Youth tackle social, environmental injustice at Serve MSP

August 11, 2021

By: Sami Tierney

Twenty-five youth representing three United Methodist congregations spent Aug. 3-5 serving in Minneapolis/St. Paul as part of Serve MSP.  Borrowing from the old Camp MSP format, Serve MSP was intentional about offering youth and adult leaders opportunities to learn and serve each day.   
Jan Russell (Good Samaritan UMC in Edina) and Rick Belbetoski (Hennepin Avenue UMC in Minneapolis) started the conversation in February, wondering how they could do something for students this summer, figuring that in the midst of a pandemic a “regular” mission trip would be out of the question. Grant Spencer (Advent UMC in Eagan) and others were invited into the conversation, along with Sami Tierney (Messiah UMC in Plymouth and conference Youth Ministry co-chair) and Camp Minnesota.   
What transpired was a wonderful group of colleagues and collaborators, working within the connectional system of the UMC to invite others into the planning, find opportunities to serve, and lean into social and environmental justice conversations.  Each day began with a devotional from the story of Esther—namely how we, too, can have an impact in our own communities in “such a time as this.” 
Here’s what the three days looked like:
Tuesday, August 3 
• Packed 400 school kits for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) at Hennepin Avenue UMC 
• Heard from Rev. Lyndy Zabel, conference director of missional impact and community engagement, who shared about UMCOR and the different kinds of kits and where they’ll go 
• Made 10 fleece tie blankets and five pillows for Simpson Shelter, which nightly houses 66 people experiencing homelessness
• Had a conversation about Simpson Shelter with Jan Russell, a member of its board 
Wednesday, August 4 
• Packed 1,100 bags (containing 4,200 meals) at Every Meal (formerly The Sheridan Story) in Roseville, which fills gaps in food access that children face during weekends, summers, and extended breaks
• Sorted clothing and furniture at Hennepin Avenue UMC’s Dignity Center, which supports people living in poverty on their path to stability
• Explored the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden 
Thursday, August 5 
• Marked 100 drains and distributed information in St. Paul with the Friends of the Mississippi River, which engages people to protect, restore, and enhance the river and its watershed in the Twin Cities region
• Learned about water pollution and its impact  • Made pizzas at Hamline Church’s community bread oven in St. Paul
• Learned about environmental justice from Rev. Dana Neuhauser, conference racial justice organizer, at Fairmount Avenue UMC in St. Paul
In just three days, youth learned about several local efforts to fight food insecurity, support persons experiencing homelessness, and raise awareness about water pollution. They also learned about United Methodist-supported organizations, like UMCOR, the Dignity Center, and Simpson Shelter.  
This was also a meaningful collaboration among metro churches, UMC-supported organizations, the annual conference Youth Ministry, and Camp Minnesota.

Sami Tierney is the co-chair for the Minnesota Conference Youth Ministry Team.

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

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