,” Adia said, adding she thought the experience would “interesting.”
Brandon said, “I wanted to help people and make a difference.” He said his sister encouraged him to go because she had been on mission trips and had a good experience.
Gavin and Corey also said they were motivated by the opportunity to “help people” and try something different.
The young people added that helping people in need was a component of their faith.
The youths learned various skills under adult supervision. At a food distribution center, Aida was involved in demolition by tearing down walls to make a more open space for the service. It was being set up more like a grocery store for clients to select their own food. They also helped at a food distribution.
On deck-building projects, Adia and Corey learned how to operate the neumatic nailer and Corey also learned to use a miter saw. The pastor said he and other adults showed the young people how to operate the tools in a safe manner. Gavin said he learned the proper way to use a hammer.
Brandon, Gavin and Corey also helped dig up an area at a residence to lay a walkway. The group also helped build a deck on a resident’s home and repaint a house.
The young people said the mission trip would be something they would do again. It helped build their confidence and showed them other circumstances, Pastor Jesse said. “I think they came away with a new appreciation of what they have.”
The mission trip also provided the youths with an “electronics-free” experience without cellphones and Internet and so on. They talked to new people, played games and invented their own fun.
Carole Sharp, Corey’s mother, said she thought the mission trip was a good prelude to his confirmation studies. Chris Harris, mother of Gavin, said she had participated in mission trips and wanted her son to “have the serving experience.”
At services July 13 and 14, Pastor Jesse said he and the youths will talk about their experience and share photos. A vacation Bible school at Zion from July 15-19 will reflect the idea of serving others.