Category Archives: Youth Mission Trip

2016 Youth Mission Trip – Baltimore, MD

From July 9-16, 2016, members of our GPC youth group traveled to Baltimore, MD for their summer mission experience. These faithful young members of our church embarked on the trip with open minds and hearts to discover what Christ is doing in the world and how they can get in on it.

We stayed in the heart of Baltimore at The Center. The Center partners with congregations in the Presbytery of Baltimore who want to participate in Christ’s transforming work by finding ways to improve life in the community around them. We had the opportunity to participate in the efforts of one of these partner churches – Harundale Presbyterian Church, located in a Baltimore suburb 20 miles south of the city called Glen Burnie.

Harundale Presbyterian has a vibrant hunger ministry. Every Tuesday, they provide groceries to county residents through their food pantry. Three days each week, they prepare and share a meal, welcoming any and everyone to join in the nourishment of food and fellowship. Other ministries throughout the year include Operation Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving food basket distribution, and an annual food truck event that serves about 250 families (close to one thousand people!). From October through April, Harundale participates in a winter shelter for homeless folks. They rotate with a few other congregations to provide shelter, showers, and a hot breakfast for about 35-40 guests for a week at a time.

2016 Youth Mission TripWe participated in each facet of the ministry – we spent a day packing boxes of food at the Food Bank, which distributes goods to Harundale and other local food pantries; we distributed food to guests at the Harundale food pantry; and we prepared meals and met new people through table fellowship.

Many of our youth have participated in hunger ministries in the past, but all have been in urban settings (Sharpsburg, Philadelphia, and the South Side of Pittsburgh). Our time in Glen Burnie helped us all to see the realities of poverty and hunger in a suburban setting that is much like the community that surrounds our own church.

Harundale members have a kind of motto that they apply to all their ministry work – Welcoming all with respect, love, concern, and friendliness. Our youth have returned with that motto imprinted on their hearts, profoundly ready to discover God’s call to service here in our own community.

Claire Raines

Clare RainesThroughout our time in Baltimore, we experienced a lot of hunger in the suburbs and learned a lot about it too. We also discussed how we can get to know and help the surrounding community of the church. I feel like God is calling me and us as a congregation to possibly start our own hunger ministry or another ministry for us to serve the surrounding community of the church.

If interested at all in helping me research the demographics of our community, please contact me.

Ryan Hills

Ryan HillsThis year’s mission trip topic was hunger. Our call was to help and experience the work of God in Glen Bernie. We traced the path of food backwards from serving at a table fellowship program at Harundale Presbyterian, to the food bank placed in the old Crownsville Hospital Center Kitchen building. We saw food being served, distributed, and boxed. We worked with the church community and with each other, laughing, learning and building relationships. Through the week we learned the truth about America’s hunger problem and how there has been only a little work done on this issue in the past 30 years. We also learned that healthy food is way more expensive than unhealthy food. With America’s growing population in poverty, it becomes more and more difficult to afford good, healthy food, even with our kids. I walked into the mission trip not concerned or thinking about where my food comes from, how it’s given, and where it is given. Now, I have been shown the scary real food crisis in America. As a Christian, it makes me want to act to do better. Thankfully with my college degree requiring service to our communities for course credits, I can continue to work with service organizations while receiving my professional education. This will set me up for fighting hunger in every aspect of the world it inhabits.

Alex Hancock

Alex HancockAn easy trap to fall into with service-based mission, at least for me, is to feel like you are “fixing” something. Working at the food bank and serving a community meal are great things to do, and I’m glad I could participate, but it’s the equivalent of a Band-Aid on too deep of a wound. Working men and women, people who work hard, work for their families, will be back the next week, and the week after that. That realization will be what calls me to action in the future, because there is clearly a lot of work to do still.

