BRIDGETON—Paint brushes, scrapers and ladders are all tools used to spread the Gospel. At least the First Baptist Church youth from Allen, Texas, found them useful on their recent mission trip to St. Louis.
The Texas group partnered with Passage Community Church, a St. Louis plant, to improve physical surroundings while being examples of spiritual truth.
Joe Costephens, pastor of Passage, began planning for this and other incoming mission trips when he contacted the Florissant city government and offered volunteer services to help many in the neighborhood who are having a difficult time maintaining their homes.
“We want to build relationships,” he said, “and to invest in our community. Investing in peoples’ lives through service builds up sweat equity. This ministry is a covert opportunity to spread the Gospel. When we prove that we care for them, they will listen to what we have to say.”
Rhonda Selph, wife of the senior pastor of First Allen and trip sponsor, agreed with the motivation.
“Our number one goal is to share Jesus with people,” she said. “This is a pure work trip. Our students know that they will be working during the day and leading Bible clubs for elementary children in the evening.”
The 120 students, 7th through 12th grade, worked at 10 different locations during the week. They worked at homes and at the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. In the evening the group led Bible clubs in three different parks.
“These mission trips give the students a lot too,” Selph said. “Our youth come from a wealthy community and this gives them a better worldview. This is a nice neighborhood, but it gives students an opportunity to see people having a tough time … they are ministering to the elderly, disabled and several people out of work.”
Layne Castleman, 17, with paint brush in hand, expressed her desire to help.
“This is a week to put yourself aside serving the Lord with a group of friends helping people,” she said. “Christ calls us to do it daily, not just one week in the summer.”
Todd Neece, associate youth minister at First Allen, directed the group working on the fence at the home of Debbie and Don Houston.
“This is a great team of youth with a heart for God,” he said. “Today’s society caters to youth, but these kids are realizing that it is not about their desires. They are learning that they are blessed and they can turn around God’s blessing to others and not hoard them and just hang out in Allen.”
As a Christian, Debbie Houston understood the blessing that she was receiving from God.
“This was totally unexpected,” she said. “We were going to try to do this, but I’ve had shoulder surgery in recent years and my husband has had hip and knee replacements. The help from this youth group gives me an opportunity to share with my neighbors. When they ask me what is going on, I can say ‘God is so good, He knows what we need and provides it.’”
Costephens and two pastors from other North County churches have come together to form “I Heart North County,” a nonprofit organization that will give volunteers an opportunity to serve in St. Louis. More information is available on the website: www.iheartnorthcounty.com.
VICKI STAMPS/contributing writer