Out-of-state visitors join local teens in effort to evangelize by example

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Photo by Sue Suchyta

Seven-year-old Daniel Anderson (left), son of Venture Crew 1756 associate adviser Renee Anderson, works Wednesday with Steve Westerman (right) to clear debris from a house next to First Presbyterian Church of Wyandotte that is being converted to community meeting rooms. Westerman is part of the Satellite youth group of South Hills Assembly of God in Bethel Park, Pa.

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WYANDOTTE – Without saying a word, teens from across the country came to town last week to share their faith locally by feeding the hungry and helping others.

Local volunteers rolled up their sleeves as well and worked side-by-side with representatives of Ambassadors in Missions to “do unto others.” AIM is partnering with the Michigan District of the Assemblies of God as well as six local host churches to focus on Detroit as its 2010 national mission site.

Teens and adult chaperones from Assembly of God congregations nationwide joined with the Detroit 2010 AIM Outreach to clean up local parks, lead youth recreation programs, distribute groceries to those in need and paint and clean select local churches and nonprofit agencies.

Evan Distad, associate pastor for Wyandotte Family Church, a host congregation, said the visitors’ intent is to share their faith with others by offering a positive example instead of preaching.

Volunteers put on a free basketball clinic Wednesday morning, with a tournament scheduled for the afternoon.

“Basically what we’re doing is reaching out to the city of Wyandotte,” Distad said. “We’re just kinda lovin’ on the city, trying to get the word of God out.

“I know that some people will stand on a box and they’ll preach on a street corner. They’ll try to get people to come to Christ that way. For us we find it more effective (to) first develop a relationship with someone, so that you can speak into their life.”

First-time mission trip volunteer Alisha Stage, and experienced mission trip veteran Justin Hughes from Evangel Assembly of God in Wooster, Ohio, helped run a basketball clinic at Pulaski Park Tuesday morning.

“I’m serving the community as much as I possibly can,” Stage said. “We have been pushed to just serve people and not serve ourselves. It’s really about the community and not ourselves.

“It’s helped my relationship with God because it helps me see that it’s not about (me) but it’s about other people. This is my first mission trip, and it’s really awesome!”

Volunteering has had a significant impact on Justin Hughes. He has worked on projects in his hometown, as well as on mission trips to New Jersey and Pittsburgh.

“It has changed my life a lot,” he said. “Before … I knew who God was, but I never really went after him. Over the years I’ve just really built a relationship with God, and I enjoy it very much.”

Hughes enjoys the unique aspect of working with volunteers from across the country and in mission destinations. Visiting teens even volunteer time at fundraisers for their mission trip travel and expenses.

Participants say the rewards of a mission trip can’t always be measured. Most say they have their own personal moment of revelation.

Hughes’ came when he realized “that there are so many people who have not come to know God, and we’re quite possibly and in some cases (are) their last hope.”

He said the spiritual insight he gains from mission trips also helps him deal with peer pressure and the stress of school.

Across town Wednesday morning at First Presbyterian Church on Oak Street, missionaries from South Hills Assembly of God in Bethel Park, Pa., were joined by Wyandotte Venture Scout crew 1756 to take part in the latter group’s ongoing rehabilitation of the onetime parsonage, which later served as a group home for 15 years.

First Presbyterian staff and Venture crew members hope that with the extra help they can convert the house into much-needed group meeting space for city nonprofit organizations. Local volunteers said the building has sat unused for about seven years, and that city officials had planned to tear it down unless an entity could fix it up and put it to good use.

The church has used donations to fund ongoing renovation material costs, relying heavily on volunteer labor for much of the cleaning and repairs.

Wednesday morning, some teens helped carry scrap wood from the building to an outside staging area. Others worked on the landscaping.

Local Venture Scouts worked with volunteers from Pittsburgh.

The Venture Scout crew works with its host congregation, First Presbyterian Church of Wyandotte, 2250 Oak St., by supporting church projects and helping local shut-ins with cleanups and yard work.

A Venture crew adviser told visitors that even though it didn’t look like they’d done much work on the building, they’d taken out about 15 truckloads of junk and filled about 20 trash receptacles with debris.

“When the group home moved out, the house was a mess,” said First Presbyterian elder Carvil Kulberg. “And it stayed a mess for five or six or seven years. Then the Venture group wanted to use it, and then we started this project of re-establishing it.”

Kulberg said the Venture Scouts have done a tremendous amount of work for over a year. The roof was “completely shot” and the basement leaked. Concrete work has been redone using memorial donations.

The building’s unusual architectural style makes it appear older than it is; volunteers say it was built in the 1950s.

“It’s been a lot of work,” Kulberg said. “And if it hadn’t been for the Venturing crew, we couldn’t even think about the changes.”

The crew likely has done $75,000 to $100,000 worth of labor over the last year on this house, he said.

“Without them we couldn’t have done it.”

Now that they have, however, Kulberg believes the house and meeting space will be good for 60 years, costing about $35,000 in materials.

“Getting donations of time from people is the biggest thing,” said Renee Anderson, Venture crew 1756 associate adviser.

AIM’s volunteers also did painting at First United Methodist Church, 72 Oak, and had planned to work at other locations in Ecorse.