June 1-5, sixteen of our youth and six adults made the long trek to Bethlehem United Methodist Church in Franklin to spend five days serving our fellow Nashvillians. Youth from Forest Hills, Bethlehem, and Cornersville UMC teamed up to spend the days with shut-ins at their homes, developmentally disabled adults at the Center for Living and Learning, and contractors building tiny houses for homeless people. Our projects consisted of building, cleaning out and moving sheds, repairing porches and ramps, and lots and lots of painting and gardening. Mindi even chopped down a tree with an ax. After each team got cleaned up at their respective YMCA’s, we would return to Bethlehem UMC for dinner and worship.
The worship theme for the week was “I am not normal,” so we discussed how our lives as Christians should look differently than those around us. In a culture where things like lying, busyness, looking out for ourselves, and underage drinking are the norm portrayed in media, we discussed how it is actually rebellious to tell the truth, serve others, and pray and study the Bible. In his talk, Chris spoke about how pausing is not normal and encouraged all of us to take intentional moments everyday to connect with God. Youth shared their experiences of how painting and pulling weeds provided quiet moments of connection with God.
I was the assistant leader for Team 7, also known as “The Pink Rebolution,” which consisted of 6 teens ranging from 7th-12th grade. We worked at the Center for Living and Learning where adults with developmental disabilities live in supervised and independent housing and work in the adjacent garden to provide produce to buyers in the community. Our days consisted mainly of pulling weeds and other forms of yard work, but one afternoon we got a tour of the houses. There are two supervised houses where residents learn about hygiene and money management - many of these residents work in the garden before they transition into independent housing, many of these residents hold outside jobs in the community. While we were in the independent residence, we met a man named Dex. Dex was a photographer with a portrait studio set up in his room. He was also in the process of becoming a mentor for the psychiatric ward in a local hospital to help those in the midst of their journeys. My group learned a lot interacting with the residents of the Center for Living and Learning, and they worked tirelessly to help in the garden.
Overall, the Youth Mission Trip was a week full of God, service, and fellowship. Youth and adults quickly embraced the theme of going against the cultural norm to love God and others, which coincides with the Forest Hills Youth Group summer theme of putting our faith to action during The Summer of ING. We departed from Bethlehem UMC wearing shirts that say “I Am Not Normal,” and we will continue to strive to go against the norm for God.
-Nicole Poland, Youth Ministry Intern