2013 was a fantastic 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 19 different United Methodist churches traveled to the sites in Portland or Eugene, Oregon for one of the eight week-long summer mission trips. Jeff Lowery and his L.A.S.T. staff hosted church groups from Montana, California, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.
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 “Holy Interruptions” based on a song by L.A.S.T. director Rev. Jeff Lowery. The theme and song reminds us all to keep our eyes open for the many unexpected ways that God can break into our lives.
“I believe that holy opportunities
Present themselves when there is a need
Help us God to be open everywhere we go”
Those who traveled to Portland had the opportunity to participate in a summer-long project at Bethlehem-House of Bread. Youth helped transition this 100 year-old church into a community center. They tore down old walls, tended a new community garden, painted rooms, and helped prepare the building to be used in a vital ministry that is just starting to take root in the Metzger neighborhood.
Other groups that came to Portland spent time at Dignity Village, a homeless community near the Portland airport. Youth pictured here from Hillview UMC in Boise and Tacoma Mason UMC helped paint a few of the more than 40 structures in the village. One youth participant wrote, “Although the work was fun, the really rewarding part of the experience was getting to meet some of the residents and hearing their stories.”
Lowery says, “Sometimes local churches that send youth away on mission trips are surprised by what happens in the life of their own church as a result. Youth want to bring home some of what they experience.” One of the most meaningful worksites this summer was the Brooklyn Community Gardens in SE Portland. Bob Harless, an adult from Foothills UMC in La Mesa, CA said, “The youth were inspired by their work in the Brooklyn Community Garden and are in the early stages of seeing how we can incorporate something like that at our church. You can be assured how touched the youth were and felt a calling to serve.”
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 Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference that can make a service trip affordable for small local churches.
L.A.S.T. is now starting to accept reservations for spring break and summer 2014. For more information go to www.lastnw.com or contact Rev. Jeff Lowery at firstname.lastname@example.org 541-654-1878.
Listen to "Holy Interruptions" by Jeff Lowery. Used by permission.