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Youths on a mission to help
Youths from Beyond Sunday Missions get ready to do painting of the library at the Holy Savior School in Rumford. (Times photo by Bruce Farrin)
RUMFORD -- An enthusiastic group of high schoolers, with their adult advisors, were busy getting ready to paint a room inside the Holy Savior as the school's principal, librarian and a volunteer looked on in admiration.
The group are members of Beyond Sunday Missions, a new Christian-based nonprofit from Ipswich, MA. They were here on a four-day mission on July 24-28 to do work to expand the school's library, at the invitation of Fr. Phil Tracy.
Brenda Sassi, retired librarian, noted, "These are wonderful kids. They came Monday and haven't stopped."
Barbara Pelletier, school principal, added, "I'm excited. We wouldn't have been able to do this this year without them."
Director Valerie Shippen said they brought a total of 22 people, divided into two groups. They rotated between here and the Good Shepherd Food-Bank in Lewiston. They also did some mission work at a home on Cumberland Street for an elderly homeowner. "We did some yard work and chatted with her. She even made lemon squares for them."
She said this is her 18th year of doing mission work, but the first one of organizing a project on her own. Part of the reason for doing this is so young people will "have an opportunity to give the gift of providing service to other people and to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.
The work at the school, which will celebration their 100th anniversary this year, involved taking the crowded one-room library and expanding it into an adjacent room. One of those rooms will be for the older students, the other for the younger ones.
Work included priming, painting, moving shelves and carpentry work. They even supplied the paint. The teens also removed a large chalkboard from one wall, plastered sheetrock into the space and painted it.
Also looking with excitement was first-year school librarian Ashley Duguay. "This is my first librarian job. I going through UMA and studying library science to be a librarian."
Ashley, in moving the books, noticed how many of them have become outdated. With the money saved with this project, she said they now have funds to replace some of the outdated books.
Shippen said that in addition to mission work, the youths also create the prayers, cook the meals as well as keep journals about the mission. The mission work also comes with the culture shock to the young people of being without their electronic devices.
After working two days, the group took a day to explore the area before returning for the final two days. They climbed Tumbledown Mountain and went to Coos Canyon in Byron. The day also include going to the Front Porch Cafe in Dixfield for lunch, the Far East in Mexico for supper, with dessert down the road at the Frosty Delite.
Eleven years ago, Valerie and Pete Shippen bought a home on Coburn Avenue across the Thad White Bridge in Mexico to create a mission workcamp. They wanted to invite high school- through college-aged young people to serve those who need assistance with small home repairs or yardwork.
Valerie said they always had the intent of making this a mission home, but it would be in God's time. She said they chose this area because they knew there was a high percentage of elderly people, some of whom could benefit from the mission work.
The following is from Valerie Shippen's blog of July 24:
Lindsey, Sean and Greg: Today, our group had the tough task of finishing priming the new library and also transferring the shelf from the old library to the new junior high library room. In addition, we also plastered sheet rock onto the wall where the chalk board was before. Today, we did not just focus on working, but we also interacted with some local children. This included playing basketball and four square!
Samantha and Emily: Today, we went to the food bank and our group put together bags for the elderly. In the beginning we were all kind of disorganized and walking around trying to fill the bags in the right order without having a good efficient system. After about an hour, we all got into the flow of what we were doing and without being told jobs, put together almost two loads of orders by working together. The whole experience was extremely riveting and we both felt we took charge and assisted our group by knowing how each item was supposed to be arranged in all of the bags.
According to its website at www.beyondsundaymissions.com, Beyond Sunday Missions an organization "that inspires and empowers those in need to improve the quality of their lives, now and in the future through home repair, outreach, and faith-filled presence."
The organization's purpose is Romans 12:2, which is printed on the back of T-shirts the teens and team leaders were wearing: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God -- what is good and acceptable and perfect."
Any student about to enter or enrolled in high school or just graduated from high school (summer after graduation) can participate.
Costs vary year to year. The 2012 summer session is $250 per person for a Sunday to Saturday trip, including all meals, housing, and transportation. Also required is a minimum of 25 donation letters to be sent by participant to raise funds and awareness, and ask for prayers. There may be other fundraising events which require participation.
Shippen said they have a goal for doing mission work for 12 homes next summer within an hour radius of here.
"We can't do rental properties. We do small home repairs," she said, adding that it's a case by case basis. They are looking to help people who have been adversely affected by the economy.