Mission Study for a Mission “Trip”

A deaconess and a youth group team up for a virtual summer mission trip that engages youth in loving thy neighbor and themselves.

Mission Study for a Mission “Trip”
The youth group at Community United Methodist Church in Naperville, Illinois, and Kids Above All share a 3-day virtual mission "trip".

When COVID-19 canceled its annual mission trip, the youth group at Community United Methodist Church in Naperville, Illinois, was left searching for a way to still make an impact that summer. So I reached out to the church’s youth pastor, Jeremiah Lee, and suggested a partnership between the youth group and Kids Above All, the local nonprofit for which I work, for a virtual mission “trip.”

In August 2020, Kids Above All, formerly called ChildServ and originally a Methodist orphanage run by deaconesses, facilitated a safe, socially distanced online mission experience for the Naperville youth group. During the three-day event, Lee and 10 young people, ranging from 6th grade to seniors in high school, learned about Kids Above All’s programs and its 126-year-old mission to build better lives for children and families, made no-sew masks from unused Grateful Dead t-shirts and created identity collages to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to love yourself and your neighbor.

Much of the mission experience focused on the agency’s DuPage County Group Homes Program, which provides safe, supportive living environments for 18 teens, ages 12-18, and helps them become independent adults through therapy, life skills training and educational assistance. The youth group met Kids Above All staff and heard about the realities and trauma the young people in the organization’s group homes experienced.

The mission group also learned about the importance of mental health and the basics of managing stress and anxiety by studying the United Methodist Women study for youth, Managing Anxiety, by Trudy Rankin and Faye Wilso. The global health pandemic shifted the youth’s lives in long-lasting ways, and the spiritual growth study helped give them some tools and permission to lean into their faith to help take care of themselves. They also learned about the Shema, the Hebrew version of the Jesus Creed.

During a summer worship service, Lee shared the impact of the online mission experience and how proud he was of the youth who participated and sought a greater understanding of what it means to love God and share God’s love.

Lily Stamper, a junior at the Methodist-founded North Central College, interned as a community relations coordinator at Kids Above All, pioneering as the agency’s first ever virtual summer intern. She helped design, plan and execute the virtual mission trip. Her enthusiasm engaged the youth in fun and practical ways, and all involved learned the importance of building dynamic mission partnerships.

In addition to mask making, the youth helped to collect school supplies for the Kids Above All Back-to-School Drive, including 141 dry erase boards with markers for e-learners. They went a step further to engage their congregation in providing support for quarterly pizza dinners for the three group homes as an outward sign of loving their neighbors.

In a tough time in their lives, the youth at Community United Methodist Church took part of their summer to learn more about their neighbors and one another and about how to be a Christian in community.

Deaconess Catherine Inserra is manager of faith and community relations for Kids Above All in Chicago, Illinois.

Posted or updated: 6/27/2021 12:00:00 AM