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Megaweek

Kelsie Currie
2019 Site Director in Smith River, CA

As soon as word spread about the fires in Oregon, our Smith River staff was immediately concerned about our neighboring SSP site and it’s staff in Chiloquin, Oregon. As the fires raged on, our worries grew and we didn’t know about the possibility of the continuation of the work there.

We wanted to help anyway we can and when we got the call early into our week 5 that the 60 volunteers from Chiloquin would be making the trek down to Smith River to continue their week with us we couldn’t wait. We were nervous to host the biggest week of SSP that had ever been. We didn’t know what to expect, if there would be enough room, enough food and enough work. Despite all of the challenges we saw, we knew that our staffs were capable of overcoming them and that God was on our side.  Above all we were excited to embrace this new experience with open arms and open hearts.

“It was by far the most adventurous Adventure Wednesday that I have ever been a part of and that was only the beginning.”

So in 24 hours we called in some community favors, a couple of port-o-potties and our construction team came up with as many community projects they could think of. We arranged new sleeping areas, bought food and prayed for the safe travels of our Chiloquin friends.

The Chiloquin staff and volunteers beat us to our own water day at Jedediah State Park and what a joyous celebration it was. Our staffs embraced each other as well as the different youth and adult volunteers we have gotten to work with at past SSP’s. There was so much love and welcome in the air as the two sites became one and SSP Chilo-River Megaweek commenced. It was by far the most adventurous Adventure Wednesday that I have ever been a part of and that was only the beginning.

Our mega-songtime is something that I believe will live in the hearts of many for years. Our guitar players sat in the middle facing outward and everyone else formed a giant circle surrounding them. We played the SSP songtime classics, sang, danced and rejoiced in the community that we were building. Was it chaotic? Absolutely! But in the chaos there was joy and beauty.

“It was a perfect opportunity for our volunteers to practice opening the doors, making room for others both physically and in their hearts and to put their love into action.”

Throughout the week we combined work teams to advance our bigger projects. We also had many service opportunities in crescent city community gardens, churches and faith centers. There was plenty of work for all of our excited volunteers.

As for the spiritual program, I don’t think there could be a more fitting program theme for Megaweek to take place in. Love Courageously! It was a perfect opportunity for our volunteers to practice opening the doors, making room for others both physically and in their hearts and to put their love into action.

Matthew 18:20 says “when 2 or three gather in the Lord’s name, God is among them.” Well what about when 140 gather to serve God, the community and each other? I can tell you for certain that the presence of God was amplified among the 140 and beyond. These volunteers were able to touch so many lives both in the SSP community and in the Smith River/Crescent City communities.

Amen for Megaweek and may anyone who has the opportunity to participate in the future open themselves to the beauty of the experience!

 

Editor’s Note: Kelsie Currie has served on Summer Staff for three years most recently in Smith River, CA. Kelsie will be returning to Smith River in 2019 as the site director. This article is featured in SSP’s 2018 Annual Newsletter; read all the stories written by youth volunteers, summer staff, and community members. Request a hard copy newsletter to be mailed to you.

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Brigitte Steel

Brigitte Steel

Staff-in-Training from St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Santa Maria, CA

Since my first SSP experience, I had been excited to serve as a Staff-in-Training. For years I thought about how cool it would be to greet arriving groups, pour love on everyone’s meals, lead kitchen parties, and go FREDding. I knew it was going to be a lot of work, requiring patience, and pushing me out of my comfort zone.

I was right, but there were also so many things I didn’t expect. You can be told what it’s like to feed 70 people, but you won’t know until you’ve done it. I am grateful to learn what goes into making SSP with hands-on experience, and guidance from the amazing Spokane staff!

“SSP has opened me up to feel love for so many people. It has opened my mind and heart to help in any way I can; to find new ways to help others.”

Spokane is a community I always wanted to visit. On my long solo train ride, I found myself longing for something familiar, but I knew I wasn’t alone. With the strengthened bond I had with my youth group after my last week as a youth at SSP, I knew they were praying and thinking about me.

I learned last summer the love we experience at SSP, although it feels otherworldly and magical, can be found anywhere and in anyone. It’s something I have found to be thriving in my church. SSP has opened me up to feel love for so many people. It has opened my mind and heart to help in any way I can; to find new ways to help others. It’s given me something to look forward to in times when I thought I had no place to look forward.

It’s a place I’ve found I can be my truest and best self. SSP has inspired me to do this in everyday life, despite being challenging. I may no longer be a youth and have those same week-long adventures to look forward to, but now I have entire summers of serving to count down the days to.

 

Editor’s Note: Brigitte Steel has served as a youth volunteer with St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Santa Maria, CA and as a Staff-In-Training in Spokane this past summer. This article is featured in SSP’s 2018 Annual Newsletter; read all the stories written by youth volunteers, summer staff, and community members. Request a hard copy newsletter to be mailed to you.

Emma Healy

Emma Healy

Youth Board Member from First United Methodist Church, Napa, CA

The summer before freshman year I went on my first service trip with Sierra Service Project. The First United Methodist Church of Napa graciously sponsored me, and it changed my life. Since then, I have participated three more times.

SSP has been one of the most rewarding, incredible, and impactful experiences of my life. Every year I look forward to meeting and getting to know new people, building a community, and being in such an inclusive and supportive environment. I had no idea there would be a community out there full of compassionate, empathetic, loving, caring, and welcoming people until my first year at SSP. I still talk every day to people I met at SSP. I have created some amazing relationships and gotten to know the people from my church so much better.

“Spending time talking to the homeowners, and seeing how grateful they are for the work and gift our time, means a great deal to me.”

