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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.

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.
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.
Pastor Pamela Coy

Pastor Pamela Coy

Pastor of Smith River United Methodist Church in Smith River, California

When I was first assigned as part time ‘retired’ pastor to Smith River UMC, and before I met the congregation, I looked on their Facebook page. I saw youth, lots of young people, full of energy. This will be fun, I thought!

It turned out the youth were from Sierra Service Project, who used the Smith River United Methodist Church campus as their base of operations during summer. It is delightful having the staff around all summer so we can really get to know them. Then, each week, a new team comes. It is exciting to discover who they are.

The youth and adults are all interesting and adventurous people…why else would they come to this remote region of California? Everyone is invited to community dinner on Tuesdays with the volunteers, and that is when we get to hear their remarkable stories.

“I believe the love does linger…the energy clings to the walls even when the church becomes silent and much older in the fall.”

The first summer I was here, SSP volunteers helped rebuild a gate in the parsonage yard and I got to know several teams. Last summer my neighbor got a ramp in her backyard so she could get out there in her wheelchair. She has been spending more time outside this fall, yay!

All year, people in and around Smith River who have worked with Sierra Service Project talk about the gift they received from SSP. The staff is truly dedicated – ready to greet the teams, house and feed them, and make sure they have what they need to get the jobs done. I am amazed at their stamina.

I believe the Smith River UMC congregation remains vital all year round because of the love and excitement that fills the church all summer. Jesus calls us to love one another, and build a sturdy foundation. I believe the love does linger…the energy clings to the walls even when the church becomes silent and much older in the fall. SSP is so welcome here every year. Hugs all around…

Editor’s note: 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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  • SoCal, we are headed your way! Join our Executive Director, Director of Volunteers, and friends of SSP for coffee next Thursday, April 25. We'll be at Revolution Roasters in Oceanside, CA from 3-5pm. Stop in to connect with fellow SSPers! More details are on our Facebook event page.
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