Sharing the spirit, one city at a time

Published 12:30 am Friday, October 28, 2011

Steve Ainsworth, Emily Perry and Justin Tyer put the finishing touches on drywall during a mission trip with Washington’s First Christian Church. (Contributed Photo)

Over the years, Washington’s First Christian Church has organized youth mission trips all over the country, and Robbins Rees has been a frequent chaperone. Rees spent seven years as senior youth leader in the church and now serves as the Christian education chairman.

The church’s youths have been to Washington, D.C., Louisiana, New York, Baltimore, Atlanta and multiple places in North Carolina.

On a mission trip to Washington, D.C., the youth stayed in the Disciples of Christ Cathedral in the middle of the city. Doors were locked at night, as homeless people would sleep on the grounds surrounding the church. The homeless were allowed to bathe in the church fountain, provided they didn’t remove all of their clothes.

The youths spent their days doing one of two service activities. One group prepared food in the D.C. Central Kitchen, a soup kitchen run by the city government. The other group spent the day working with Martha’s Table, a private nonprofit organization, collecting food from local restaurants and making soup in huge vats. In the afternoon, the youths would divide into groups and travel the city, serving soup to the homeless from vans.

“We would feed 1,500 a day,” Rees said.

It was eye-opening experience for the youths to see people clamoring for soup, a sandwich and dessert.

“That was pretty mind boggling,” Rees added.

The youths also worked on homes in New Orleans that had been damaged during Hurricane Katrina. They also worked with another nonprofit building homes for low-income families in Atlanta. In Baltimore, each person was given jeans, coveralls and rubber gloves before cleaning up vacant lots and the yards of vacant houses.

Rees believes these trips make a difference in the lives of the people the youths help and the youths. Many of those who go on one trip are likely to go on more, he noted.

“We want to teach them to serve now,” Rees said, “so they’ll learn how to serve forever.”