By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
It’s a big world out there. That’s one of the things youth at New Beginnings Church in Anderson learn on their annual trip.
More important, perhaps, are the friendships forged along the way.
“For a lot of these kids, it’s their first experience out of Indiana,” said youth pastor Mike Barker. He and his wife, Tela, organize the yearly outing for kids in grades 9 through 12 from the church youth group.
There are strings attached. The youth must perform 50 hours of service to earn a spot on the trip. This year, eight kids will head to Niagara Falls, N.Y. and Sandusky, Ohio in late June.
In the months leading up to the trip, the youth mow grass, set up bereavement luncheons, clean the church, paint and stain decks and playground equipment. Last year, they even revamped a wooden shed and sided it. They pick up plenty of practical skills along the way.
“We always stress that you earn this,” said Tela. The generosity of the church members makes the trip possible.
The kids have no problem with the 50-hour work requirement, obviously enjoying their shared labors. Last summer, Michael Andrews and Adam Purdue worked on rebuilding the shed.
“I got to tear down walls with a sledgehammer,” said Michael, clearly pleased. Christine Davenport and Kendra Andrews were no less pleased to have painted the shed.
In the past, Barker and his wife have shepherded the church youth to Chicago, New York, and Washington DC. Barker recalls the New York trip when they stayed in Times Square and hit all the highlights, including Central Park and Coney Island.
“Some of them got to see the ocean for the first time,” said Barker.
This time out, the youth will don their raingear on the Maid of the Mist as they get a close up look at Niagara Falls, and see it from another angle on the Cave of the Winds tour.
As exciting as new experiences and new places are, the trip gives the youth the opportunity to connect.
“I like the trip because we learn stuff that’s historical, and as a youth group, we tend to bond a little closer,” said Michael.
“It’s been really fun. We bond as a group, as a family,” said Adam. He also laughingly pointed out another thing he learned on a previous trip, “We couldn’t survive in New York, it’s so expensive.”
“We always wear our New Beginnings shirts. This year we get to design them,” said Kendra. They’re planning to tie-dye their shirts after one of their work days.
Alex Metzing will be going on the youth trip for the first time this year, “Just to go there and have the experience, to be able to bond with these people, get those connections you can only get on a trip.”
The kids take along some spending money which they earn beforehand by serving a luncheon once a month. Donations from the luncheon are divvied up between those on the trip. They must learn to manage their money so that it lasts throughout the trip.
“They get to see some things a lot of them would never get to see until they’re adults,” said New Beginnings Pastor Gary Marcum. “They get the experience of a little responsibility.”
“They’re a great group of kids,” said Barker. “They’re just a joy to be around.”
Everyone is in agreement about the Barkers, too.
“They genuinely care about you,” said Christine.
All the youth chimed in, “They’re amazing.”
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