Rev. Melinda Dodge on the Young Leaders Academy

Rev. Melinda Dodge on the Young Leaders Academy

My brothers and sisters in Christ,

This past weekend, I had the honor and privilege of co-leading the inaugural Sierra Service Project Young Leaders Academy at the Claremont School of Theology. This academy is another step in the ongoing ministries that Sierra Service Project (lovingly known as “SSP”) offers to young adults. This might seem a strange statement because most of the time, we think of SSP as a youth ministry. And, it is. But, the Holy Sprit works in ways much bigger than our imaginations. After years of SSP mission youth trips and working with SSP Staff young adults in orientations, workshops and right here in the local church… I am seeing the Holy Spirit powerfully at work, forming SSP into an articulated, beautiful ministry with youth AND young adults.

Months ago, I approached Rick Eaton, the SSP Executive Director, to discuss my observations of SSP as a young adult ministry. Other clergy got involved, a grant was written… and the Sierra Service Project Young Leaders Academy was born. Then, Claremont School of Theology Dean Belva Brown Jordan and I co-designed the curriculum and co-led two academy weekends with nine SSP Young Adult staffers. We prayed together. We discussed and learned about our personal leadership strengths and weaknesses, fears, anxieties, and concerns. Dean Jordan and I introduced and practiced the art of mentoring with the academy participants. We discussed how to model the servant leadership we see in our savior, Jesus Christ. The theme of listening — to ourselves, to each other, and to God — carried us through our weekends together.

It is powerful to witness the Holy Spirit at work, and where the Holy Spirit will take us… if we listen. After years of SSP youth ministry, I heard the Holy Spirit calling me to step out and be in ministry with the youth (now young adults) formed by that ministry. These academy weekends have been like water to a dry soul — just to listen to these young disciples of Christ and their inspired places of ministry. Just to be a part of their journey, to hear and learn from their stories, their experience of God in the world, and their understanding of what authentic ministry in the ways of Christ looks like has been refreshing, inspiring, challenging and deeply meaningful.

May the coming Holy Week be a time in which we listen — to God, to God’s world, to God’s family everywhere.

May this Holy Week listening draw us closer to the heart of God as we walk in the painful journey of Jesus to the cross.

May we know that our listening is the step that God gives us to hear and see the Holy Spirit already at work among us… and where that Holy Spirit is calling us to — in the days ahead.

From your sister on the journey with you,

Pastor Melinda Dodge

40 for 40: 12xSSP Goal Achieved!

40 for 40: 12xSSP Goal Achieved!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to our 12xSSP monthly donors! In February this group grew to 118 supporters who have pledged almost $41,000 annually through their monthly contributions. We set a campaign goal of 40 new or increased donors, and we achieved it (and then some)!

Do you want to join this incredible group of donors? We are only 11 away from meeting our goal of 40 new 12xSSP donors this year for our 40th anniversary. Other ways you can support SSP are by participating in regional service opportunities, giving in-kind gifts, and more. Call or email Rick Eaton to learn more (916) 488-6441!

Smiling Wide

Smiling Wide

By Laura Sieling, 2015 Walker River Site Director, from Community United Methodist Church of Pacific Palisades

Hey, SSParticipants!! I’m Laura Sieling and I am the Site Director in Walker River! Do you all realize how quickly summer is approaching? My recent trip to Sacramento for hiring weekend got me even more excited (if that’s even possible) to meet new community members, campers, staffers, and counselors. I also reconnected with some SSPals, and got to interview the AMAZING candidates who applied for our summer staff. I’m still blown away by how much planning and teamwork is involved, but I’m absolutely thrilled to give everyone a positive progress report from behind the scenes.

As the Site Directors and office prepares, I want to encourage all of you to begin thinking about ways you can get into the SSP mindset even before you arrive at a summer site: will you re-energize someone who’s stressed? Restore relationships on your school campus or at work? Whatever you find you can do up to SSP, come prepared for a summer of rejuvenation and rejoicing!

I’m already smiling wide, impatient to wrap up classes and oversee a smooth summer!

Editor’s Note: There are still spots available in Walker River and most other sites. If your youth group is going to Youth 2015 or doing something else this summer, you can still go to SSP! Learn about our Individual Youth Program. Group and individual scholarships are still available. Also, we are in the middle of hiring our summer staff.

Stop and Look Around, You Might Miss Something

By David Wilson, Youth from Glendale First United Methodist Church

Sierra Service Project, no matter what the venue or amount of time, always leaves you with something uniquely memorable. Being brought up in Los Angeles, I had formed in my mind a picture of what to expect from “Downtown LA”. However, as is always the case with SSP, my eyes were opened to a different side of the community.

My team started Saturday by working on a garden outside a Police Station for a nonprofit organization called A Place Called Home (APCH), a safe haven for children and youth from around Los Angeles. Children come to take art classes, dance classes and a number of other enriching activities after school. After our work we visited the main headquarters of the organization and heard some incredible stories about the impact they have on the surrounding area.

Just as A Place Called Home was a hidden jewel in Los Angeles, Solano Canyon Community Garden, run by Al Renner, was an unexpected oasis. From Saturday afternoon till our departure on Sunday we did a number of tasks around the five acre garden. Being able to simply walk through such a beautiful place reminded me of just how much of God’s work is around us that we just simply drive by, literally in this case, with the freeway running right around the garden.

Through this Weekend of Service I have seen the other side of Los Angeles that does not get talked about, but what is behind the scenes impacting lives within the community. I would like to thank SSP and encourage all who have the opportunity to attend a Weekend of Service or, better yet, a week-long SSP trip.

Editor’s Note: Learn more about Weekends of Service. View the current availability of week-long experiences at our summer sites and register a group.


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  • Staff are jumping for joy today after wrapping up all projects, saying bittersweet farewells to the communities they’ve served in all summer, and hitting the road to staff debrief. Hold them in your thoughts and prayers as they make the trek back to Sacramento today and tomorrow after a full summer of service to others. Thank you to everyone who dedicated time, energy, and love to make this summer a success!
  • Three roofing projects have been completed in Tsaile so far! 21 youth and adult volunteers worked diligently over three weeks to complete this roof for Margaret. Have you worked on a roofing project at SSP?
  • "Plant your rows straight and long
Temper them with prayer and song
Mother Earth will make you strong
If you give her love and care"

Volunteers love planting trees in Collier State Park! Thank you Tara for sharing the importance of preservation and wildfire prevention. Have you planted a tree in Chiloquin? Come back as a counselor in 2048 and see how you both have grown.

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@SJNDPILOTS We LOVED having SJND students with us in San Diego this summer! #volunteerSSP #LoveCourageously3 days ago
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