Pete Onnink, a carpenter by trade and volunteer youth leader at Covenant OPC in Orland Park, IL, saw the request for Hurricane Sandy relief work posted in the OPC's short-term missions newsletter and thought it would make a great youth trip. Word spread, with the help of the Presbytery of the Midwest Youth Committee, to other congregations in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa. On Saturday, July 11th, "Team Brick," a crew of 9 teenagers and 3 adults from various congregations, traveled to Faith Bible Church in Brick, New Jersey, to answer that request with a week-long service trip.
The team bonded quickly, a big answer to prayer for a group of such diverse ages, many of whom didn't know each other and had never been on a trip like this before. We lived in close quarters, setting up our sleeping bags and cots in the former, unfurnished manse and preparing our meals at the nearby church. The congregation generously welcomed us, preparing a Sunday meal for us and stopping by throughout the week for fellowship. Within a couple days the students were saying that the team felt "like family."
The work went quickly. Our construction experts Pete Onnink and Paul LeMahieu patiently guided the students through each task – whether it was switching out a door knob or operating a powerwasher or marking out a chalkline. Some days it was all they could do to stay a step ahead, receiving projects on-site and passing them on to the eager students.
We had two main worksites – a garage apartment at the new manse and a churchgoer's storm-damaged house. By the end of our short time there we had demolished and reconstructed a deck at the house, torn out shoddy construction at the garage apartment, trimmed out electrics at both locations and painted and trimmed the apartment, besides a variety of odd jobs. Even with all that we accomplished it was sobering to realize that, although Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey almost 3 years ago, the need for relief continues.
By Thursday, we wrapped up our work and headed down the coast for a visit to the OPC's Boardwalk Chapel in Wildwood, New Jersey. Our time there offered a well-earned rest for our team, as well as an opportunity to observe the unique ministry done there. Other youth groups were already in place at the Chapel, but they welcomed us with open hearts and arms. One of our team even joined the band for Friday night's service!
Throughout the week, our team read through the book of 1 John, with both students and leaders offering reflections at morning devotions. We reflected on God's love made manifest in us, and on the contradiction of how our sin creeps up even as we try to imitate that love. And so John reminds us, again and again, to abide in His love – the only source that can sustain us in any service we do, on this trip or elsewhere. What an excellent reminder!
PHOTO: "Team Brick"
Visit www.opcstm.org for more reports on summer Short-Term Missions!