The Rev. Tammy Martens led a group of 30 on a service learning/mission trip to Greensboro, NC.
Below are reflections from our youth.
On Sunday, October 14, after worship, the youth will be sharing more thoughts and reflections in our Friendship Hall.
This week I was prepared to work hard and make memories. But what I wasn’t prepared for was understanding why our church does mission trips. This week I learned how lucky I am to live in the house that I live in, have three meals a day, and have the support that I do. I worked at four charities while in Greensboro, North Carolina. I felt amazing while working at all four, but the one that I feel had the most impact on my view of poverty was Greensboro Urban Ministry. I stacked shelves with canned goods, sorted diapers, checked expiration dates on food, and made bags of food for those who needed it most. The reason that GUM was so meaningful to me was the fact that I suddenly realized how fortunate I was to be able to go home and eat whatever I felt like while there were people going to complete strangers for something so necessary as food.
While at GUM, a woman would announce over the loud speaker “food for 1, food for 1” or 2 or 3 or 4. Then people would come in and take one bag of total/all meal food, one bag of produce, and one bag of dry goods. Then people of ORUCC ages 16 and older brought the bags out to the people needing food. Every time the woman said “food for 1/2/3/4” I felt more like what I was doing was really helping those in need which is such a rewarding feeling that I’m so excited to experience next year’s mission trip.
–Leah Lahaie, 8th Grade, Kromrey Middle School
What I really liked this week was that I got to help a lot of people in North Carolina. My favorite experience was that I got to help build tiny houses. Since I have a lot of experience with tools and building stuff, I thought that was really fun. I got to shovel sand and gravel. I got to drive nails which I love doing. I even got to put up outside walls.
Also, I loved helping out at Peacehaven Farm. I helped weed a flowerbed. I helped dig up potatoes. I helped pick cucumbers. I even got to pick blueberries which I have always wanted to do. Those are my top two most favorite experiences on this mission trip.
–Dan Quintanilla, 9th Grade, West High School
Helping to build the tiny houses was very meaningful to me for many reasons. One of those reasons was the hard work. The work was difficult but looking back on it makes me feel proud. One example was when we were carrying buckets of cement. They were heavy but seeing the tub that we were getting the cement from get empty made it feel like an accomplishment.
Another reason why the tiny house building was meaningful is that each task needed multiple people for it to be completed. One example of this was putting up metal pieces. These needed one person to hold it up and another to hammer the nail in. Another example of this was seen at Out of the Garden. Here we worked together to put food in bags. All in all I grew a lot as a person.
–Grace Sherrill, 9th Grade, Memorial High School
This mission trip had many meaningful activities. One activity, the construction of tiny houses, was especially meaningful because I knew I was helping people find a home. This week we worked on constructing low income houses, the size for one person. I loved knowing that I could help certain people find houses. I only wish I could help everyone find a home.
While building the tiny houses I got to meet many nice people. Tom was a very nice man who was in charge of the construction. Phillip was the carpenter who was also very nice. I also got to meet and relate with people from ORUCC and the Mennonite church. Meeting new people was my favorite part of the whole trip.
–Peter Heise, 11th Grade, Memorial High School
Going into this week, I knew maybe a fourth of the people on this trip. Today, I can confidently say that I know the names of everyone on this trip. It was extremely meaningful to get to know so many other followers of Christ around my age, and to learn their stories and share the experience of serving together. Being able to problem solve and work as a team with a new set of people has really expanded my mind to the possibility for friendship that everyone possesses. I’m incredibly grateful that I got to share this week with such an amazing group of people.
–Lydia Oakleaf, 11th Grade, Memorial High School
Mission trips as a whole are very meaningful to me; a place where you can put your head down and work and make a difference. The trip to Greensboro has been no different. We have worked on building houses, worked at a food bank, and helped at Greensboro Urban Ministry. GUM stood out to me during our work because of how people reacted to our work.
Many of the volunteers seemed so happy to have us and everyone around us were working hard. One of the volunteers named Caleph who helped fill carts with food for people in need was an extremely hard worker who seemed to have his little operation mastered. He seemed to move at the speed of light and probably bagged 1000 bags of food that day. It showed me how much people care about their work. He truly understood his impact and that drove him to work so hard. To me he is an inspiration, he is someone who is unselfish, works hard and cares about his community. Finding people like Caleph are what these mission trips’ core values are all about.
