In late June, our Dayspring High School Youth spent a week in worship, fellowship and service with four other Methodist Churches. As our Dayspring students passed through the doors of Parkway United Methodist in Sugarland, Texas, there was a sense of hope, strength and opportunity for what the week would entail. Youth were paired in Work Teams comprising of 4-6 youth from various Churches and assigned an adult leader for the week. Together these Work Teams became similar to a family unit, and spent the week serving others and being authentic witnesses in the greater Fort Bend County area. During the week 27 different worksites were completed, projects varied from wheel-chair ramps, installing siding, painting, roof repair, yard work, among other things. Each project made a significant difference in the client, community and the students working on the project.
I was assigned a work site on Sunday evening, and told “this is a large project that will take two teams all week, and even then you won’t finish what needs to be done… do what you can to turn this place into a home.”
Monday morning we loaded our vehicle with tools, supplies, our lunch and a special lunch we made for our clients. We arrived to our site and as I knocked on the door a tired looking young man (15 year old) named Alex comes to the door. I introduce myself and he begins to show me around the house. I ask him how he was doing and he said he was tired; he had gotten in late the night before from a basketball tournament. I quickly became humbled as Alex showed me around the house and described water racing into the house every time it rains; upon closer inspection we discovered large gaps in all the window facings, throughout the siding seams and around the doors. The walls on the inside had been partially covered in sheetrock which had become covered in mold. We came together as a group and discussed the situation, developed a plan, said a short prayer and immediately went to work attempting to seal the outside of the house. After about an hour I noticed Alex intently watching the youth on our work teams work and visit among themselves. I asked him “hey Alex would you be interested in working with us”. In a typical teen response he mumbled, “sure, I guess so”. The rest of the morning, Alex, myself, and 3 other young men worked together on the side of the house caulking the eaves and seams of the house, I listened to each tell their life story to the group. As the day continued, I heard all the youth assigned to this site tell their story as they diligently worked along side Alex. At lunch we invited Alex and his mother to join us under the large shade tree in the front yard where we ate lunch together, and discussed what it meant to have faith and hope. As we wrapped up for the day we said bye to Alex, and told him we would see him again Tuesday.
On the way to the worksite Tuesday morning, one of the students in my group said, “hey Mr. Jeff, Alex told me yesterday he doesn’t have a bible, do you think it would be OK to give him mine?” I responded, “Absolutely, I think that would be great”. So we all signed the front cover and left Alex a short message. On this second day as we arrived to begin work on the house we found Alex still in bed, but he quickly stumbled out of bed and began working with us again. Everyone worked hard all day, continuing to caulk the outside of the house and tape and mud the inside.
Wednesday rolled around and I noticed the eagerness and morale of the crew was not the same as the first two days, I attempted to muster up a pep talk on the car ride. But the true encouragement came to me when we pulled in the driveway to find Alex sitting on a stool bouncing his basketball waiting on us. He immediately greeted all of us as if we were his own family. It was now mid-week and we were under a tight timeline on the inside of the house so we could have the wall textured that afternoon. The heat seemed especially brutal but everyone pressed on, and at the end of the day we noticed this converted garage starting to take the shape of a home. That afternoon, 2 doors we ordered were delivered and Alex asked me where they were going to be used. I showed him how one was for his room, and the other was for the bathroom. He smiled and looked at me and asked, “I am really going to have a door?” Not thinking much of it I said “yes isn’t that awesome”, as we were packing up I noticed Alex studying the door outside, and the door frame where it was to be installed. As we were telling Alex farewell for the day, he asked if he could bring a friend to join us on Thursday.
When we arrived Thursday Alex and another young man were standing in the driveway, as we got out of the vehicles, Alex introduced his friend as Tito. Both were eager to get started, and we immediately incorporated them into our group. As we were painting inside, I noticed the door that we had delivered and left outside the day before had been moved inside, unpackaged and was left ajar against the wall. Later that day, Alex’s mother arrived home and she pulled me to the side. She said, see that door you left yesterday, Alex is in awe over it, he moved it into the house last night so that nothing would happen to it, and set it in the door frame and walked in and out of it repeating “mom I am really going to have my own door”. She continued to thank us for all we had done, and how much of an impact we have made on her and her sons life. As we talked she began to weep, and said we were the answer to many of her prayers, she accused us of being angels sent from above. Ok I admit I began to cry with her. We left that day knowing that we still had a lot left to do, and only 1 work day left.
As we left the Church on Friday and began driving to the work site we discussed all the tasks still left to be finished, and who was going to do what. As we pulled into the drive way, Alex, Tito and Jaqueline (Alex’s mom) happily greeted us. One of our first tasks was to hang Alex’s door, as he helped us install this simple door he was glowing with excitement. Once finished, he eagerly opened the door and walked through it. I notice several of our students walk back and through the door with him and take a moment to embrace, with soft whispers among themselves. We begin to help Alex clean his room so he could move his bed back into it, when a special delivery arrived. The night before a group of the adult volunteers in the camp had all chipped in to purchase Alex his own basketball goal, and together we stayed up until 2am assembling the goal. I ask Alex to come help us unload another load, and as he stepped outside his door he saw them coming down the driveway with the goal. Alex immediately ran to the back of the house and began to cry. All the youth on the site huddle around Alex, a young man who had been holding in his emotions all week, and cried with him. In fact there was not a dry eye on the site. Alex had expressed his dream of playing in the NBA all week with us, and with this goal to practice on he had been given the opportunity and hope to fulfill that dream. The rest of the afternoon we all took a turn shooting baskets with Alex. As we wrapped up our worksite that afternoon and pulled away from the house for the last time, Alex hugged each of us and told us he would never forget us or this week. We invited them to attend worship with us that night, where Alex and Tito were surrounded by 100 other youth from 5 different Churches, where together they worshipped God arm in arm.
Both Alex and Tito have contacted me daily asking how we are doing, and thanking us for such a great week. This is only 1 story from 1 site. During the week long UM ARMY camp we completed 27 sites. I had the opportunity to witness nearly 100 youth and 30 Adults focus on their faith by being the hands of Christ. Together we grew in our faith and made a lasting impact on the community of Fort Bend County.
Every day we walk through doors, not thinking much about it. But a simple door can provide security, safety, comfort and privacy; and when opened a door provides hope and an opportunity. Our youth discovered that during UM ARMY 2013. By investing in Dayspring and investing in our youth you can open doors to the future generation of the Church.
Youth mission camps are a great way to become connected at Dayspring and invest in future generations. If you are interested in participating in future Youth Mission Camps or investing your time in our student ministry please contact Jeff Sparks at 903-253-2329 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org