Submitted by: Urban CROSS
Last month, 36 Urban CROSS campers spent a week helping neighbors with painting, yard work, landscaping, cleanup, construction, and repair projects at 39 sites across St. Paul’s residential East Side.
“I experienced God when I saw the joy in the family we helped,” said a youth participant from Glenwood.
Urban CROSS (Christians Reaching Out in Service in St. Paul), now in its sixth year, is a missional outreach of Mounds Park United Methodist Church that seeks to invite youth from across the Minnesota Conference to become involved with hands-on service projects benefiting people in the multi-cultural, inner-city St. Paul community of Dayton’s Bluff, where a quarter of families are living below the poverty level and where 93 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced lunches. The majority of the families living in poverty are made up of single female heads of household.
Twenty-nine adult volunteers worked with six youth teams throughout the week. They provided tools, guidance, food preparation, worship opportunities, and nursing care. Additionally, 47 people provided prayer support and partnership for the week, and 23 area businesses, non-profits, and churches stepped forward to sponsor and support the efforts of these young people.
“Every year, it’s great to see a group of kids that do not know each other very well at the beginning of the week come together and serve people in need in the community,” said Brent Gausman from Morris.
The week’s theme was “Grace Flowing Like a River!” and it drew from the image of the flowing Mississippi River viewed from high above on Dayton’s Bluff. John 1:16 formed the scriptural base: “From God’s abundant love we all receive grace upon grace, one blessing after another.” Each night, participants worshipped together with musical leadership provided by Josh Corbett and evening meditations by Rev. Jeremiah Lideen of Uptown Church in Minneapolis and Jonathan Coward from Centennial UMC in Roseville.
Direct hands-on service opportunities are life-changing events both for the young people involved and those they seek to help—and that was clear throughout the week.
“It’s a week of hard work and family,” said Emily Armstrong of Minneapolis. “We get closer to God by diggin’ in the dirt!”
Mason Nelson echoed that sentiment: “It's loads of fun! There are no words for it—just fun, and you feel good doing it!”
Urban CROSS operates under the notion that a solid youth ministry involves helping youth put their faith into practice by being involved with direct hands-on service projects, whether through is at Mountain T.O.P. in the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee, The Appalachia Service Project, The Heifer Ranch in Arkansas, or The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation of South Dakota.
Urban CROSS invites you to participate in 2016, serving beside and learning from neighbors.
“If folks didn’t come to Urban CROSS, they would miss the friendships they would make and the hearts they touch by helping in the community,” said Austin Wollenzien from St. Paul.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church