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Rev. Helen Mansfield

Rev. Helen Mansfield

Klamath Falls First United Methodist Church, Klamath Falls, OR

When I retired from ministry in the summer of 2018, I knew the thing I would miss the most was taking youth groups to Sierra Service Project every summer. I have not missed a summer since my first SSP trip in 1994. Little did I know this transition would actually allow me to have more involvement with SSP than I had in the past 25 years.

“I am always so inspired to spend time with these young adults, who give me hope for the future.”

My husband Victor and I retired to Klamath Falls, Oregon, just 40 minutes from the SSP Chiloquin site. This past summer I had the privilege of training the Spokane and Chiloqiun Spiritual Life Coordinators, as well as periodically hosting the Chiloquin staff for dinner on weekends. I am always so inspired to spend time with these young adults, who give me hope for the future.

“When youth get the opportunity to take off cool jackets and put on social sweaters, they discover they are beloved children of God.”

I ended up bringing a local sixth grader and a former youth of mine from Placerville to an SSP week in Chiloquin this summer. The sixth grader later told his mom the week had given him the courage to just be who he really was. When youth get the opportunity to take off cool jackets and put on social sweaters, they discover they are beloved children of God. Over and over again, I have seen how getting to pay that love forward by serving in communities like Chiloquin creates beloved community. This is why I am a 12xSSP donor!

Editor’s Note: Helen has supported SSP’s work in a number of ways over many years, from bringing youth groups to volunteer during the summer to training staff. One of the ways she supports SSP is by donating monthly! Join Helen and 176 other 12xSSP monthly donors in sustaining SSP financially, by setting up your own recurring donation.

Terra Kemper

Terra Kemper

Park Ranger 3, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Chiloquin, OR

As an Oregon State Park located in Chiloquin, Collier Memorial State Park is incredibly fortunate to host Sierra Service Project volunteers for six service days in the summer. The partnership between Collier and SSP has fostered stewardship in the outdoors for over six years at the day-use area!  When SSP groups first arrive at Collier Park each Adventure Wednesday, I give a brief talk outlining why this park is special to people near and far. This provides context for the service work that makes noticeable improvements in the park.

“SSP volunteers planted over 100 two-year-old ponderosa and lodgepole pine trees with care.”

This past summer SSP volunteers watered the newly established native vegetation that was planted in late May. Volunteers diligently filled their buckets and walked water out to each individual plant, providing it with life-saving moisture. SSP sustained hundreds of plants one bucket of water at a time!

In addition to establishing a native plant population within the park in 2019, SSP volunteers planted over 100 two-year-old Ponderosa and Lodgepole pine trees with care. Thanks to SSP, the forest within the park now has an established succession for when old large trees die. The trees planted by SSP volunteers will be the next generation of the forest for Collier Park! Working with the youth and adult leaders warms my Park Ranger heart, as each group takes my message of caring for their baby tree seriously. This level of care is noticeable in the diligent planting and survival of each tree.

“Working with the youth and adult leaders warms my Park Ranger heart, as each group takes my message of caring for their baby tree seriously.”

Collier Park’s primary natural feature is the Ponderosa Pine Forest. These tall evergreen trees drop a layer of pine needles and cones that Park Rangers cannot keep up with clearing. SSP volunteers helped to remove this layer of pine needle duff, which keeps the day-use area wildfire safe throughout the dry, warm summers here in Chiloquin. The day-use area continues to benefit from this service provided by SSP on an annual basis.

Under the established Adopt-a-Park Agreement between SSP and Collier Memorial State Park, volunteers provided a much-needed facelift to the two picnic shelters by giving them a fresh coat of paint.  They look so good!

“SSP volunteers provided 1,292 service hours at Collier Memorial State Park in 2019, and park staff extend a giant thank you for the love and care.”

Collier Park has just two year-round Park Rangers, myself included. We both always have a list longer than our arm to try to keep up with, and it’s just not possible to get everything done. With the help of SSP volunteers, the native plants survived a dry summer, a forest succession of baby trees was established for generations to come, fire debris was removed to provide a safer area for all, and the picnic shelters look stellar!

Sierra Service Project volunteers provided 1,292 service hours at Collier Memorial State Park in 2019, and park staff extend a giant thank you for the love and care given to Collier Park. We look forward to working with Sierra Service Project youth into the future!

Editor’s Note: Terra and fellow park rangers with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department have collaborated with SSP in Chiloquin, OR on Adventure Wednesday activities for three years. We are grateful for partnerships with our local contacts, as they provide context for the service learning activities SSP volunteers engage in. Learn more about how to support SSP communities through advocacy!

Rev. Heather Gottas

Rev. Heather Gottas

St. Stephen United Methodist Church, Mesquite, TX

SSP was an important part of my youth, and in fact, my SSP experiences were a large part of my call to ministry. As a pastor and mom, I wanted to share the SSP experience with my son and the youth whom I serve. My son Noah attended SSP for the first time in 2018 as a 12-year-old. He said it was the hardest work he’d ever done, but by the end of the week he was asking about next year, and talking about serving on staff in the future! 

“My SSP experiences were a large part of my call to ministry.”

I serve in a context where intergenerational programs are simply how we do ministry. It is so important for young people to build relationships with adults outside their immediate family circle. It benefits all parties, teaching young people how to foster relationships and value others’ experiences, while allowing our more seasoned friends to learn about young people, sharing their knowledge and even learning skills together! 

“It is so important for young people to build relationships with adults outside their immediate family circle.”

Short-term missions are life-changing for all parties. Many young people have never had a multi-cultural experience. Attending SSP in Tsaile, AZ gives them an opportunity to learn about Navajo culture, serve others, and grow as people and Christians. This year, my son will attend his third SSP, and my husband and step-daughter will join us, too! I am grateful for how SSP impacted my life and that I have the opportunity to share it with others, especially my family.

Editor’s Note: Heather and her volunteer groups have participated in multiple intergenerational sessions during the SSP summer. Join them in finding out what makes ministry across generations so effective by serving with us at one of our intergenerational weeks in summer 2020.

Rev. Guillermo Navarrete

Rev. Guillermo Navarrete

Pastor at El Faro, The Border Church / La Iglesia Fronteriza, Tijuana, MX

Through immersion trips to the border, young people experience contact with vulnerable people. The result, according to their subsequent comments, is “touching, eye-opening, unexpected, impactful, humbling, grateful, hopeful, connected, clarified, a great experience.” This is an experience that strengthens their soul and empowers them to carry the story to others. Eventually, a sense of care for other people in vulnerable conditions develops within them.

“Touching, eye-opening, unexpected, impactful, humbling, grateful, hopeful, connected, clarified, a great experience.”

Sowing empathy in young hearts and participating in their development as human beings is essential. Such an experience leaves a feeling of confidence and stability so young people can go on to care for others. My time spent around SSP’s volunteer groups inspires a youthful impulse to continue the work carried out around fragile migrants, to foster and develop peace, hope, and love.

“A heart poured out, ready and open to be filled in new ways.”

Through the staff and volunteers’ efforts to bring young people to communities in need, a sense of unity is created by providing social impact and a ripple effect. When the summer is over and these young people go home, they leave us with a heart poured out, ready and open to be filled in new ways.

Editor’s Note: Pastor Guillermo works year-round at the US-Mexico border and is SSP’s main contact for our San Diego Adventure Wednesday activities. We are grateful for local contacts like him, who make our efforts to guide youth volunteers in advocating alongside communities not only possible, but impactful.

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