Connecting the dots

  • Thursday, July 17, 2014

Eileen Keithly/South Strand News Members of the First Baptist Youth Group from Suffolk, Va., build a deck for Melissa Rush and her two children in Pawleys Island.

Armed with skill saws, shovels, post hole diggers, nails, hammers, and a bucketful of determination, a youth group took a week out of their summer vacation to turn a backyard breeding ground for fire ants into a quiet respite for a Pawleys Island mom and her two children.

While most high school students are deciding whether to go to the beach or the pool, a youth group from the First Baptist Church in Suffolk, Virginia, was figuring out how many two-by-fours and nails they needed to construct a deck on the back of Melissa Rush’s home in Pawleys Island on July 7.

“We love our back yard. It is very shady,” Rush said. “But it was just not the best place for my five-year-old to play.”

So how does a family in South Carolina end up with a yard full of energetic youth from Virginia in the middle of the summer?

Enter Pastor Johnny Ford of The House of God, and Teach My People’s Program Director Jessica Grover. “We serve many families in this community and we count on our area pastors to let us know when a family is in need,” Grover related.

In addition to the area pastors, Teach My People partners with Leader Treks, a company based in Carol Stream, Illinois, which supports church youth ministries by providing leadership development tools and experiences designed to grow students into leaders.

Grover said Leader Treks “helps us connect the dots, and points youth groups looking for mission opportunities our way.”

Youth group leaders around the world use Leader Treks to find mission opportunities for their youth groups both near and far away from home.

The result of this match?

A youth group that learned how they could serve others before themselves and a family that is now able to enjoy their entire home, including their backyard.

Michael Anderson, a South Carolina native, is the Virginia youth group’s student pastor. “We are here to assist the families of Teach My People and share the love of Jesus in a practical way,” he said.

Anderson pointed out that the group had travelled from Virginia with 19 high school students. In the morning, the group worked on the deck at the Rush residence and in the afternoon the group held vacation bible school at Teach My People.

“The kids are getting a real workout,” Anderson said. “There is not much down time.”

Reflecting on his time in Pawleys Island, summer youth group intern Joel Cruz related, “I think our work here is a good challenge for our group. We want to make a change in people’s lives, but we also want our kids to leave here changed as well.”

Judging from the smile on five-year-old Noah Rush’s face as he sat on the top step of his new deck, Cruz and the Virginia youth group have accomplished their mission.

“I’m just going to sit out here and play,” Noah said as he smiled at his mom with complete satisfaction. Only a few small details remain to be completed, but the Rush family is more than happy with their new deck.

“This is just amazing,” Melissa said, “I had no idea how much we would use or enjoy this deck, but we will sure enjoy this for a long time to come. We are very thankful to this hard-working group of kids.”

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