A group of middle schoolers gave parts of Mission a makeover this week. The U.M. ARMY – United Methodist Action Reach-out Mission by Youth – spent three days building fences, tiling floors and building transportation devices.
In the summer, the U.M. ARMY volunteers in nine communities. Last year, Pastor Bill Duke of Mission’s First Methodist Church requested U.M. ARMY visit Mission.
“We’re trying to serve the community in ways that hopefully will be sustainable,” said Associate Pastor Kevin Portwood of the First United Methodist Church in Portland, Texas. “We come in and we try to donate the supplies ourselves and offer our labor. These are constructions projects that the kids can get in on, and they’re fun.”
For three days, the ARMY worked from morning until mid afternoon on projects around the city before retiring to their hosts at First UMC.
Monday, they volunteered for the Personal Energy Transportation Project, where they worked to build three-wheeled carts for people that have lost their legs. The wheelbarrow-like vehicles are built in Mission and then shipped to Mexico.
Tuesday, the cohort put up fences for a park at the church, built and painted a shed and fixed a prayer garden.
Wednesday, the youth group did construction at the Mission Boys & Girls Club. They tiled the library and multipurpose rooms and built cabinets.
“It means a whole lot for us especially here in the Boys & Girls Club because they are servicing our community and helping us grow, and helping our facilities grow,” said Ludovico Martinez, the executive director at the club.
Portwood held his position as associate pastorfor a week before hopping in a van and traveling to Mission with the youth group. He had only just started working with the kids and didn’t even know some of their names until they began the trip. In spite of the short time together, the experience has allowed them to bond.
“A lot of what the Boys & Girls Club does, we’re doing in a micro sense in our group,” the associate pastor said. “We’re kind of instilling leadership and giving the kids a chance to do something new that they haven’t done before.”
With the exception of minor training from coordinators, the middle schoolers did most of the work during their stay, Portwood said. Portland native Eliana Dykehouse, 11, handled a power saw to cut and design the cabinets, others hammered, sliced and used liquid nails during construction.
Seventh-grader Kat Royer from Canyon Lake had never constructed or done any kind of work project like the one with U.M. ARMY. She called the experience life changing.
“You see the beginning picture … and you start working on it, and you see how much progress you’re making,” the 12-year-old said. “Even if those other people aren’t there, you see how happy it’s going to make them. It changes your life.”