During one hot, muggy week in July, the 11-member Orthodox Youth Mission Team was not to be found basking in the sun, nor huddling by the air conditioner. Instead, these young missionaries -- including 4 from Holy Trinity Church in Yonkers NY -- were wielding power tools and infectious smiles, rebuilding homes for families in need near Johnson City, Tennessee. This was part of the Appalachia Service Project [ASP] youth mission initiative.
After nine demanding but rewarding days (July 7-15, 2012) of travel, work, fellowship, and fun, the team has returned and is very excited to share their experiences. Ignoring the oppressive weather, the team persevered to successfully accomplish their mission: to make a few families’ homes safer, warmer, and drier ... and to warm their hearts as well.
The Orthodox mission team serviced three homes in the Johnson City TN area. The first project was for an elderly woman who lives alone and included installing vinyl siding, reframing an outside wall, and creating a drainage ditch. The second project was for an elderly couple, installing a new outside wall including framing, insulating, sheathing and siding. The third project was flooring, replacing a bathroom, and repairing a roof leak for a Korean War veteran who also lives alone.
In addition to the construction work, the Orthodox team participated in many social, cultural, and devotional activities with two other church teams who had traveled south with them from Protestant communities in New York and Connecticut. After a long week of hard work, the kids were rewarded with a visit to Hershey Park. On the way home, the Orthodox group attended Divine Liturgy and received a very warm welcome at The Church of the Holy Ascension in Frackville PA; they also visited Holy Protection Monastery in White Haven PA.
Yonkers team member Amanda Ryzyk reflects, “This was my second year at ASP. Our family was an elderly couple in need of a new wall. Through the week we worked hard in the rain and heat and were able to complete a warmer and more stable wall. What I took away from this trip is how much my crew bonded with our family. I feel like they were the most sincere, kind couple that welcomed our help. These people, who I only knew for 5 days, made me feel like I’ve known them for years. They opened their home and their lives to us, and the wall we built them seemed so little to give them in return. I plan on returning to ASP next year to bring hope to another family who will touch my life just like Sue and Artie have.”
The Tennessee trip was the culmination of nearly a year of intense planning and preparation for the Orthodox Youth Mission team members, who hail not only from Yonkers but from Holy Trinity (ACROD) in Danbury CT; Saint John the Baptist (ACROD), Bridgeport CT; Saint Barbara (GOA), Orange CT; and Saint Alexis (OCA) in Clinton CT. The teens and their adult chaperones threw themselves into many and varied activities. Fundraising dinners were held at the various parishes, including one at Yonkers during Lent, which featured a visit and teaching talk by His Grace, Bishop Michael. The team also held rigorous training meetings where they not only prayed and visited, but received hands-on instruction in the basic wiring, plumbing, and construction skills which would be needed to complete the major repair projects assigned to them.
In addition, the team engaged in cultural and spiritual training, much like foreign missionaries preparing to travel overseas. The primary goal of the trip, they learned, was not merely to bring physical warmth and safety to these families and their homes -- but to minister to them and bond with them as bearers of the love of Christ.
Finally, following a special service of “Prayers for Those About to Travel” at the Sunday Liturgy on July 1, the Yonkers NY members joined their team and the teams from the other participating Christian communities on Saturday, July 7, to board a fleet of vans ... “Tennessee-bound!”
A photo blog of the trip is located at:
The Yonkers NY team members will host a luncheon and present a slide show of their trip on a Sunday this September at Holy Trinity Church.
Check the church website at www.HolyTrinityYonkers.org for updates!