–Andrew Ericson, Graduating Senior, West High School, Attending UW-LaCrosse
On this year’s mission trip to Greensboro, North Carolina, I had a lot of fun. Being my first trip, I had no idea what to expect. I knew it was going to be fun and exciting and I also knew it was going to be filled with hard work. I had no idea that I’d end up feeling like I’ve grown to be a better part of the congregation, closer to my fellow youth members, and more aware of different situations some families/individuals are living in.
Working at the work sites I noticed all of them had a few things in common. They all wanted to help people in need, better the community, and, maybe, give people something to believe in or call home. Peacehaven Farm was my favorite because they provided a space to make people with special needs feel like their part of something. Mark, the staff person, was very nice and even gave us some food from the gardens to take for dinner.
Working at Tiny Houses really made me feel like I was actually doing something. Physically making something that a person will live in made me feel like I was making a difference. Aside from getting tar on my clothes, I was really satisfied with how the week turned out. I had fun, made memories, and helped families in need. I can’t wait for next year’s trip to Colorado.
–Bella Nuon, 8th Grade, Glacial-Drumlin
This is my second mission trip and it amazes me how different my experiences have been so far. One of my favorite places we went and helped was tiny houses. At tiny houses we helped build small homes that would be more affordable for the homeless. I thought that this was a really neat idea and I’m glad I got to be part of it. Throughout the week we put up 4 walls of one house, water proofed another and put up some siding. A really cool part of this was being able to see our progress and leave a mark on the community.
The mission trip is a fun way for youth to branch out from their normal summer activities. It is so amazing to be able to feel like you helped to make someone’s life better. Although it can be hard at some points and you may feel homesick and tired, it is very worth it. The mission trip is also a great way to connect with people at the places you volunteer and connect with the youth from our church community. I have connected with many people and made some lifelong friends. I am very thankful that I got the opportunity to be a part of the mission trip.
–Lily Martens. 9th Grade, Memorial High School
On Monday, we went to the Greensboro Urban Ministry. They split us up into 2 groups based on if you were 16 years old or not. I went to the Food Pantry and helped bag cans of food for the hungry. It was cool seeing what they do for the community and you could really see the effect it had on people
We also went to tiny houses which is a non-profit organization that works on building tiny houses for homeless people. I mainly worked on putting up siding for one of the houses. It was cool to see how complex it was and how much planning goes into a house. Overall, I had a good time on this mission trip.
–Zach Amburn, 10th Grade, Memorial High School
Even after 4 trips under my belt, I still wasn’t sure what to expect from the Greensboro trip. This year, I would be the oldest, the example for everyone younger. For once I had no one to look up to or to follow suit.
Being a leader is hard. It means you have to show others how to serve. It means looking for work, giving orders and upholding rules. After a week, I wish I had left more behind. Sure, I worked with sweat and pain at Tiny Houses and with a smile at Greensboro Urban Ministry, but a week is so short. Service can’t be a one week practice. No, service has no breaks, because, it is a mindset. Service is the force that makes you stop to help an old lady or hammer nails for a house in sweltering heat and searing pain.
If there is one thing I hope I left for the youth it is a service mindset. I hope they help others when it is easy, hard or even requires personal sacrifice. I hope that together, even on a microscopic level, our service can change the world.
–Aidan Conklin. Graduating Senior, West High School, attending Bradley College
When I consider the most influential moments of this mission trip for me, I don’t remember the proud speeches of the leaders of the projects we worked on. I don’t think at all about the lofty goals of the organizations, or how much money they give away. Those organizations do good work, and I do not mean to belittle their accomplishments. But I do not think that those aspects of the work really impacted me. Instead, I found that the small things were what affected me most: the volunteers who worked the hard jobs without expecting recognition and actually enjoyed it. These people really inspired me and showed me how, no matter what you give, it affects others in a positive way
One of these people was a worker at the Urban Ministry named Julius. He directed people to their seats in the lunchroom where they fed the hungry. I also saw him greet people personally and make people feel more comfortable, which seemed above and beyond his responsibilities and was admirable to me. Another person I met was Tom, a retired carpentry teacher who builds houses for the organization Tiny Houses. Rather than trying to do the tasks as efficiently as possible, he took the time to show us how to do them and let us work, even when we made mistakes that he wouldn’t have. Overall, these people and others I met really shaped how I think about helping other people.
