L.A.S.T. 2014: Jesus, Justice and Mercy
2014 was a wonderful summer of ministry at L.A.S.T. (Learning and Serving Together). This mission program designed to link youth and young adults with service opportunities, helps participants connect their service to their faith. More than 200 people from 20 different churches traveled to the sites in Portland or Eugene, Oregon for one of the seven week-long summer mission trips. Rev. Jeff Lowery and his staff hosted church groups from Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
Each day youth were able to do something that made an impact on the lives of others, from making 2,000 lunches a day for a free lunch program in a park in Eugene, to organizing donations at a new food bank, to spending the day playing with at-risk children at a local community center. Each evening the youth discovered how the life and ministry of Jesus calls us to go beyond our comfort zones and out into our communities. The theme of the summer was “Stand for Something; Jesus, Justice and Mercy” based on a song by L.A.S.T. director Jeff Lowery. The theme and song reminds us that effectively helping those who are less fortunate can be more complicated than simply giving a handout. God calls us all to get to the root causes of poverty and use our power to become advocates.
Those who traveled to the Eugene area site got to participate in a variety of projects sponsored by our host church Ebbert Memorial UMC in Springfield, OR. This included the Wednesday night potluck hosted by the church. Church members prepare a variety of casseroles, salads and desserts and feed over 100 folks from the community. “This is the best meal for the homeless that I have ever participated in,” said one L.A.S.T. participant, “I love the variety of choices people get.” The congregation at Ebbert gives the L.A.S.T. participants a concrete example of a church that has adapted its mission to the needs of the people in its neighborhood.
The groups that traveled to the Portland site this year got to continue the partnership between L.A.S.T. and the Bethlehem House of Bread in Tigard. This year L.A.S.T. groups organized a series of food drives to benefit BHOB. Over the course of the summer the food drives netted over 1100 lbs of donations for the new food pantry. The hope is that youth groups will organize their own food drives when they return home, benefiting their own local charities.
One of the new partnerships in Portland this year was with Store to Door, a non profit that uses its volunteers to shop for those who can’t make it out to the store themselves. Volunteers met at a local Fred Meyer store and spent the morning fulfilling shopping lists that the clients have phoned or emailed in. “Who knew you could help someone through shopping?” said one of the volunteers. “One of the things that people love about the L.A.S.T. program is the variety,” said director Lowery. “This summer we partnered with 29 non profits and agencies!”
Mission trips are one of the many tools that support and deepen the faith development of youth and adults. We are fortunate to have a mission site right here in the Western Jurisdiction that can make a service trip affordable for small local churches.
L.A.S.T. is now accepting reservations for spring break and summer 2015. For more information go to www.lastnw.com or contact Rev. Jeff Lowery at firstname.lastname@example.org 541-654-1878.
Brooklyn Community Garden Clean-Up Bethlehem House of Bread Food Drive