I have loved learning new skills through the projects I’ve done at SSP, which have included building a fence, building a deck and stairs, roofing, and working at Train Mountain, where we cut down trees and bushes, scraped, and painted. Spending time talking to the homeowners, and seeing how grateful they are for the work and gift our time, means a great deal to me.

Last summer, I served in Chiloquin, Oregon during the 4th of July. I wish I could be there this year, and every year in the future. I loved being a part of the float building and the parade, and watching a community come together. Serving people at the BBQ and talking with community members about their lives brought me joy, and being together while watching the fireworks will remain a beloved memory.

“SSP reminds me to always find grace, know God is always with me, remember how blessed I am, and to always be thankful.”

This year, I grew closer with my work team than I ever have been. There was a freshman who lives in Chiloquin and doesn’t have running water or electricity at his home. It was amazing to have him on my team, hear about his life, and watch him give back to his own community.

SSP reminds me to always find grace, know God is always with me, remember how blessed I am, and to always be thankful. SSP has made such an impact on my life that I’m starting something similar where I live, called Napa Valley Service Project, where we can help the members of my own community by doing similar work.

 

Editor’s Note: Emma Healy is a senior that attends SSP with Napa First United Methodist Church. She has been elected this year to serve as a youth representative on SSP’s Board of Directors. This article is featured in SSP’s 2018 Annual Newsletter; read all the stories written by youth volunteers, summer staff, and community members. Request a hard copy newsletter to be mailed to you.

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First-come, first-served registration is open for SSP's summer of 2019! If you are your group's liaison, click the button to login to your MySSP account.
Andrea Maniti

Andrea Maniti

Youth Board Member from Vista United Methodist Church, Vista, CA

Youth today juggle classes, extracurriculars, and everything in between, leaving no room to breathe and grow. The pressure to be a well-rounded person sometimes compromises one’s passion. Sierra Service Project allows youth to discover not only different communities in the world, but also themselves, as they explore their own identity and passions.

At least once in our lives we have been told something like, “life is about the journey.” It’s very cheesy and cliché, but also true. At the beginning of a week at SSP, you are plunked into a place you have most likely never been before, whether it be a gym in Chiloquin, or the red clay of Tsaile, Arizona. You are in new surroundings, with new people. You find yourself embraced by an open community who wholeheartedly accepts you, for you. Throughout the week you discover new things you never would have known otherwise, about yourself and others, in a safe and nurturing environment free of judgment; a safe haven.

“Seeing God’s work in action proved to me, that good exists in this world of hurt; it just needs to be facilitated; igniting a new hope in me.”

I have always struggled with my faith. Growing up, I was taken to church every Sunday, and sat in the same pew between my parents while the pastor proceeded with their sermon. My first time attending SSP sharply contrasts with my most recent summer trip in 2018. The main aspect that has altered my entire relationship with my faith is my overall confidence. Before SSP, I never took notice of how seldom I dedicated myself to growing my faith. It was a topic I never thought to explore for myself. My natural instincts led me to piggyback on the ideas of my parents, or popular beliefs. I always labeled myself as a Christian and attended church, but failed to interpret God’s teachings for myself.

Sierra Service Project helped me open myself to the world, resulting in me opening myself to God. Seeing God’s work in action proved to me, that good exists in this world of hurt; it just needs to be facilitated; igniting a new hope in me. SSP allows youth to see the bigger picture of the world; both good and bad. The SSP experience puts the world into perspective. The overall message of Sierra Service Project is to provide service to others above self, and contribute to the betterment of communities in need.

“Even though Mary didn’t speak a single word, her tears and strong hugs were enough to bring our work team to joyous tears.”

I will never forget my first year at SSP in Tsaile, Arizona, where our work team had just finished the top of a wheelchair ramp. The homeowner, Mary, no more than five feet tall. Every day we worked on her ramp, she would sit under a tree in a chair, with assistance from her nephew. On our last day, Mary took her first stride out of her house by herself. This was Mary’s first time stepping outside without assistance in a long time. Even though Mary didn’t speak a single word, her tears and strong hugs were enough to bring our work team to joyous tears.

This moment made me realize – this is God’s work. Sierra Service Project truly shows in order to see good in the world, you must put good into the world. There is an active love felt by every single person involved that promotes a foundation of growth and providing service above self. As a participant, you learn there are so many things much bigger than you happening in the world. This, in turn, opens your perspective to the world and your ability to create change.

 

Editor’s Note: Andrea Maniti is a senior that attends SSP with Vista United Methodist Church. She has been elected this year to serve as a youth representative on SSP’s Board of Directors. This article is featured in SSP’s 2018 Annual Newsletter; read all the stories written by youth volunteers, summer staff, and community members. Request a hard copy newsletter to be mailed to you.

SSP's Group Registration Portal
First-come, first-served registration is open for SSP's summer of 2019! If you are your group's liaison, click the button to login to your MySSP account.
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  • SSPers in SoCal: have you been waiting for an SSP meet-up near you? Join the 2019 Site Directors, office staff, and volunteers next Friday December 14 for one of two meet-ups in West Los Angeles! The first is coffee hour for volunteers and group leaders at @westwoodumcla from 9:30-11:30am. The second is a staff interest dinner, for staff alumni, SITs, and graduated youth. You can see more details and RSVP on SSP’s Facebook event page (link in bio). DM us with any questions!
  • "Seeing God’s work in action proved to me that good exists in this world of hurt; it just needs to be facilitated; igniting a new hope in me." Read Andrea Maniti's story about how serving with SSP changed her view on what it means to have faith: SierraServiceProject.org/Andrea
  • "SSP reminds me to always find grace, know God is always with me, remember how blessed I am, and to always be thankful." Read Emma Healy's story about how SSP has inspired her to bring SSP to her own community: SierraServiceProject.org/emma

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