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Serving and Celebrating with a Mission

August 31st, 2012 at 6:00 am

During the summer, churches are busy with many outreach acticities, two typically being summer camps and mission trips. So what do you get when you combine these two? Mission Serve Dallas.

In 2008, Grace Temple Baptist Church in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas agreed to let Mission Serve, a weeklong missions experience where youth help refurbish a home for a family in need and then have camp-like experiences in the evening, use their church building as a ministry base for the efforts in Dallas.

Though Grace Temple’s students weren’t participating that year, the church’s minister to students, Matt Rucker, spent a little time with the ministry each night just to learn what Mission Serve was all about. By the end of the week, he grabbed a hammer and went to help with a housing project. He was hooked. And he knew he needed to get his students involved the next year too!

“When I was praying and seeking after what God wanted us to do [as a student group], here came all these other youth groups and they were sharing about it. I thought, ‘Wow, God! I think this is what you want us to do,’” Matt said.

Matt started making plans to take his youth group to a Mission Serve site outside of Texas during the next summer. Since then, Grace Temple has been part of Mission Serve for four other times, serving in Louisiana, Alabama and Texas. The times that the group has been able to serve outside of Texas allowed his students not only a chance to serve others but also to learn about the blessings they have back in Texas, Matt said.

“We are from Oak Cliff and apparently live in the hood. But when we went to Lake Providence, La., one of the poorest providences in the U.S., [the students] understood that they have it good where they are and that God has really blessed them,” he said.

For Sarah Florez, a Grace Temple student who is a senior in high school, Mission Serve has made such an impact in her life through the years that she serve hat she decided to be on volunteer staff for the Mission Serve 2012 week hosted by her church. To her, serving this way gives her an opportunity to live out her passion for the Lord.

“My first year I did Mission Serve, I really didn’t want to do it. But when I did, I experienced something I hadn’t before – being selfless. I was really selfish and I hadn’t experienced that before. Through the years, I did other mission trips, showing that love to people through doing what we do. I feel like helping people all the time now,” Florez said.

During each Mission Serve week, the Georgia-based organization connects with local city agencies or ministries that work with low-income or elderly residents who need help with repairs to their homes. The goal of the week is to strengthen neighborhoods by improving sub-standard housing, trusting that through serving others the lives of the volunteers and residence both will be impacted. During 2012, Mission Serve hosted 14 mission weeks in the southern part of the U.S.

“What I like is that it’s both like a mission trip where you serve during the day and at night it is like the camp experience,” Matt said.  “…It’s really a great encouragement and opportunity to see the gospel in play.”

The last day of the project is a community day. The teams bring the homeowners and the ministry leaders back to the church for a celebration and for the students to be able to share with them the real reason they are serving – the love of Jesus.

“You are doing something bigger than yourself, something that brings glory to God and it changes you. It’s fun,” Matt said.

This year, 130 students from five churches in Tennessee, Illinois, Georgia and Texas came to Dallas to stay at Grace Temple Baptist Church and to share that love of Christ through repairing 12 homes in the South Dallas area.

Students mixed and mingled, forming work crews of 15 people. Each team was comprised of a mixed group of students from the churches participating, allowing them to learn from other groups and form community with the team as a whole.

Each night after a day of hard work, the students gathered for worship and then a Bible study time with their individual churches.

“I saw a lot of unity between the churches. They came for one purpose – just to come and show these communities that someone cares for them. I saw lots of people’s hearts change. Sleeping on the floor and fixing people’s houses, their lives are changed. They experience God through it,” Florez said.

And that mission and purpose doesn’t have to stop. Students can join Grace Temple Baptist Church and participate in Mission Serve Dallas during July 21-26, 2013. For more information, email Matt Rucker at matt@gracetempledallas.org.

“Mission Serve is a place where kids from all over the U.S. come to experience something they haven’t experienced in their own town. They come to serve, sleep on the floor, work hard and be Christ’s hands and feet and love others. …It’s surely not a waist of their time or money. It is a great experience that will drastically change your life,” Florez said.

To view more stories, photos and videos from Mission Serve Dallas 2012, visit the team blog.

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