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COLUMN: A mission worth sharing

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By RYAN HACKBARTH, Guest Columnist

My name is Ryan Hackbarth and I will be a senior at Tell City High School. Sister Mary Emma Jochum OSB asked me to write about a recent mission-trip experience.

During the week of the Fourth of July, 19 parishioners from St. Paul Church traveled to Nashville, Tenn., There were four adults and 15 high-school students in the group.

We joined approximately 120 volunteers who had traveled from South Bend and Columbus and others from as far away as Oklahoma, North Carolina and Virginia to spend a week of service in Nashville.

This group work camp was called the “Week of Hope.” It included Catholics, Lutherans, Baptists and Methodists. We stayed at the Christian Life Center at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church. It was a large facility that included a gymnasium and a track as well as multiple classrooms and a cafeteria.

The week was very well organized with opportunities to provide service to the people of Nashville. When we arrived, we were separated into groups of four or five workers with people in our groups whom we had never met. This provided an opportunity to connect with other youth groups and form new friendships.

Some of the assignments included developing a community garden, volunteering at a cancer center, working with local donation centers, providing assistance to the host church, assembling care packages for soldiers and those in need, creating cards and visiting with the elderly.

I was involved in organizing items and assisting the guests at a women’s help center that provided food, clothing and shelter for those in need.

The St. Paul Youth group also donated a large amount of items for a canned-food drive, due to the generous donations at the doors of church the weekend before the trip.

The St. Paul workers had devotion together every evening. We reviewed our work day and had a chance to sit down and talk about what was going on and how we were feeling as a group.

We were also given free time at the end of the day to have a little fun and relax. During this time there were many athletic activities, games, and even group discussions to get involved in.

When we left Tell City on Sunday, I really only knew a couple of the people who were going on the mission trip, but by the end of the week, there was a special bond among all of us.

Our week of service meant so much to those who we helped. But it is also about each of us learning from the experience of being in a new place, meeting new people and growing in our faith.

Like all of the people who went, when I arrived I found myself among strangers, but by the end of the week, I was among friends.

I would like to thank Sister Mary Emma for her help in planning and organizing the mission trip.

Thanks also to all of you for your support.

The group has already met to begin plans for a 2012 mission trip. We will start the fundraising efforts soon.