Faith leads people across the world, and on Sunday it saw a youth group travel from Michigan to Lebanon for a weeklong mission trip.
Bedford Nazarene brought 13 students and five adults along for the effort, which has seen them pitch in to help the Salvation Army, Joseph’s Storehouse and a physically disabled resident. The group is expected to remain in town through Saturday.
“We talk so much in church and in service about how you need to go out into the world and really make a difference, and it’s easy to say that,” youth group member Jake McMunn said. “But it’s cool to see how what we’ve talked about is coming into play right now, with us being out here working together helping people who can’t do stuff for themselves.”
McMunn grew up in Bedford and has taken several mission trips with the church, while others like Ethan Celestino were taking in the experience for the first time.
“The town is so beautiful, and the people here are so kind and just really welcoming,” Celestino said. “It reminds me of home, and it’s good to help out … I know that if people came into my town and they did this kind of stuff for people that I knew, I would just be so appreciative, and for me it would definitely show the love of God. And I think that’s a big part of why it’s so cool and why I love doing it.”
City Takers Training Center, a local ministry organization led by Chad and Brooke Seabright, partnered with Bedford Nazarene for the trip and helped them find projects to work on.
“This is actually my home church from when I lived up in Michigan,” Chad Seabright said. “They’ve come out every year and done a mission trip for probably 10 years, but it’s not always here in Lebanon. We were in South Carolina for a while.”
Brooke Seabright said she and her husband reached out to other members of the church community to find service projects for the children, who range from sixth grade to 12th grade.
“Basically, the goal is to serve through churches and ministry and help those who need it, whether they have small projects or labor-intensive ones,” Brooke Seabright said. “Many hands make light work.”
One of the more demanding projects the group took on was to clear out dirt, gravel and more from the Salvation Army of Wilson County’s property ahead of its annual shoe giveaway, which is scheduled for Friday from 4-6 p.m.
“We’d decided that barring a shelter in place order we were going to continue to do the giveaway,” Sgt. Tommy Freeman, the Salvation Army Wilson of County’s director, said. “Our big issue was how to get everything prepared, because with COVID-19 so little of this is going to be inside, so it was actually perfect timing.”
Now the Salvation Army has the space for an outdoor event, and Freeman said there will be masks and temperature checks to further limit any spread of the virus.
“It’s just so cool that we can do something for other people,” Cathy Hersheberger, one of the team’s adult leaders, said. “We don’t expect payment for it, and it makes you feel good inside to help out.”
The adults also serve as mentors for the children and could often be seen working right alongside them or bringing water to help them cool off.
“Mostly for us as leaders, we oversee what’s going on,” Randy Szmansky said. “If we see individuals who need spiritual help, we can point that out and address it.”
Although their trip is scheduled to wrap up in a few days, the Bedford Nazarene youth group is excited to see where the next one takes them.
“It’s amazing knowing that I’m helping somebody because they need it,” youth group member Starlynne Flippo said. “Working together, teamwork and learning how people cope with being out there doing this and doing that … you do things you haven’t done before, and it makes you feel good.”
McMunn said the mission trips also help the students develop both personally and spiritually while they work to impact communities like Lebanon.
“What I look at in my life is that Jesus washed the disciples’ feet,” he said. “He said, ‘I did not come here to be served, but to serve,’ and this whole mission trip is about serving others. We come here to put ourselves second and put ourselves behind in saying we’re here for the people in this community, we’re here to make an impact and we’re not going to do what’s comfortable for us, we’re doing to do what can help a community and change someone’s heart.”