Tess Hancock

Tess HancockIn Baltimore, I witnessed great work being done. The weekly meals and food pantry supplied by Harundale Presbyterian Church endeavor to make people’s lives better, and they succeed. While the work itself was inspiring to watch, the thing that struck me most was the people doing the work. They were truly dedicated to doing the work of Christ. These were people who put others before themselves every single day, even when their own lives were overwhelming. In the profound commitment of the men and women at Harundale Presbyterian Church I saw what I should strive to be here at Glenshaw.

Emily Raines

Emily RainesWhile we were in Baltimore, the staff of The Center led us in activities and discussions about race relations and about boundaries. I was overwhelmed to discover all the ways – big and small – that I experience privilege just because I am white. Usually, we go about our lives worrying about our own struggles without even realizing the very unfair struggles that minorities experience in America – struggles that white citizens can never really understand. Now, I have a new perspective on the way that Christ calls us to love one another – especially those who are different from us. We are called to cross, and even break down the boundaries of race in order to discover the image of God in all people and to love them as our Lord does.


Steve Hills

2016 Youth Mission TripBelieve it or not, before this year I had never been on a mission trip, youth or adult, with GPC. In my day we did retreats, to the old Fairfield and Crestview camps, to Jumonville Methodist camp, and other places. It was a time to get away from the stresses of daily life during the school year. Mission to others was never much of a focus. I’m not sure when that changed at GPC. I have heard this before many times from previous mission trip participants, but I know I will never be the same as I was before this last trip to Baltimore. Here are a few things that happened for me:

One thing that left a big impression on me was seeing how committed the kids were to the “work” part of the trip, a part with which, unfortunately, I could not fully participate due to my employment. They listened carefully to the intro about the week’s work ahead at Harundale Presbyterian Church. They asked pertinent questions. They did not seem to be overly concerned about the possibility of personal risk they might be taking. They did not appear to mind the physical work they would be doing. They seemed stoked about the impact they would be making on the lives of these homeless folks. I know I would have made a contribution too had it been possible because A) the mission was to involve helping others less fortunate than those with whom we normally associate (which I personally find attractive) and B) it was also to involve food, with which I have some skills!

One activity our GPC group did was to walk a three-mile stretch of trail from the church to the rail head from which the homeless folks walk each time they come to the church to participate in the program. We walked in contemplative silence for some of the hike. It gave us a new perspective on part of what these folks go through. This middle-aged engineer had tired feet at the end of the hike. I can’t imagine walking six miles each day for a meal.

One of the best parts of the trip for me personally was that I had an opportunity to sit and chat with Kendra for more than just a few minutes here and there, as had been the case since she became Youth Director (other than at YMT meetings!). We talked about Garret and his pursuits, what youth group was like in my day, the future of the current youth group and of the Church in general (not just Presbyterians). We talked about what God was calling her on to do, some of my faith journey, and a whole bunch of other stuff. I can’t remember all the topics we touched upon, but combined with the other experiences our group encountered that first two days of the trip, this little chat really shook me up. This is what left me a different person than I was. I really saw/continue to see God at work through Kendra. I saw that indeed God does work through all of us in similar but unique ways. I knew this before, of course, but it’s only when you see such an obvious instance right before your eyes that it really makes one stand up and take notice. I really came to appreciate the person Kendra is, all the work she is doing in the Presbyterian Church, including her contributions to the life of GPC and to Seminary.

This combination of experiences also brought home to me the importance of maintaining a viable youth program at GPC and of continuing the mission works it does.

In conclusion, I see now why everyone I know who has participated in a GPC mission trip has emerged a changed person. Some aspect you encountered, whether during part of your actual service time, or as in my case, after hours during free time, changes you. It’s like you find a part of yourself you didn’t know was there. And I didn’t even get to do the “hard” part!

