Youth Group Explores Mission Work in Our Backyard
by Slocomb Reed
The experience of poverty became a little more real for our youth group this summer. From getting to know people who’ve experienced homelessness here in Cincinnati, to playing with and tutoring kids living in government-subsidized housing in Loveland, to prepping donations that are sent to victims of natural disasters and those living in extreme poverty; this year’s missioners grew in understanding and compassion, and they served in communities that need help from people like us.
Staying local for our mission work this year, we partnered with three Cincinnati-area organizations to provide this experience for our teens. With the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition based in OTR, we learned from people about their experiences of poverty and homelessness. We heard stories of desperation, hopelessness, determination, grit, helping hands, and the pride of having a place of your own after having lived with nothing. We learned about how American history and Cincinnati history affect the current affordable housing landscape, and we got a small taste of what it’s like to experience homelessness in downtown Cincy.
We partnered with NEST Community Learning Center, an organization that provides tutoring and healthy meals to kids experiencing poverty in Loveland. Kids whose home life is not supportive of academics fall further behind during the summer. We did everything we could to convince the kids who came out to eat and play with us that they should read books and do math worksheets with us as well. There may have been bribery and a lot of ice cream involved, but hopefully we kept them from falling too far behind their more privileged peers.
With Matthew 25 Ministries in Blue Ash, our small but mighty crew (seven to nine kids per day) processed hundreds of boxes of donations, sorting them into categories and prepping them to be delivered all over the world. Matthew 25 handles millions of pounds of donated goods each year, mostly clothing and medical supplies, and has a network in many countries and many parts of the United States for getting those goods where they’re needed most. Their staff was quite impressed with how hard our kids worked.
Our youth missioners learned a lot about the value of serving the less fortunate. From playing a small part in a large movement for social change or clothing those who’ve had everything taken away by a flood or tornado, to being one-on-one with someone who needs them in order to learn and grow, we hope this experience has inspired our youth into a life of service.