Shepherds hopes to ‘cultivate a heart of service in the next generation’

By May 24, 2010

USA (MNN) — As the school year draws to a close, most teens are thinking of summer plans such as jobs, mission trips or camp. Shepherds Ministries in Union Grove, Wisconsin offers a unique opportunity, lasting four days for youth over 16.

Becci Terrill, Shepherds' director of ministry partnerships, said, "We call it our Shepherds Friend program. It's unique from other summer youth camp/mission trip experiences, in the fact that is both educational and relational in its focus."

Participating youth arrive on the Shepherds campus, receive training and then are paired with a resident who has a development or intellectual disabilities. For many of the participants, this is their first time working with people with disabilities, and the experience moves them out of their comfort zone.

For the remaining time at Shepherds, participants spend their days with their resident, helping them at their vocation, accompanying them to their schooling and then interacting with them in various other activities. Youth develop relationships with the resident and see how Christ can work through their lives as well.

Terrill said the main goal of these summer programs is to instill a heart of service in this next generation: "Jesus modeled service in His ministry here on earth … For youth today, if we don't purpose to model service to them and show them the importance and the blessing of serving others, [then] we're going to lose that in the future."

In past summers, after youth have concluded their experience, many realize how much they can do for Christ even while they"re still young. Some return to Shepherds to volunteer again or become permanent staff. Others start similar ministries in their own communities.

Regardless of how they apply the lessons they have learned, Terrill said one thing is for sure: "They leave changed."

You can check out Shepherds' Web site if you or someone you know would be interested in this opportunity or other chances to volunteer there.

Pray for the Shepherds' residents, staff, and volunteers, for their hearts to be open and willing to serve wherever Christ would have them.

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