Although I am sad Kendra is leaving the youth director position, I am confident she will continue to contribute to Presbyterian life in Pittsburgh. I wish her and Garret all the love and success of which they are so richly deserving.ast

2015 Youth Mission Trip – Pittsburgh, PA

From July 24-30, 2015, a group of youth from GPC participated in a local mission experience in Pittsburgh, PA. The theme of the week was “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”  They used public transportation to travel around different Pittsburgh neighborhoods so that they could learn about the needs of those around us and the people and ministries that are working to respond. They worked with Habitat for Humanity, Garfield Community Farm, and Book ‘Em (a non-profit that sends reading material to prisoners throughout PA), served meals at The Table at Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community, learned about gentrification, and did homeless ministry.

One of the youth participants, Tess Hancock, shares her experiences from the trip:

Tess HancockThe widely accepted idea of mission trips is that they should occur in a place that is far away from everything that the person knows. Whether this idea stems from a misguided belief that help is only needed far away, or the excitement of travelling to new places, I have found that distance holds no sway over the effectiveness of mission trips. As we travelled to Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community, it felt just like every other time that I had been into the city. But as we talked with people at The Table the first night, it started to feel different. By the end of the week, my idea of Pittsburgh was completely and radically changed.

Over the course of this week-long trip we met with people who were homeless, underprivileged, and down on their luck. We saw the need of the people in our city as we learned about gentrification, and began to understand how the poor were being pushed out of their homes to make room for the more fortunate. We listened to first-hand accounts of the struggles that can be faced on a Native American Reservation, and we delved into the issue of unjust prison systems.

I saw the struggle of prisoners first-hand as we answered letters from inmates who were requesting books. Many of these people wanted specific books and we were not able to find them in the random collection of second-hand books we had to work with. In fact, many letters cannot be answered because there is not enough money to send the inmates any books at all. This work was enlightening and sad, because as I read these letters I saw the voices of normal people shining through the ink on the page, people that went through hard times, or bad experiences, or were missing love in their lives. In that moment, it felt like the work that we were doing was very small, that it meant nothing.

That feeling did not last very long because among all the darkness that we witnessed that week, there was far more hope. We met with people who have dedicated their lives to doing the work that God is calling us all to do. They feed the poor, visit the sick, care for those in prison, and treat everyone as a child of God. We worked alongside people who spend all of their waking hours caring for others, and I saw just how much good is in our city.

This trip was one of the most life-changing experiences I have ever had. Only twenty minutes away from my home, I saw that life could be terribly cruel to those without the means to escape bad situations. This trip truly opened my eyes to the needs of others and helped me to understand the struggles that are being faced right here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. That knowledge is humbling and almost overwhelming, but it is nothing compared to the joy that I felt when I saw the work that people are doing to right the world’s wrongs. On this trip I saw struggle, but also the possibility and capacity for change. I saw that people are dedicating their lives to helping others, and that they are spreading the Word of God through community and their own undying faith. I saw that so much good exists in this city, and that God’s work is being done right here and right now.

2015 Youth Mission Trip – Baltimore, MD

From June 13-20, 2015, a group of youth and adult volunteers from GPC went to Baltimore, MD.  They partnered with Center Presbyterian Church (McMurray, PA) and The Center of Baltimore Presbytery on various service projects.

Two groups were formed from our combined churches. One group spent the week helping with a summer camp at Dickey Memorial Presbyterian Church and the other spent the week at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church helping with their urban gardens, after school program, and soup kitchen. Together, the groups spent a day in Washington D.C. learning from the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness.

One of the youth participants, Ryan Hills, shares his experiences from the trip:

Ryan HillsLet’s be honest, a mission trip to Baltimore didn’t sound like a good idea, especially after the events of the past few months. I didn’t know what to expect or even if we would make a difference to this historically troubled city. Despite this, we were optimistic for what tasks were ahead. After all, we were on a mission to do God’s will and with him on our side, what is there to fear? (Romans 8:31)

There was one mission between three churches; to share God’s amazing love with the city of Baltimore. Pastor Kate (director of The Center in Baltimore) told us that this would probably be one of our hardest missions yet. It would not be physically hard as much as mentally and emotionally. We were to cross boundaries of the community and of our own comfort zones; to love where most hate. Throughout the week, we were exposed to the ignored faults and the injustice in our society. As sheltered as I am, I did not expect to hear any of this. Our visit to the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness showed us the injustice in the American prison system, as well as ways that we as Christians can help. I thought racism was a dying attitude and the world was moving on. Ignorance stole my glance at what society really was and still is. As a Christian, I felt very troubled by this. I sensed insecurity within me. I felt more of a need to do something about this.

Throughout the week, I had the opportunity to serve alongside members of Dickey Memorial Presbyterian Church at a summer camp developed from an afterschool program. All of the kids at the camp were black, elementary school-aged from an under-resourced area school. As we worked with these children, I began to see the ways boundaries of race and lack of trust can be crossed. We saw the love that members of Dickey Memorial had for these kids and had the joy of building relationship with them – not only as role models, but as brothers and sisters in Christ. Seeing the children’s enthusiasm to learn and have fun, and watching their imagination glow with their hearts on their sleeves was an experience I won’t soon forget.

Teaching these kids has actually taught us some valuable lessons, like patience. It also helps us see how unique and amazing God has made each and every one of these kids. This trip has really changed how I see the world. Pastor Kate was right in saying this would be the most challenging one yet. A boundary, such as racial injustice, is a challenge that can only be met with the peace of Christ.

2014 Sr. High Mission Trip – Queens, NY

From July 13 to July 19, 2014, our senior high youth went to Queens, NY and worked with YouthWorks on various service projects. One of the youth participants, Ryan Hills, shares his experiences from the trip:

Ryan HillsThis year’s theme for the GPC Mission trip was: “Fear not, for if you ignite yourself with flames of passion, people will come for miles to watch you burn”. Our call for mission brought us to Queens, New York: a community struck with poverty, crime, neglect, and violence. We set out to spread the word of God and Jesus’ teaching and to help the people of this community meet fellow missionaries and community members and enjoy getting to know and interact with them. We did just that and had a lot of fun along the way.  The road trip was long but enjoyable. Many thanks to our drivers/leaders: Frank McCoy, Karen Moser, and Carrie Gray; for their patience and ability to stay attentive through the drive.

We arrived at the First Presbyterian Church of Jamaica: a community itself within the community of Queens. Our YouthWorks Program facilitators were great – mostly recent or almost college graduates. All had inspiring faith stories they shared with us through the week. They led us with kindness, empathy, and enthusiasm. Our GPC group was teamed up with youth from Cape Cod and Philadelphia. The entire group was divided into about seven work groups.

In my group, on the first and second days, we worked at an assisted living facility. The people were very excited for us to be in their company and just spend time with them. Two days a week, the assisted living home pro-vides Wii Sports time for those who want to and can be active. They really enjoyed Wii Bowling! The other groups did things like working with a local kids club, picking up trash, working at a nursing home, or working at a food bank.

On Wednesday. we all changed mission areas and my group got to work with the kids club. It was my surprise that the first day was “water day” which meant everyone getting completely soaked. During this time, these kids forgot about their family situations and just had fun being kids. Later, we were part of the community of about 400 people who enjoyed a good barbeque and danced to the music of a local DJ.

On Thursday, we finished up at the kids club, playing musical chairs, singing songs, and making crafts. Thurs-day night was the last worship. The leaders washed our feet to demonstrate what Jesus did for us. While washing each youth’s feet, the leader would say a prayer for that particular person and bless them. It was a very emotional time. A lot of us teared up because the music was inspirational and the prayers being said were heart-to-heart. We were thankful for our time together.

Friday morning, we said our goodbyes to the group and we headed to a fun-filled day in Manhattan. We took the Manhattan ferry to the city and then the subway to the 9/11 museum where we spent time reflecting on the sadness and awe of what had happened at Ground Zero. We spent the night in New Jersey at Pastor Trent’s former church before returning the next morning.

