Youth group impacted by volunteering at Shepherds Ministries

By August 24, 2009

USA (MNN) — Students from the Scofield Memorial Church
youth group had the chance to take a missions trip to Shepherds Ministries. However,
while they ministered to the residents, it was actually the residents who
taught them more.

On August 16, the youth group of Scofield
Memorial Church arrived at Shepherds Ministries in Union Grove, Wisconsin, to minister to the residents of Shepherds. Many of the youth
had never worked with individuals with special needs, and they were a bit uncertain
about the new experience.

On Monday, their first full day, the church youth had training,
learned how to interact with the residents and how to interpret non-verbal

For the week, each youth was paired with a resident, a "Shepherds
Friend." The youth then spent the whole day with their friend going with them
through their normal routine, whether it was work, taking walks, cleaning,
eating, doing devotions or praying.

Tuesday they were "thrown into the fire" said one of the youth, Harrison
Pack. They spent almost 11 hours with the residents, breaking only for lunch.

"It was really tough. It was challenging, and it was hard, and
it was scary," Pack said, speaking of the first day of working with the

Another one of the youth, Julia Hall, said her first day was
a challenge as well. For the week, Hall helped out in the Adult Activity Center
(ACC), where the lowest-functioning residents lived. Most of them were
unable to speak, and communicating with them was difficult.

Hall was paired with Gayle, a Shepherds resident who liked to be left to herself. Alhough she had the capacity to speak, she did not often do so. Upon first meeting Gayle, Hall
described her as "stand offish" and said it was hard to interact with her.

"I was kind of at a loss as to how to love her and to get to
know her when she wasn't willing to let me," Hall said. "So I went in there
feeling apprehensive, but definitely willing to give it a try because I knew
that God had put me there for a reason, even if I didn't quite understand it."

Hall said one of the things she struggled with the most was
being surrounded by people who could not feed or change themselves and had to
entirely depend on someone else to survive.

"[The situation] was really hard for me to swallow and for
me to understand why God would let that happen, why God would plan it that way,"
Hall said. "God kind of taught me and showed me that even though they may not
be function according to the world's standards, they still have personalities. I've
learned to look past the disabilities and see their abilities."

Pack said he also learned much from his resident friend, Dan, and the other residents.

"They've taught me a lot. They're so pure and so open. They've
sort of taught me how to love unconditionally. Everyone's special and has their
own gifts," Pack said. He also said he was amazed by the community at
Shepherds. Several nights he said he ate dinner with Dan at his unit, Lamb
Cottage. Pack said the men who lived in the cottage "joked around with each
other, gave each other a hard time, [and] loved each other, just like any other
group of guys would."

Ryan Bowen, the Scofield youth leader, said from his
standpoint it was amazing to watch the youth warm up to the residents
throughout the week. He said he watched them go from being uncomfortable, to
being a bit uncertain, to being full of joy, to not wanting to leave Shepherds.

"It's just been a blessing to watch the kids kind of dive
into this ministry and be selfless and have courage and pray often and honestly
that God would give them joy and strength throughout the week," Bowen said.

As the week drew to a close, Pack said, "Every single person
had a unique experience, and I think every single person has been changed and
really impacted by the work we've done here."

The Scofield youth group left Shepherds Saturday night after
spending an incredible week of growth and learning there. The group also has a
blog about the week-long experience and the months of preparation
leading up to it. To visit the blog, click here.

To learn more about Shepherds Ministries or how you can
become involved, visit their Web site at .

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