–Nate Frueh, 12 Grade, West High School
Every mission trip I seem to meet so many interesting people, each person having their own story. On this trip, I met a man who especially stood out to me. His name is Tom or “OG” that he called himself which meant “Old Guy”. He is a man who failed at retirement. However, he is a very successful man when it comes to those in need. Tom is a project manager for Tiny Houses, an organization that builds exactly what you think—tiny houses. When I arrived on the site I was expecting a rough group of backwards construction workers only to be met by a small man with a big smile. He introduced all of us to the site as well as to his life. What stuck with me most was how he approached and assigned jobs to us. For me, I was rather used to being in an auto shop or workshop but treated as a dumb, small doll. I love working with machines and in the trade’s world, but it always annoyed me how I was assigned to “more manageable tasks” because the strong men were needed to handle power tools, I never could. Yet when Tom assigned work, he never seemed to look at us on just labels but saw so much more. Tom would even assure other workers that I would be up to any task simply with “O yeah Izzy can do that.” The way he treated everyone was a way I hadn’t seen often when doing manual work. Tom gave me so much energy. He reminded me that I shouldn’t be stopped by a label, no matter what it is. Tom taught me many lessons. He taught me to give a kind smile to everyone, even if you met them two minutes ago. Out of all the people I met on this trip, I can confidently say Tom is the most amazing and extraordinary one.
–Izzy Schryver, 11th Grade, Memorial High School
This year I spent my first mission trip in North Carolina. At first I was homesick but I got over that quickly. My first work site was Tiny Houses. We did a lot of hard work but it was worth it. A powerful moment was when we lifted the wall and realized that all the heat we experienced would help bring someone out of it.
My second work site was Greensboro Urban Ministry. It is a food pantry and homeless shelter. I had a lot of fun working there. While I was there I sorted canned food and boxed food. I realized that the food pantry is much bigger than the one I worked at in Verona. A powerful moment there was realizing that for all the people who need help there are a lot of people willing to give it.
My third work site was Out of the Garden. Out of the Garden is an organization that gives food to families and kids who have nothing to eat home. That work site was really fun. I’m glad that I got to work there multiple times.
My fourth work site was PeaceHaven Farm. This was probably my favorite work site. We got to garden and meet a cat.
My favorite experiences which weren’t already listed are the following: On my last workday at Tiny Houses my group was shoveling rocks to the side of a building. During our break we talked about how it was efficient the way we were doing it and so we came up with a solution. It only took a piece of plywood and 4 cinder blocks to make a shoot for the rocks. Our invention made things easier and more fun since we thought of it ourselves. Another fun experience was when Hannah taught me how to play Scum. At first I was bad and had no strategy but then I won and became president.
If you have read this then thank you for reading it. Congrats for getting through it and sorry for making it so long. If you can go next year, I suggest going.
–Sophie Hodkiewicz, 8th Grade, Badger Ridge Middle School
On Wednesday, I went to Peacehaven Farm. The farm was beautiful. It had a house, a greenhouse, cows, and many vegetable beds. The farm’s goal is to bring people together, and house people with intellectual developmental disabilities. Sadly we did not get to meet the 3 residents who are leaving there because there were at a daycamp.
But, we did work with the full-time staff farmer, Mark. We were picking green beans and cucumbers when he offered to let us take some cucumbers and basil back for dinner.
This meant so much to me because the garden wasn’t that big but he still offered to let us take some. A lot of the food there went to the residents at Peacehaven. They also are involved in Community Supported Agriculture and provide CSA’s. It really showed me how something little can mean a lot.
