By: Sami Tierney
On Saturday, Nov. 6, more than 30 youth and leaders from five Minnesota United Methodist youth groups gathered at Good Samaritan UMC in Edina to pack nearly 300 shoeboxes for Spirit Lake Ministry Center to distribute to families in need on Native American reservations in both the Dakotas and Minnesota at Christmastime.
Several churches and individuals contributed—both monetary donations and donations of goods—and a couple youth groups packed shoeboxes on a different day and delivered them to Good Samaritan to add to Saturday’s event total.
Each shoebox includes a large gift and an assortment of smaller toys, winter gear, art supplies, and hygiene essentials.
The event was a “pop-up” from the organizers of last summer’s Serve MSP event. Serve MSP is a collaboration of youth and young adults in the Minnesota Conference who work on service projects together several times a year.
The day began with a little introduction to Spirit Lake with a video from its website. Serve MSP organizer Rick Belbutoski (director of youth and youth adult ministries at Hennepin Avenue UMC in Minneapolis) and his students have done a mission trip to Spirit Lake, so he shared more about the ministry and organization that’s collecting and distributing the shoeboxes. Rev. Lyndy Zabel (global connections and missional initiatives coordinator for the Minnesota Conference) stopped by to check out the event, sharing with organizers the importance of doing “stuff like this... at home.”
Then, participants got to work unpacking all the goods donated by churches and ordered using donations. They sorted piles of toys, hygiene items, snacks, books, arts and crafts, etc. Items were moved onto a long table and the shoebox assembly began! Each shoebox gets a label (boy or girl, and age) and begins with a larger gift—and the boxes are then packed with smaller items accordingly down the line, accounting for choking hazards and age-appropriate gifts for each recipient.
“These gifts bring joy to children and parents alike,” said Rev. Mike Flowers, co-director of Spirit Lake Ministry Center. “You share the love of Jesus Christ and make a difference in the lives of many children and adults. I wish every one of you could be here to witness the tears of joy when we deliver these small gifts of love.”
A couple of adult leaders spent the day packing up the Good Samaritan UMC church van with the shoeboxes—to be unloaded into a larger collection headed to the reservation in North Dakota.
“My youth had a blast,” shared Lydia Jagodzinski from Centenary UMC in Mankato, who brought her 10th grade Confirmands.
Participants for Saturday’s event included youth, leaders, and pastors from Roots and Branches UMC (Anoka), Hennepin Avenue UMC (Minneapolis), Messiah UMC (Plymouth), Hamline Church (St. Paul), Centenary UMC (Mankato), and host church Good Samaritan UMC (Edina).
Serve MSP is planning another pop-up event in the spring (likely mid-March) and another three-day camp the first week of August 2022. For more information on Serve MSP, contact Sami Tierney, co-coordinator of youth ministry for the Minnesota Conference at firstname.lastname@example.org