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Serving in Steeler country

Youth from St. Peter’s Lutheran Church recently returned from a mission trip to Pennsylvania. Back row (L to R): Sue Elenbaas, Carrie Kiaunis, Pastor Mark Love, Eric Chisholm, Deb Petersen, Aaron Elenbaas, Patti Chaney, Gabe Westveld, Eric Simonton, Kyle Chaney. Front row (L to R): Andrew Elenbaas, Andee Petersen, Elyse Sholtis, Angela Barnes and Anna Ruark.

Youth from St. Peter’s Lutheran Church recently returned from a mission trip to Pennsylvania. Back row (L to R): Sue Elenbaas, Carrie Kiaunis, Pastor Mark Love, Eric Chisholm, Deb Petersen, Aaron Elenbaas, Patti Chaney, Gabe Westveld, Eric Simonton, Kyle Chaney. Front row (L to R): Andrew Elenbaas, Andee Petersen, Elyse Sholtis, Angela Barnes and Anna Ruark.

As the summer is winding down, a group of high school students from Rockford and Cedar Springs chose a selfless way to spend one week of it. The group of nine students and five adults from St. Peter’s Lutheran Church went on a mission trip to Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. Beaver Falls was once a booming steel town, thanks to two large steel mills that the steel magnate Andrew Carnegie built over 150 years ago. The steel mills closed in the 1980s and the town has not recovered. At the invitation of a local congregation to help this struggling community, the senior youth of St. Peter’s chose to go to Beaver Falls and “Serve the Lord in Steeler Country” (the theme for this mission trip).

The group left on July 12, and teamed up with other youth groups from Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana to assist Mount Olive Evangelical Lutheran Church. The church lined up several projects within the community. One team worked at removing overgrown shrubs and brush that completely covered steps that connected two different level streets. This eliminated an extra mile of walking required to get to the other street. Many locals commented that they never knew those steps were there. Another group worked on cleaning up a vacant lot that had become dangerous with broken glass, metal shards, and overgrown vegetation that made it prime for drug activities.

The group from St. Peter’s was split up to handle four different jobs through the week.  One team helped at the local fire station with whatever they needed done in preparation for the annual carnival they put on as their major fundraiser. The kids washed the fire trucks so they would look nice for the parade on Wednesday, and helped prepare the carnival grounds by picking up and emptying trash. They also kept the chili fries coming from the fire station down to the carnival. For all their hard work, the firemen asked Eric Chisholm, Andee Petersen, Anna Ruark, Elyse Sholtis and Gabe Westveld to ride in the fire truck during the parade. They had a great time, especially seeing all those smiling faces on both the children and adults!

A second team spent the entire week at the Carnegie Free Library. The library is over 100 years old and was the first free library that Andrew Carnegie paid for. With direction and help from Pastor Love and Sue Elenbaas, this team worked on repairing and painting the damaged walls in the computer room and hallways. This was a tall order (working on 12 foot walls), but Kyle Chaney climbed the high ladders and handled the washing and painting with ease and laughter. Andrew Elenbaas worked with Pastor Love on the wall repairs and trimming the areas with paint. Sue Elenbaas was our paint chief and spotter. If a spot was missed, she saw it!

A third team painted a storage barn at a local park and cleaned up two local parks. The parks were pretty well maintained, just needed broken glass picked-up, shrubs trimmed and weeds pulled. This left plenty of time to paint the storage barn, which Aaron Elenbaas, with an eye for detail, made look great.

The third team from St. Peter’s helped organize a store run by Tiger Pause Youth Ministry. This organization helps disadvantaged youth in the area with a six-week summer camp and many other activities. Their “thrift store,” where donations can be dropped off and customers can come in and get what they need (for a donation) has been a blessing to the community. One customer commented how grateful she was for this store because the Goodwill and Salvation Army stores in town were too expensive for her to shop at. The store was disorganized, however, with items stacked on top of each other, and many things still in boxes. The team from St. Peter’s and other teams worked at cleaning up and organizing the contents of the store. On Friday this team went to the mini-golf (that the Tiger Pause organization had built for the community) and painted the rails and the back of billboards that displayed drawings and bible verses. They were excited to end their work at the mini-golf course they had admired all week, and enjoyed some ice cream at the Dairy Queen next to it.

The host of this mission trip, Mount Olive Lutheran Church, did a great job with offering great meals, devotions, and nightly entertainment. All the volunteers went to a local park for outdoor activities, took a boat tour of downtown Pittsburgh, had a pool party, went to Kennywood Amusement Park and enjoyed a concert by the Christian group “Third from First.”

The Servants in Steeler Country mission trip was a great success! The nine youth and five adults gave their time and abilities to help others. The team’s spiritual growth through daily devotionals and just lending an ear to listen cannot be measured.

The youth at St. Peter’s would like to thank the congregation and the community for all their support for this mission trip. They are already looking forward to next years mission trip and are in full swing with activities and fundraisers to help them get there (car washes, Community Sale, Halo tournament and many more).  Please visit their website at www.stpetersrockford.org to get more information on their latest activities.

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