–Jori Gasser, 9th Grade, Verona Area High School
On this mission trip there were many meaningful moments. My favorite one was when me and Pete were taking out the recycling and there were people there receiving food, around 30 feet away from us. Suddenly a man appeared walking towards the recycling area, singing the song that was playing and it cheered everyone up. It showed me how even people in these desperate times still could laugh and have fun, and that’s a bit more than a lot of people with money can do.
Overall for my first mission trip, I had a great time and met a lot more people. I was welcomed in quickly and felt like I belonged. I had a lot of fun this past week and I’ll definitely be coming back next year!
–Coen Fewel, 10th Grade, Verona Area High School
I started this week with high expectations. These did not fail me. This week has been really fun. The work is satisfying and it’s good to meet new people. But the most fun thing we did this week or what I liked the most was working at tiny houses. Looking at the week really showed me how valuable teamwork is.
In four days we had put up four walls of a house, filled a basement with gravel and water-proofed it. Teamwork really makes that dream work.
–Sam Stretchberry, 9th Grade, Middleton High School
This was my first mission trip so everything was new for me. One thing I can first of all say is that I had an amazing time. The people in the ORUCC youth group I met, the lives I didn’t know I was going to impact, and the work sites were all great.
On Monday night my group talked about how you don’t have to make it known to others that you helped and served. You don’t have to draw attention to it. Don’t just do something for attention, do it for yourself. You know you served and that is all that matters.
My favorite work site was Peacehaven Farm. This farm employs people with disabilities and teaches them how to farm and get jobs. They can bring just as much to the table as we can.
This was so much fun. There was a great balance of work and free time. My all time favorite thing that happened was that we got all four exterior walls up for a tiny house. I would definitely come on this trip again.
–Hannah Gingrich, 11th Grade, Verona Area High School
Something meaningful to me happened on the Tuesday of this mission trip. My group and I were scheduled to go to Greensboro Urban Ministry. Because I was 16 years old I met the age requirement of delivering food orders to people in need waiting outside in their cars. These people were allowed to come receive emergency food for their families only 4 times per year.
This really opened my eyes to make me realize how easy and well I really have it—to have meals on my table and to be able to get the things I want. There were some people who didn’t even have a ride. I am sure I will remember this for a long time.
–Aidan Muckian, 11th Grade, Memorial High School
This week the main worksite I worked at was Tiny Houses. Their goal is to build affordable houses for homeless people in the Greensboro area. The man I worked with most of the time was Tom, the Project Manager. He was the first person to greet us and explain what was going to happen and the expectations for our groups this week. I really enjoyed working with him and learning from him. He was a great role model on the worksite and continuously made sure that we had work to do that fit our skill set. He made sure we were never too hot or dehydrated. Throughout the week he was teaching us valuable lessons about hard work and leadership. He told us that it was always important to do every job to the best of our ability and he told us that as the boss it is important to earn respect and told us how. He said that if you show as much hard work as the people working for you, you will earn their respect faster.
Although I enjoyed working with Tom my favorite part of the trip was getting to know the people in my group and learning from them. Having Gabe as a group leader made the week so much better and more fun. He was always making sure we weren’t in over our heads and we were getting enough water. He was the perfect mix of joking and serious during the group meetings and tried his best to keep us on track.
–Rebekah Hoard, 10th Grade, Verona High School
This week we went to four non-profit organizations. Tiny Houses was my favorite. This is an organization that helps people that are homeless. They build small houses for them to rent. They have a small lot in Greensboro that has 6 houses. One is finished and has a resident living there now. One foundation had no walls before this week. As a collective group we put up all four walls and cut out door and window frames. To me it is so amazing that 30 people with little to no carpentry skills could get this done. It’s also amazing to know that somebody will live in a house that we built.
We also did a number of other things including visiting the International Civil Rights Museum. It is so horrible what people did to the African-American population. It was difficult to see how people were murdered and that people were proud of this as depicted in the pictures at the museum.
–Gavin Muckian, 9th Grade, Memorial High School
This week the main work site I contributed to was Tiny Houses. The man in charge was Tom. Tom worked as a contractor for over 20 years, then taught carpentry in High School for over a decade. After that he retired for about six months. But he wasn’t satisfied doing nothing so he joined Tiny Houses Greensboro.
