A Mission Trip in Your Own Backyard

Often times, the concept of a servant event conjures up images of a group boarding a bus or vans, traveling to a distant destination, then returning home after a week of serving God and that community. However, the annual Rochester Servant Event is different; participants serve almost literally right in their own backyards.

For years, youth and adults from Redeemer Lutheran Church in Rochester have traveled for a week in the summer to serve in Chicago. Five years ago, one student, Samantha Guthrie, had a new idea: doing the same type of event, but in Rochester.

“I just happened to remember one thing that they would always tell us at the conclusion of the [Chicago] trip: your home is your mission field,” recalls Guthrie. “We wanted our community to know they're loved by an amazing God and that we (the church) love them as well.”

 Students gather for a midday devotion during the Rochester Servant Event.

Students gather for a midday devotion during the Rochester Servant Event.

After Guthrie discussed this idea with DCE Michael Harvey, the Rochester Servant Event took off. A leadership team of youth and adults organized the first event in 2012, and it continues to grow.

This summer, more than 70 youth and 30 adult volunteers (from Redeemer and two other LCMS churches) touched lives throughout Rochester. With days that started and ended with worship, participants were divided in to crews of 5-6 people, and had the opportunity to:

·      Work on landscaping

·      Repair and paint homes

·      Play bingo at a nursing home

·      Bake bread

·      Organize second-hand clothing

·      Hold VBS in a park

·      Tell people about Jesus

Writing in a blog post, student Sam Hildestad reflected that much of the work allowed them to “serve our Lord in a way we never saw coming.”

 Work crews lay sod at a Habitat for Humanity house.

Work crews lay sod at a Habitat for Humanity house.

As this event grows, Redeemer would like it to be an example to other churches how they can serve their community in the name of Jesus. “[We] would love to be an incubator for this,” said Rev. Adam Koglin, Associate Pastor at Redeemer.

The vision for this incubator model is that other churches would participate for a year to experience the event, and then work with Redeemer’s leadership team to implement a servant event in their own community.

Even if churches aren’t ready to do this themselves, Koglin says, “we would love to have them just join us!”