ANDERSON, Ind. —
Sometimes young people find the most difficult part of a mission trip is simply surrendering the electronic devices that have become like appendages. Each year Donna Madewell, pastoral assistant and director of Christian Education at First Presbyterian Church, ushers the youth group of her congregation on a mission trip within the United States.
“The hardest thing is getting them to relinquish their electronics,” she said. “If they take them, they are drawn out of the relational element and into themselves. With earbuds in, they can’t be part of the conversation.”
Once the initial discomfort subsides, the young adults have a great time bonding, working and traveling. The intimacy of living together for a week creates a deeper connection.
“This opens eyes and opens hearts,” she continued. “They meet people who are different than they are and leave prejudices behind. They work with the elderly or pull weeds or work in kids clubs or paint. They sign a covenant to do whatever task they are asked to do.”
By working through an agency, the group is paired with an organization that needs extra hands and feet for a week. Madewell tries to choose a city that will be new to the teens and will require a different type of service than previous years. Sometimes the students get to know people from other service groups in one city and then coordinate efforts to meet up with them again. This summer the middle school students will travel to Cincinnati and the high school group will visit Birmingham.
“The electronic media is wonderful because they can remain friends with these people,” said Madewell. “They can check where that group is going the following year and sometimes we can go there too so we can all be together again. They see that they are not alone out there. They have peers that share in the love of Jesus.”
“I’ve learned to go out there, do God’s work and enjoy it,” said Tanner Madewell, 18, who has been on many mission trips. “I’ve made friends with people in other groups and am still talking with them and keeping in touch. I enjoy getting out of Anderson and exploring. I love to travel, see new things, have different experiences, meet people and learn about their cultures.”