Well it’s been a few days since we returned from Knoxville and our mission trip with WOW Urban Ministries. Even though it’s been a few days, my thoughts are commonly returning to our time serving our neighbors there. This was my first experience with WOW Urban Ministries, and I can say that I am very impressed with the mission program that St. John’s Lutheran Church in Knoxville (the host congregation) has created over the years.
We’ve posted a lot of photos from our trip on our church Facebook page and we encourage you to take a look at them by following this link:
There were many things that impressed me about this trip that really helped it stand out as a mission trip program. After leading mission trips to various places and through various organizations over the last five years, it was so refreshing to participate in a program that “get’s it.”
The first thing that stood out in Knoxville was that the entire week of programming and service projects were led by and organized by current high school and college students who dedicated multiple weeks of their summers to help equip and walk alongside those of us who joined them for a week of missions. And these young disciples did an excellent job setting everything up for us to enjoy and learn from throughout the week.
It was also incredibly refreshing to see a focus on servant leadership at WOW Urban Ministries. The entire focus all week was about sharing God’s Agape (unconditional/sacrificing) Love with everyone we meet. Throughout the week we took part in two different service projects each day. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. I don’t know about you, but the first thing that pops into my head whenever the term “mission trip” pops into my head, I usually go straight to thinking about building houses, painting fences, and doing a lot of really sweaty physical labor outdoors. I rarely take time to think about the other kinds of service opportunities available that can mean just as much, if not more, to those that we serve. While in Knoxville there were all kinds of service projects for our youth to participate in throughout the week – not just the physical labor ones. Of course we did have opportunities to take part in acts of physical labor, but we also had opportunities to listen to people’s stories, to listen to organization’s stories, to learn from those neighbors we were going out to “help” – and coming back feeling like they may have actually helped each of us more. We had opportunities to serve through accompaniment, which often times ended up in making new friends. It was so easy to see Christ in the world around us during this week – even when we were forced to step out of our comfort zones.
Additionally, the program at WOW Urban Ministries had opportunities to help build up our youth as leaders and in their faith throughout the week. It was neat to see our youth actively involved in leading worship each morning, and then later in the day tackling group challenges together. They were learning helpful skills of communication and trust – maybe without even realizing it because it was done in such a fun way!
I can’t have a wrap-up blog post about Knoxville without mentioning the dedicated adults that came along on this trip with our group. They were incredibly helpful and great examples to our young people throughout the week! I can’t thank them enough for their willingness to use a week of their summer to walk alongside such a great group of middle school youth!
I am looking forward to the opportunity to return with a dedicated and excited group of middle school youth in the years to come!
Remembering those in Knoxville, here in Salisbury, and around the world with God’s Agape Love!
– Kai Thurow