By Natalie Simms
It’s not often you find a group of teenagers willing to give up a week of their summer break, along with their cell phones, to help those in need. But that is exactly what 44 students from Unity Christian School will be doing this week as the group, along with nine adult leaders, heads out this morning to Charleston, West Virginia for mission work.
“This trip is so incredibly important,” says Coach Mark Ackerman, UCS Athletics Director, who organizes the trip for rising eighth through twelfth graders. “Most of these kids raised their own money to go, they give up their phone for the week, as no phones are allowed, and work in very underserved communities. Something really happens to our kids’ hearts…God gets ahold of their hearts and they come back changed.”
Unity partners with YouthWorks Ministry to coordinate the mission trip. This will be the fourth summer mission trip for Unity since starting the program in 2016. Each year, more students get involved in the work.
“We started in 2016 with 14 students on that first trip to West Virginia. We doubled the next year with 28 students and leaders going to Louisville, Kentucky. Last year, we had 44 go to Bayou La Batre, Alabama and this year, we have 53 total, the largest group yet,” says Ackerman.
The students will be helping in urban underserved areas with summer children’s programs, as well as local clean-up efforts in the community.
“It’s hard work, it’s usually very hot. But these kids give up a week of their summer to serve others,” he says. “Nothing changes students’ hearts more than serving others.”
Rising senior Bella Posey has been on the mission trip the last three years and is looking forward to returning to West Virginia.
“I enjoy these trips so much. It is a cool opportunity to get to know all the other students better. Even without our cell phones for the week, we connect so much better with each other. It is really cool to see how God works through us,” she says.
“I’m looking forward to going back to West Virginia where we went the first year. It really changes me to see the impact our work has on the kids there.”
Rising sophomore Avery Simms is looking forward to her first mission trip experience.
“When I was younger, I would always raise money for local and international missions and now I am super excited to be able to minister myself to the people of West Virginia. Along with getting to know and share the love of Christ with these people, I’m also looking forward to getting to know my classmates working alongside of me better,” she says.
Fellow classmate Julia Ackerman agrees. “I’m looking forward to the connections I will get to make with the people I will meet. I love to go on mission trips because I don’t often get an opportunity in everyday life to just serve others.”
This unique ministry opportunity is exactly what drew rising sophomore Lauren Baskin to participate.
“I want to go because it’s a unique opportunity that allows us to have fun while ministering to people that might not know Jesus,” she says. “I’m looking forward to growing closer to my friends and God, along with building new relationships. It’s going to be super fun.”