NEW PARIS — Group Mission Trips has had a group of 170 kids and adults alike volunteering in the Preble County area since Friday, July 20. Their last day of work was Monday, July 23, when they left National Trail Local School District (where they had been camping) and headed back to the 13 different states from where they came.
According to GMT staff, Group Mission Trips is about spiritual growth. All of their mission trips are faith based, seeking spiritual growth by helping others. Since beginning in 1990, more than 465,000 participants have racked up more than 14 million hours serving people in need.
The idea to bring Group Mission Trips to the New Paris area came from St. Paul’s United Methodist Church pastor Jeff Ginter, who had seen them in action before. Together with former National Trail Superintendent Jeff Parker and the former director of Miami Valley Community Action Partnership (MVCAP), they put together a weekend long program, hoping to make a difference in the lives of Preble County residents.
“We have co-sponsored the work camps at National Trail Schools, having the kids come and do some work for the elderly, low-income, and the people that had applied. They are working on the homes and providing their group ministries,” Current Director of MVCAP Janelle Caron said.
“We have two different goals,” Dale Roberts, director of the group camp, said. “[Caron] has a goal to help the people in the community, people who have a need. We have a goal of helping our youth pastors be close to Christ. We compliment each other, since we like to help people in need and she has people who have need.”
The volunteers stayed at the school. Every day their schedule was the same: they have breakfast, a service, work their projects, come back around 4 p.m., have showers and dinner, have another service to discuss their days, have some free time, and then go to bed.
The work sites were chosen months ago, with applications sent out in April. Staff reviewed the applications and Group Mission Trips picked the sites based on their qualifications and the skill level of the volunteers. There were 15 active sites and 15 backup sites chosen. Some of the backup sites were chosen due to weather issues or hazards.
At press time, 26 sites throughout Preble County had been visited.
“Community Action provides the support for the materials, the school provides the meal and the lodging,” Caron said.
Roberts added, “And we provide the volunteers from many different states. We had 13 different states, I think Nebraska was the farthest volunteers are from.
“The churches look to us to provide mission trips for the kids. It’s paid, some of the money is used to buy food and some is to offset the cost of material. They are giving in many ways. We would hope that, in the future, we would come back.”
“We’ve been working as a nonprofit for almost 20 years. We’ve been doing camps just like this all over the U.S. and Internationally, where we motivate teenagers and adults to serve communities,” Jobi Lewis, International Director of Group Mission Trips, said. “We’re all about people growing closer to Jesus. We do that through service, we love to give back, because that is what Jesus called us to do. We see that when we do that, we grow closer to him, because we are doing what he asked us to do. This is about growing in the community and in our faith.”
During the evening service, three volunteers had the opportunity to talk about their days and moments that stood out to them.
Emma from Crew 16 said, “I saw God moving our crew, not just at one specific point in the weekend, but in the last two days. When we first showed up at our site, we were a little uncomfortable, because the house was a little messy, we didn’t know the residents, and not all of us were skilled painters.
“Come today, you could really see how Jesus worked through us and gave us strength, as both of our crews 15 and 16 painted three bedrooms and the kitchen and pretty much got it done. On the way out, we got to pray with the owner of the home. We learned that her husband got diagnosed with cancer last week, we got to pray with her for healing for her husband and for God allowing us to be with her.”
“Our group today really saw God in the weather,” Gary from Crew 7 said. “If it had rained, we wouldn’t be able to do any sawing or quick cement. It was really good it didn’t rain, because if it did we wouldn’t have been able to do anything.”
Grace from Crew 24 added, “Today at our work site, I was reminded that God moves in anyway possible. Yesterday, when we showed up at our work site there was a family emergency and we weren’t able to stay. We stayed half the day, but had to move locations.
“Today, that resident sat with us and when I was asking for any stories, she took my Pastor by the hand and started crying about how much it meant to her that we were there. I just saw God moving in that moment and I am forever thankful that we ended up there and were able to touch her.”
As for why this venture was good for Preble County, Caron said, “It goes with the motto we have, ‘Helping people, changing lives.’ We’re doing that in a lot of different ways with this program. We’re here with an aging housing market, so we have a lot of homes that need work on them. We have a lot of elderly population who can’t afford it or do it themselves.
“We’re helping the kids change their lives and find their missions, as well as helping the residents. It has been wonderful.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH