Story by Mark Ford
Many negative things have been written about today’s youth- how they are self-(or selfie) centered and lazy. In today’s blog, though, we’d like to share a different side of local teens as they serve with one of our partner ministries, Project Shine.
Project Shine’s mission is “to connect individuals to Christ through basic home improvement and ministry in our communities, while spiritually investing in our participants.” Area youth commit to serve for a week (late afternoon Sunday through Friday evening) where they are challenged both physically in their work teams, as well as, spiritually during daily devotions and praise and worship times.
The concept for Project Shine was conceived in 2001 in West Virginia when two local Kenmore churches – Goss Memorial and Hope United Methodist – found themselves serving on a summer youth missions trip together. Although the churches were located in the same neighborhood, they had little contact with each other, but the work trip changed all of that as relationships formed, and a vision for a youth work week in Kenmore was birthed. 2002 saw this dream become a reality as the first Project Shine occurred with over 45 volunteers and dozens of lives impacted.
So what does a typical day look like for the youth volunteers? Breakfast begins bright and early at 7:00 a.m. For teens on summer break, getting up and going at that time is a sacrifice in and of itself. Work at sites begins at 8:00 and continues until the lunch and devotional break at noon. What are some of the tasks the teens might find themselves doing throughout the week? Things like staining and power washing decks, general landscaping, painting, debris removal, and other basic home improvement jobs that bless those in need. Work resumes from 1:00-3:00, followed by showers and a free time period until dinner at 5:00. From 7:00-9:00 in the evening participants take part in a worship and teaching time where they are challenged in their Christian faith. Then it’s time to depart for sleeping locations, with lights out at 11:00. On Wednesday the volunteers enjoy a mid-week day of fun at Clay’s Park.
Project Shine is a wonderful example of churches coming together to serve the community. The Board of Directors of Project Shine is made up of individuals from Goss Memorial, Arlington Memorial Baptist Church, Park UMC, Hope UMC, and Lakeside Christian Church. Participating churches and ministries who will be bringing their youth to volunteer this year include Akron Baptist Temple, Riverwood Chapel, The Chapel in Kenmore, and First Glance. Over the past 14 years, $50,000 has been invested in Akron properties, and 300 projects have been completed.
This year is unique in that a second “week of faith” has been added to the schedule. Project Shine is a small non-profit, and faces many of the challenges that come along with that, including funding. There was also the question of whether there would be enough projects to work on, enough volunteer youth, and enough adults to help out as well. In a board meeting early this year, although each board member had reservations and was perhaps harboring the thought that they hoped the vote would be against a second week, God had His way. There was a unanimous YES vote for week two!
Little could the leadership know that a project large enough for a second week would soon come their way. Another local pastor, Pastor Brandon File of Church of Deliverance, approached Pastor Kevin Burkholder, Lead Pastor of Goss Memorial and Chairman of the Project Shine Board of Directors, and asked if they would ever consider painting a church. Church of Deliverance is a small congregation with limited funds, and the outside of their church could use some sprucing up. This simple request has turned into a great opportunity for building a friendship between the two pastors and also a wonderful way for Christians to serve other Christians. There is even talk of doing more than painting the church but perhaps doing a Vacation Bible School or other day camp together in the neighborhood. Kevin firmly believes that all of this was God-ordained and said he looks forward to, “serving with this church for years beyond just this year.”
We share these ministry partner spotlights because sometimes people aren’t aware of the amazing things happening right in our community. God is working through Project Shine to impact the Kenmore community and other nearby communities that they serve, the youth volunteers, the adult leaders, and now a local church. Perhaps in reading this, you feel moved to serve as an adult leader. As of the writing of this blog, they still need volunteers, and it’s not too late to sign up. Adult volunteers don’t need to commit to a whole week but can serve even just one day, and you can register here. The Love Akron Network staff and Board of Directors (those that are able) will be serving together one day during the first week of Project Shine. If you follow us on Twitter or have liked us on Facebook, you can look forward to some pictures from our team building service day. Maybe you feel called to give a financial gift to help this ministry as they have taken on their additional “faith week.” There are online giving options on their website. Finally, would you commit to pray for these two weeks of service – June 19-24 and June 26-July 1?
So for all of the naysayers out there that think today’s youth are a lost cause, I think those that have been impacted by Project Shine would beg to differ. God uses people of all ages, abilities, talents, and ethnic backgrounds. He’s simply looking for those that are willing. There are good things happening here in our community, and we are blessed to share these stories as we all seek to #ElevateAkron.
For more information go to: Project Shine