This mission trip was extremely fun and a very eye-opening experience. It was neat to experience part of the 138 cultures that make up Queens. Helping out others on a heart-to-heart level was different for us. We knew by the looks on these people’s faces that our mission was fulfilled.

2014 Jr. High Mission Trip – Pittsburgh, PA

From July 31 through August 3, 2014, our junior high youth worked in the Pittsburgh area with the Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community. Here is a summary of the trip from one of the youth participants, Lisa Orr:

Lisa OrrThis year, the junior high group did mission work with Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community which is located on the South Side. We arrived there Thursday evening and started working that night. The church serves a free meal to the community every Tuesday and Thursday, and we helped serve that meal and then ate with the people there. Some of them were homeless, but many were the elderly and the poor of the community. That night we served 140 meals.

On Friday, we had a full day of work. In the morning we went to Brookline Boulevard United Presbyterian Church, which has a strong mission and outreach program. They offer free and reduced tuition preschool for the community of Brookline. We helped to clean and disinfect many of the toys for their preschool. After eating lunch at the church, we went to another location to work with Habitat for Humanity on a home which will eventually house a single mother and her children. The boys put up a railing on the front porch and later helped the girls paint and plaster the interior.

On Saturday, the group went to Garfield Community Farm which is an urban garden that gives fresh produce to food banks and offers healthy options to the community. We helped to weed the gardens as well as mow grass, harvest tomatoes, and clean up some of the fallen plums. The younger kids spent the whole day there while those who were sixteen and older got to leave early to help with Hot Metal’s homeless ministry. We packed bag lunches and then drove to several homeless camps to deliver the meals. This was a particularly eye-opening experience because we got to meet and talk to some homeless people and see how they live.

The junior high group can be proud of the work we did on the South Side. Through Hot Metal Bridge, we were able to help the community through our mission work. We also learned a lot about what it means to be a community and how the church should be an active participant. Hopefully we will carry these lessons back to our own community and church.

2013 Youth Mission Trips – Gatlinburg, TN and Slippery Rock, PA

Our senior high youth worked with TEAMeffort to rebuild a home that was destroyed by a tornado. The youth came together with the help of leaders Carl Grande, Carrie Gray, Nick Hills, and Emily Raines to do great work.

Our junior high youth returned to Camp Crestfield to serve the Lord by serving others through their “Mission Possible” program. They spent their days doing home repair, cleaning, processing food donations, and painting at various sites in the area and spent their evenings participating in camp activities and games. They partnered with another group from Crossroads Presbyterian and together they shared experiences that will last a lifetime.

2010 Youth Mission Trips – Philadelphia, PA and Slippery Rock, PA

Our senior high youth worked with Broad Street Ministry, “a broad-minded Christian community that cherishes creativity, fosters and nurtures artistic expression, extends inclusive hospitality and works for a more just world through civic engagement.” In Philly, the city of brotherly love, our youth had the opportunity to put Christ’s message to love one another into action as they engaged in service learning activities that allowed them to work with the people of Philadelphia, particularly the poor and disadvantaged.

Our junior high youth participated in the “Mission Possible” program at Crestfield Camp and Conference Center. We spent the days doing mission work at various sites in Pittsburgh, Slippery Rock, New Wilmington, and New Castle and we spent the evenings participating in camp activities and games.

2009 Youth Mission Trips – Santa Fe, NM and Slippery Rock, PA

Our senior high youth worked with Habitat for Humanity and The Food Depot. We stayed at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Santa Fe throughout the week. On our last day, we stayed overnight at Ghost Ranch and visited the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

Our junior high youth participated in Mission Possible at Crestfield Camp and Conference Center. We spent the days doing mission work at various sites in Pittsburgh, Slippery Rock, New Wilmington, and New Castle and we spent the evenings participating in camp activities and games.

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