St. Andrews church youth group helps community

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 21, 2012 

When it comes to going on a mission, one Columbus church youth group has found there is no place like home.

It may not be as exciting as traveling to a foreign land or a city in another part of the country, but it can be more rewarding according to members.

This past week, teens from St. Andrews PCA spent five days doing a community work project on Fifth Avenue in Columbus.

Working in conjunction with Highland Community Church, they removed shrubs and resurfaced neighborhood lawns. They also held an afternoon camp for children including games, Bible songs and a lesson about Jonah and the Whale. Food was delivered to the poor.

The mission had a title, RENEW:Columbus.

Matt Luke, a 19-year-old college student serving as a youth intern, explained the difference between this mission and one such as the group did last summer in St. Louis, Mo.

There, members did landscaping and also painted buildings in the inner city.

On the road, Luke said, there is "no ownership."

"You do some awesome stuff but it fades out," he said. "You never see the places you worked or the people you helped ever again."

Here, group members can continue to help once the mission has ended, Luke said, as he got ready to lay some sod.

Zach Smith is in his fourth and final year as youth director at the Presbyterian Church. He will soon be attending medical school.

"We realize that by doing this in our city, it does not have to be a one-time event. We're building relationships that can be maintained. Here, we can work on renewing the city for Jesus Christ," Smith said.

Not only that, but staying home also saves money and more students can be involved.

Smith said 24 students and 10 adults took part in this project.

While not in another country or city, the place where the work was done was foreign to most of the mission members who come from more affluent neighborhoods.

Kate Thorne, 18, a Brookstone School graduate headed for the University of Virginia, admitted some fear when the group delivered food to people in public housing and to homeless people living under a bridge on Saturday, something Highland Community Church members do weekly.

"I learned that I did not have to be afraid," she said.

The lesson is that those helping aren't much different from those being helped.

This mission and others like it, Smith explained, is not about fixed people administering to broken people. It is about broken people administering to broken people. "None of us have it all together but it is more visible with the poor," Smith said.

He said more prosperous people can hide their issues and can look like they have it all together.

"We all have the same needs," Luke added.

Trey Thorne, 16, who attends Brookstone School, found the work interesting.

"I've not done anything like this before," he said of the yard resurfacing.

The last three years, Highland Community Church has had mission groups coming from Tennessee to Columbus and Columbus groups going to Tennessee.

This makes more sense. "Why not just stay home," Rob Strickland, pastor at the non-denominational church for more than six years, said. The work done last week was similar to work done on the on Fifth Avenue the last three years. "It is really changing the lives of the people in the neighborhood," Strickland said.

Strickland said he like forming a relationship with St. Andrews.

By staying local, adults from St. Andrews were able to get involved in the mission by bringing meals over to feed the poor and homeless.

"The whole church can be involved," Smith said.

Dr. Grant Scarborough of Mercy Med in Columbus first put St. Andrews in touch with Strickland.

"The first time we talked everything fell into place," Smith said. "God brought us together to help make this place better and it is really exciting."

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