Every year the youth ministry embarks on the annual Youth Family Mission Trip. The goal is to expose students and families to the needs around the world and to witness first hand, how the Lord is faithfully meeting those needs with the good news of the gospel. Currently we are on the tail end of a three-year cycle of trips that allow students to participate in a wide variety of ministry opportunities.
It begins with year one, in which the middle school students work in rural areas doing construction projects, painting and yard work (Sevierville, TN in 2013) while the Senior High go out of the country to serve with missionaries over seas (Prague, CZ in 2013). During year two, the whole group serves in a large urban city away from home (such as New York in 2014). Finally, the group spends the third year at home, applying all that we have learned in our own backyard and serving alongside the many ministries actively serving here in Charlotte.
This missions project at home is called the City Project. Last month our group finished up this exciting week of sleeping at the church and working throughout the city. Although it is important to get away and see what the Lord is doing outside of your everyday life, we have witnessed wonderful benefits to a stay at home mission trip such as the City Project. Here are the four benefits that clearly stood out this year:
First, there was greater church-wide participation. Given that not everyone can take off a whole week to travel to another city for mission work, it is nice that church members could pop in for the morning, afternoon or a lunch break. We had several church members jump in for the day to assemble and deliver meals, paint rooms, spend time at the shelters, coach sports camps, tend to the gardens, etc. Essentially the City Project has become a church-wide effort.
Second, there has been greater exposure to the local ministries we as a church focus our attention and funds. One of the common phrases overheard throughout the week was “I should come here more often!” In the hustle and bustle of daily life we tend to forget that there are so many wonderful ministries right around the corner that need volunteers.
Third, great food and fascinating shop owners are all around us. One thing we try to do is make the whole week about missions, even in the choice of restaurants. Taking the opportunity to learn about the country, hear their stories and ask for prayer requests, we have the opportunity to build relationships with a variety of neighbors. Charlotte is a top refugee city, meaning each year thousands of refugees are relocated here. Just take a drive down Central Avenue and the variety of restaurants alone indicate the influx of the nations into Charlotte. Ethiopian, Vietnamese and Malaysian were among our favorite.
Finally, a local missions trip provides the opportunity to connect with other churches in our presbytery. This year we combined forces with Cross Park Church and East Charlotte Pres, both are daughter churches of Uptown Church. Many of the students were in the children’s ministry together years ago so they quickly reconnected and formed even tighter bonds. In addition, a team from our church partnership in Malaysia was able to join us. Collectively there were people all over Charlotte, serving in any number of sites, each church providing perspective, expertise and a willingness to serve.
Please join us in praying for our students and their families asking the Lord to continue raising up those with a heart for gospel ministry and eye for those in need. Also, pray for our youth ministry as we look forward to working back through the cycle again!