Alignment can be a transformative process.
Let’s start here in Port St. Joe and discussions over the past month or so between youth leaders at Oak Grove Church and First United Methodist Church.
Each church had summer youth programs; they hoped to broaden the reach and were planning for some kind of outreach effort in July.
They were characterizing it as a “local mission outreach partnership” and titled it, “One,” a “love thy neighbor” outreach.
Meanwhile, in Midway, NC, roughly 13 hours by car from Port St. Joe, plans for Midway Methodist’s summer youth mission, something of a bedrock at the church, had fallen through.
However, Amanda Thomas, Midway Methodist’s Youth Director, had a fallback position.
She had attended seminary with Geoffrey Lentz, pastor at First United Methodist of Port St. Joe.
A phone call became a reach-out.
And, so it came that three weeks ago, Eli Duarte, outreach leader at Oak Grove, phoned Allie Osborne, a youth leader at Oak Grove, and Julie Hodges, youth director at First United Methodist of Port St. Joe, to inform them the pieces of the partner mission were falling into place.
And there was one more partner.
Just a tiny glitch: the original schedule was July; that timeline was moved up a few weeks and, just for good measure, both Hodges and Osborne were out of town on vacation when Duarte called.
Nonetheless, the hurdles fell away and Monday a group of more than two dozen teens and adults from North Carolina went to work on several projects, including repair work for, yep, another partner, the Christian Community Development Fund.
“The seed that was planted is happening,” Hodges said as van keys and assignments were sorted Monday morning. “There are just too many things that lined up, it was God’s timing.”
Over the next four days, the teenagers installed three handicapped ramps, reconstructed several sets of home stairs and steps, repaired flooring in one home and performed some general yard work.
All for families of need served by the CCDF, a local non-profit which provides a host of programs for the needy and elderly in the county.
Supplies, water, food, etc., were donated by the Piggly Wiggly.
In addition, a number of the teens and adults assisted with the summer youth program operated by CareerSource Gulf Coast at the Washington Gym in the neighborhood of North Port St. Joe.
“My youth group, they are amazing,” Thomas said. “Our kids have giving hearts and they love serving the Lord and giving back.”
In fact, the next four days were simply a reflection of the fabric at Midway Methodist, located in a town akin to Port St. Joe in that it only has two stoplights.
A summer mission for the youth is, well, part of the calendar, what one did each summer.
Just ask a teen, simply, if they could not have found something better to do on a blistering summer day.
“This what we look forward to every summer,” said 15-year-old Grace Smith. “It’s a tradition.”
And one that has a long reach.
The church’s youth have missioned in various communities in North Carolina and South Carolina and traveled as far as New Orleans.
Youth have grown and returned to assist as adults. It is a circle.
“They get our adults energized,” Thomas said. “This is just part of our ongoing missionary work.”
In turn, the Port St. Joe churches have bandied about ideas and programs to glorify their faith within the community, as partners, as one body, an event that would be “transforming to all … to bring life and light to the homes and families of our community with no strings attached.”
All youth and young adults were welcomed to join the work and fun, with the Midway Methodist kids bolstering the effort.
But it was not all work this week.
A beach bonfire in Salinas Park was scheduled for Monday evening and a cookout in Frank Pate Park was on tap for Wednesday dinner; dinner was served at Oak Grove the other nights.
A movie night, indoor volleyball, ice cream competitions and other activities, along with guest speakers and worship were planned throughout the week.
“This is kind of a God thing that we are all here together,” Thomas said. “The kids are excited.”