In our time with Tom it was quite clear how dedicated he was to the work. He acknowledged how he wasn’t going to fix homelessness. The few houses were just a drop in the bucket. But getting just one more person off the street and into a home was worth it to him.
He didn’t just care about the potential tenants but he made sure to make us take lots of breaks in between our work in the 95 degree sun. He told us that efficiency didn’t matter, that whatever we got done was more than enough. He made sure to explain what he was doing and why he was doing it so even when we weren’t working we were learning.
In short, Tom was inspiring. He worked more than any of us despite being in his sixties. He made sure we all knew his appreciation for our aid. He passed on his knowledge of home building so we got some real world experience out of it. He made himself the person we can all strive to be.
–Jonah Rasmussen, 10th Grade, Memorial High School
This week one experience that was memorable was raising the walls of the tiny house we worked on. We spent a long time in the hot sun building the walls. It was a very gratifying feeling to finally be able to raise up the walls and see our finished work. It took a lot of people to be able to lift the walls which made me think about how we needed everyone to work tog ether or nothing would get done.
It also felt really cool to know that by building the tiny house we were changing one person’s life and making a big difference. At first, when we started building the walls it was hard to imagine how it was all going to come together to make a house. As we kept building, however, it got easier to see how everything was going to fit together. Even though we ended up covered in sweat and sawdust, building a tiny house as a community was an amazing experience.
–Lila Eggerling-Boeck, 9th Grade, West High School
This week we did a lot of work for a couple of different charities but the one that I will remember most is Greensboro Tiny Houses. Going into it I didn’t quite know what to expect since I have never had any past experience in construction. The charity’s goal was to build tiny houses to get people off the streets and out of shelters. My group mainly worked on building walls for one of the tiny houses. At first it was really slow and we mainly just watched but after the first day it went a lot faster and my team and I were able to build a wall from start to finish. This was a really cool moment for me because I never knew we could accomplish something like that in the heat we were in. It really showed me what teamwork can do!
Building with my team was fun but the people who worked for Tiny Houses were also great. One who stood out to me was Tom, the project manager. Not only was he a great teacher but he was willing to do the work with us. You could tell he really cared about the charity. He knew he couldn’t fix homelessness but he knew he could help get a couple of people of the street. One thing he said that I will always remember was “I’m not going to make you do anything I wouldn’t do myself.” Overall, I really enjoyed working at Tiny Houses.
–Jordan Brown, 8th Grade, Hamilton Middle School
My group and I experienced many things during the week. One of the many important experiences I had was working with Tom from Tiny Houses. Tom was really inspirational in many ways. The first of which was that when he listed his concerns for the week our productivity was not on the list. He was more interested in us learning something rather than us being efficient. I think we surprised him though. Our group not only learned how to build the first wall of the house very fast. We were able to erect the other 3 walls each in under 2 hours.
Tom also did not believe he could solve homelessness—just like our tour guide at the International Civil Rights Museum didn’t think one person could solve inequality. Both thought that by solving these issues one step at a time and creating a passionate new generation, the issues could be solved. The museum had a wall with pictures of civil rights influencers. The guide explained that all of the blank spaces on the wall were left for us—that we could make a difference too. She believed our generation could solve this problem. This idea of creating a passionate youth is what this trip is all about. We are the future, so we better make it bright.
Gabe Martens, 11th Grade, Memorial High School
Something that was meaningful was being able to help people who needed it. I enjoyed working at Greensboro Urban Ministry, sorting food and bagging produce. Sorry to the people that got three things of spinach! I also liked working at Out of The Garden because the people there were nice and the work was fun. We bagged rice into one-pound bags and sorted produce into good and bad. There was a refrigerator of beverages and a bowl of candy and when we finished they gave us ice cream.
One challenge was the heat while working on the Tiny Houses. We were in the sun all day and only a few people got to work in the shade of the house walls. The people running the Tiny Houses were nice and one day while we were there the walls of the houses were built and we started siding another house. Some people tarred the foundation of another house. Then we graveled the pit and poured cement. After working, we showered back at the church.
