Teens lend helping hand through mission work

This July, a small group of teenagers from Southside Baptist Church will head to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Mont. The reserve, which has a low average income, is no stranger to youth groups coming in the summertime to offer vacation Bible school and preach.

But this year, teens from the Warner Robins church hope to show God’s love in a more physical way.

“We will be doing ... minor roof repair, painting houses, (and) replacing decks and unsafe spots on porches where children and people walk outside their homes. Really, just whatever fix-up type jobs that need to be done,” said Josh Ray, a youth pastor at Southside. “We’d also like to go and share the love of Christ with them.”

Last year, Southside went to Costa Rica to paint orphanages and do other charitable work.

Going on mission trips is a way to volunteer, but at the same time, teens see how different people live and have some fun. Marie Nottingham, a senior at Mount de Sales Academy, took a trip one year to Reynosa, Mexico, with her youth group at First Presbyterian Church in Macon.

“When I’m there, we do construction work. I’ve (helped build) a house for a missionary outside the red-light district and worked to construct buildings at a school for deaf children,” Nottingham said.

While the trips are often to exotic locations such as Costa Rica and Mexico, the primary aim is not a week on the beach.

Corinne Easterlin, a senior at Stratford Academy, went to Costa Rica one year with Macon’s Mulberry Street United Methodist Church.

“Around 30 people went to Costa Rica for 10 days on a missions trip. We worked in group-sponsored Bible schools and housing construction, among other things,” she said.

Easterlin said she felt a strong connection with those she met as they got to know each other and prayed together.

Some teens are interested in mission trips as a lifelong pursuit.

“I love to experience new cultures and have hope of being a missionary one day,” said Warner Robins High School senior Kaitlin Kijawski, who will travel with the Southside group. “Traveling to Montana would be a good way to see if I will ever consider future mission work there.”

Students usually are responsible for raising funds to go on these trips. The trip to Montana will cost each person about $1,300.

“I am currently writing support letters to family members and friends asking for donations,” Kijawski said.

Southside’s youth group also is tentatively planning a spaghetti dinner to raise money.

Despite the cost and commitment, teens said, they stick with mission trips because they want to lend a hand.

“I do it because I believe we’re called to spread the gospel everywhere,” Nottingham said. “Also, it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, and on top of that, it’s fun.”

Melissa Hyde is a senior at Warner Robins High School. Maxine Anderson, a senior at Mount de Sales Academy; Lisa Suh, a senior at Stratford Academy; and Lucy Ma, a junior at Houston County High School, contributed to this story.