By Megann Horstead | For The Bugle
Immanuel Youth for Christ, the high school student ministry at Immanuel Lutheran Church, is preparing for its week-long Blue Workcamp. Members of IYC are traveling out of state from July 22 to 29 to repair homes in Frederick, Md.
As part of their preparations, they held a carwash fundraiser June 24 at the church, 5211 Carpenter Street, Downers Grove
“[The Workcamp will be] an amazing mountaintop experience,” David Thompson, a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church. “It’s something that everyone enjoys.”
Typically, between 50 and 60 people go on the mission trip, with the destination changing from year to year.
“All we have to do is raise enough money to get our kids there, and they handle everything else, which just makes it so much easier for us to participate and be part of helping other people,” David said.
The kids are not required to go through any formal training beforehand, David said.
“A lot of the training that we get is there, when we go to the Workcamp,” he said. “Most of the kids, if they’ve never done a Workcamp before, they’ll go there for the first time and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, like, oh, my gosh. I don’t know what to do.’ There are adults in their group that will tell what to do and how to get acclimated; so then the next Workcamp they’re actually really prepared.”
The trip costs each child $300, with the church will picking up the remaining traveling expenses.
“We do a lot of things to raise funds, so we can keep our price down and only charge our kids about 300 bucks a person,” David said.
Cossett Thompson, 16, a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church, said she is looking forward to the mission trip.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “I’ve been on two [trips] previously, and the cool thing about them is just each one is a really unique experience. Both the times I went, they were similar, but each one had their own unique experiences.”
Cossett said she recognizes there will be hurdles to cross when she leaves for Maryland.
It’s really challenging because last year I was working with a family, and they were like hoarders, so they had a bunch of stuff and they didn’t want to throw anything away,” she said. “It was really emotionally challenging for the family because they were trying to clean up their house because they were going to get evicted, but they couldn’t really let go of stuff. So, it was a challenge to kind of connect with them, but also help them to better their lives.”
Workcamp usually has a powerful way of transforming the lives of others, Cossett said.
“In letting go a lot of their stuff, they weren’t going to be evicted from their house anymore,” she said. “They were really appreciative toward it.”
This year also is the first time the youth ministry from Immanuel Lutheran Church will team up and Trinity Lutheran Church youth ministry in Lisle on the same mission trip.
“It’s humbling to say the least,” David said. “We have very strong outreach with children, and we really want kids to really get what it is we’re trying to accomplish in the world.”
The effort to connect the kids with those from other churches within the Christian faith is important, David said.
“We have a number of other churches that jump in on our bandwagon and add their kids to our group, just because we have organizational structure to handle that,” he said.
David added, “For [our church,] this is a big outreach.”
The camp is organized such that the teens are placed with youth ministries from around the country to work toward repairing homes.
“Our kids are pretty much by themselves within this,” David said. “It’s our kids with other kids from other denominations of the Christian Faith, and the whole point is to connect with their resident—and their residents could be vastly different as far as economic and racial binds. The whole point is for kids to connect with them as the helper to help them. It’s really amazing to see how that all works out.”
Kristina Pietrzak, 16, also member of Immanuel Lutheran Church, remembers her first mission trip as being rather difficult.
“We were on an Indian reservation,” she said. “The people felt like we were being forced onto them by the government. So, they were kind of distant from us at first, but slowly they warmed up to us. It was hard for the first one, kind of not knowing what we’re doing, and then the residents are kind of backing away and not really wanting you to be there. By the end, they ended up being really happy once they realized what we there [for] and we were actually trying to help them…We were volunteers to help them with what they needed.”
The experience also serves as a good way to meet new people, Pietrzak said.
“I know a lot of people from different states and even some in Japan who I have stayed in contact with throughout both of the Workcamps I’ve been on,” she said.
Pietrzak said though doing the repairs can be challenging, there’s plenty of support and guidance available on the mission trip.
“A lot of it just working with your team and trying to solve the problems that you have and just kind of getting everything together,” she said.
The reactions received from people whose homes are repaired will vary to a degree throughout the trip, David said.
“We have had experiences where the people who own the house were not really happy about it, but in the end after they watch the kids for a week spending time on their house working on these, 90 percent of the time those people step out and say, ‘You know what, I didn’t want this. I didn’t like this, but you did a great job, and I thank you,’” he said.