–Annelisa Frueh, 10th Grade, West High School
Thursday, on the Tiny Houses project, my team and I were working on shoveling wheelbarrows of gravel around the foundation of a house, but it was going very slowing and inefficiently. Shoveling small loads of gravel at a time was very tiring and slow. So, during our break, we decided to think of a solution that would be much faster and more efficient. We thought to have a big piece of plywood extending over the area where we duped the gravel and then tip the entire wheelbarrow onto the plywood. Then using a broom, we pushed the gravel into the area around the foundation. This was much more efficient and we finished in a short amount of time. This was meaningful because I was happy of our problem-solving skills and how we were able to complete a long job in a short amount of time.
The first day I went to Greensboro Urban Ministry, an Outreach Ministry that serves lunch to people from 10:30 to 12:30 each day. While working there I got to interact with so many kind, grateful people who go there to eat. This experience was great because since most of these people don’t have a home of consistent meals, this place houses lots of amazing, grateful people.
–Ethan Evensen, 11th Grade, Verona High School
I am always impressed by the amount of dedication that the people in the places we go to have. Every new place we go there are always one or two people who remind me once again that there are humans full of love in their hearts for other people. One such example was the couple who started Out of the Garden. One day they shared their story with us. I was kind of tired of bagging rice so it was very nice to get a break from that. However, I really felt that it moved me after hearing their story and made me more motivated to keep doing things like this. Seeing these good people is why I go on this trip.
–Soren Dobbins, 10th Grade, Memorial High School
One thing that was super rewarding to me happened on Tuesday. A few of us worked on water-proofing a house’s foundation. This job consisted of painting a few layers of tar onto a cement wall. This was a labor-intensive job that was sometimes in the full sun. We finished that day covered in tar and exhausted. The next day we returned to hear the building inspector had passed our work and then we continued with other jobs on the house. This was a great moment that made all the hard work worth it. It feels great to know that our work here this week will help individuals get off the streets and find a safe and affordable place to stay.
This mission trip has felt very different to me than the last two years. I think this was both because this year I was one of the older kids in the group and that this year I was a little less shy than the previous years. This meant that this year I was able to reach out to more of the kids on the trip and get to know them better.
–Maddie Miller, 11th Grade, Memorial High School
Going on this trip has been a great experience. Thank you for having me. I’ve done so much volunteer work and that’s only one reason I feel so great now. Serving out food at Greensboro Urban Ministry was something that I will remember for a long time. Seeing so many people from all different backgrounds having a smile on their face and conversing extensively with each was an amazing sight. This has helped me to realize how something as simple as a free meal for those in need can have an unimaginable impact on hundreds of people.
Visiting the International Civil Rights Museum was also a very moving event. I’ve understood most of the injustices that people of color have faced and still face in the U.S. for many years. However, I often forget how short of a time it’s been when segregation was a normal sight here, how it was government sanctioned, and that horrific torture and killings occurred in the name of racism. Every time this comes back to me it shocks me and just blows my mind.
–Jeffry Hansen, 11th Grade, Memorial High School
One experience I had was at tiny houses and I was working with a group putting rock around the foundation of a building. One side of the house was in the hill and we had very little space to move so we had to do it shovel by shovel. We took a break and decided to problem solve to make it easier to get the rock in there so it didn’t take the whole day. We took a piece of plywood and put it on some cinder blocks, so we could dump rocks from a wheelbarrow onto the plywood and slide them in the fenced area. We did this for most of the building all the way around.
Another experience was putting tar on the side of the foundation. It was really hot that day and the sun reflected off the tar to make it even more challenging. We started with the walls in the shade and then switched out so a group did the first coat in the sun and then we did the second coat. The next day the inspector came and made sure the tar was good for water proofing. Luckily it passed inspection so we moved onto concrete which we carried up and down the hill so they could fill the foundation with concrete for support.
At Greensboro Urban Ministry we served lunch for people who needed it. On a normal day they serve anywhere from 200 to 500 people. On this day they served 300 or so. It was interesting to watch the people interact. The people eating lunch talked to each other and the police officers seemed happy to be inside and out of the sun eating a meal.
–Rachel Hoard, 11th Grade, Verona High School