SSP Changed the Way I Look at the World

SSP Changed the Way I Look at the World

By Zasu Scott
Youth Volunteer from Loomis First United Methodist Church

I reached a turning point the summer before my sophomore year of high school in 2015. It was my fourth time spending a week repairing homes with Sierra Service Project, and it was undeniable that each experience had been transformational for me. My experience in 2015, above all, played a formative role at a pivotal time in my life. I would set the foundation for how I respond to the world around me. I needed to decide who I wanted to become.

One moment in particular changed the way I looked at the world and changed the way I saw myself:

Grinning, I peered into Mrs. Martin’s home, an elderly Klamath woman who used a walker. Honored, I announced that she could now actually leave her house. My team had finally completed her ramp. She was no longer housebound. My team and I stood back and admired our handiwork, watching her beam with contentment as she used her walker to go down her brand new ramp. Never have I felt more like I was doing exactly what I was meant to – like it actually mattered.

Seeing the impact that I could make with just a chop saw and a week’s worth of labor, showed me that I had the power to make the world a better place. If I had the power to change this woman’s life, maybe I could change my own. I now knew that with simply my hands and my heart, I could be the change I wish to see in my community and in my world.

“I now knew that with simply my hands and my heart, I could be the change I wish to see in my community and in my world.”

Countless times SSP has opened my eyes to the world around me. SSP has shown me poverty in America, from the streets of skid row to remote indigenous communities. It has taken me to the U.S.-Mexico border, and into the lives of many whose world is far different than my own. SSP has shown me the person that I want to become, but more importantly, the people that I want to spend my life fighting for. My summers of service have affirmed I must fight for others, as we as a society succeed only when we all succeed.

This belief brought me to California Girls State, an American-Legion civics leadership program. I wanted to advocate for human rights and social mobility. I wanted to fight for the idea that no matter who you are or where you come from, you deserve the opportunity to fight for your dreams. On this platform, I was elected Secretary of State after delivering a speech to the 500-plus citizens. Up on that stage, I could make my voice heard, but I also could make those without a voice heard.

“Instead we get up, and fight to set the scales of privilege even, one ramp at a time, one garden bed at a time, one coat of paint at a time.”

This would not have been possible without the courage and confidence I gained from SSP. Being a part of SSP created a framework of active empathy in my mind. We serve because we do not sit back when we see something we do not like in the world. Instead we get up, and fight to set the scales of privilege even, one ramp at a time, one garden bed at a time, one coat of paint at a time. It is this ideology of creating a world you want to be a part of that sparked my interest in politics. Not settling for a world of glass ceilings and socioeconomic barriers, but fighting for change and equal opportunity.

When I got up on that stage, I could speak the truths I had discovered through screwdrivers and spiritual sandwiches, from years of active service with SSP.

“SSP changed what I want to do with my life because it made me realize that I have the power to change the world around me.”

Sierra Service Project not only changed me, but it changed the way I look at the world. SSP changed what I want to do with my life because it made me realize that I have the power to change the world around me.

 

Editor’s Note: If you are looking for summer volunteer opportunities in Chiloquin, Oregon, or at any other SSP site, we still have space available for 2018! Groups, individuals, and even intergenerational (12 years old and up) are welcome.

Joanne Poff: Why I’m a 12xSSP Monthly Donor

By Joanne Poff
Former Board Member and Adult Counselor with Fremont United Methodist Church, Portland, OR

 

 

Years ago, I sent a wild teenager off on some unknown youth group adventure, called Sierra Service Project. Little did I know that the young man who would return from that trip would be so changed by his experience.

I remember my son telling me that he never knew you could be a crazy Christian. When I asked him to explain what a crazy Christian was, he told me about love, and acceptance, and helping others as an expression of faith. I was so impressed by his new attitude, that I began volunteering with our church youth group.

The next time our church sent a group to SSP, I was invited to be a chaperone. Little did I know how much that experience would change me! I was hooked. I became our church Youth Director and took fourteen more trips to SSP.

It is hard to find an opportunity where everyone benefits, from the homeowner, to the staff, to the volunteers, and the youth. Why do I donate to SSP every month? Because it is important to me that the SSP experience continues to lead people to be crazy Christians.

Marianne Tomlin: Why I’m a 12xSSP Monthly Donor

Marianne Tomlin: Why I’m a 12xSSP Monthly Donor

By Marianne Tomlin
Adult Counselor with Glendale First United Methodist Church

 

 

In 2005, I found myself at a crossroads of sorts. I was on a break from school and decided that I wanted to be a camp counselor. After a church merger, my mom told me that our new Associate Pastor was the dean of our Jr. High Camp in our church’s district. That experience changed the trajectory of my life forever and I embarked on a journey of counseling youth that made me who I am today.

Since then, I have counseled youth in various forms, but one of the most formidable ways I have helped youth (and grown in my own spiritual journey!) has been through Sierra Service Project. I began chaperoning my youth group on SSP trips in 2009 and it has changed me as much as it has changed my youth (if not more). Through SSP, I have truly learned the spirit of serving others and have seen how it can change the lives of both those that SSP serves with and the youth that spend a week of their summer working hard for the sake of helping those in need. I have seen how the work that SSP does empowers youth to want to make the world better, and have seen some choose majors in college that reflect what they’ve learned at SSP. I believe this is a large part of what makes and will continue to make the world a better place for all.
 
SSP most embodies Micah 6:8, “The Lord has showed you what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God,” and teaches youth and adults who walk through their sites each summer how God calls us to serve those in need. I believe in that mission as well, which is why I am called to be a 12xSSP monthly donor. I encourage those who read this to do the same.
Kelsie Currie #mySSPstory

Kelsie Currie #mySSPstory

Kelsie Currie
University of California, San Diego 
Spiritual Life Coordinator, Smith River 2017
Riviera UMC

 

My first SSP was in 2010 in Teec Nos Pos, Arizona. As my youth group’s rented luxury minivan pulled on to the dirt path that led to our site I was absolutely terrified. After 2 hours of energized staff members, other motivated youth, and a rundown of our week; my spirits changed completely. Since then I have served 5 summers as a youth, 2 as a staff and I have never looked back!

Every summer the thing I’ve looked forward to most has been SSP. My peers talked about summers filled with pool parties and tropical vacations. All I could talk about was my excitement for the beloved road trip with my youth group. Heading off to unknown places and welcomed into a community I felt so fortunate to serve. My friends may have looked at me like I was crazy but SSP is too special not to experience again and again. I was hooked!

 

“Dedicating a week of your summer to service not only can change a homeowner’s life, but your own.”

 

SSP allowed me an outlet to focus on someone other than myself. It has taught me that one of the best and most humbling roles that one can take to express their love is to serve. SSP has taught me that my hands and heart are capable of making a change in a community. It has taught me that the product of service goes far beyond the physical labor you do.

Building garden boxes and painting a strangers house may seem minuscule to some. Yet they represent so much more to the communities we are serving in. Dedicating a week of your summer to service not only can change a homeowner’s life, but your own. SSP opens you to new perspectives, new friendships, and a rejuvenated sense of purpose.

Each summer I was building for others, but I was also building up myself. I became a stronger leader and caring citizen. I became a better team player, a more understanding family member and friend. I strengthened my work ethic and developed a sense of civic responsibility.

 

“Luckily for me, when I was ready to deeper explore my faith, SSP was a starting place for me to do that.”

 

The skills I’m continuing to cultivate at SSP have helped develop me as a problem solver. SSP has given me the experience to serve as a role model to youth and my peers. These skills will be indispensable as I work towards being a child psychologist. My experiences at SSP have allowed me to further explore my call to ministry. I dream of not only serving youth through my career but also by inspiring and guiding them as a youth leader.

The thing that I have always loved about SSP is that it meets you exactly where you are. If you are looking for a place to bond with your youth group and make new friends SSP can be that. If you are looking for a place to build and serve in a community SSP can do that for you. Luckily for me, when I was ready to deeper explore my faith, SSP was a starting place for me to do that.

If you would have told me in 2010 that I would one day be on summer staff I would have laughed in your face. Serving on staff has been one of the most integral part of myself. It has stretched and shaped me in ways I wouldn’t have been able to fathom and I’m so grateful.

 

Editor’s note: Kelsie most recently served on staff in Smith River, CA  as the Spiritual Life Coordinator! She is a Leadership Academy fellow and her story is the ninth part of the #mySSPstory series highlighting SSP staff leaders and their stories. Join Kelsie and apply for 2018 summer staff!

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