When the missionaries from Severna Park United Methodist Church arrived in Juarez, Mexico, last year, they found a disquieting sight: people living in cardboard shacks.
"It was pitiful," said Cheryl Hancock.
The missionaries, members of the Volunteers in Mission program, built the people of Juarez permanent housing made of cinder blocks and a sanctuary for their church. The work was one part of the program's annual missionary trip.
Saturday, 44 teens will leave on another missionary trip, the 14th journey for the Appalachian Service Project. This time they're headed for Wise and Tazewell counties in Virginia, where they will repair houses.
About 70 of Severna Park's adult parishioners have participated in the mission program since 1989, visiting places throughout the world. The Appalachian Service Project is a youth ministry in which teens repair homes in poor areas of the Appalachians.
Both programs are national organizations of the Methodist Church, and active ministries for teens and adults in Severna Park. More than 100 church members participate in the two annual week-long programs.
"The goal of [Appalachian Service Project] is to make the homes warmer, safer and drier," said Lee Ferrell, director of the church's Christian education.
Ms. Ferrell said the youths dig drainage ditches, do roofing work and build additions onto homes during their missionary trips. Cold morning showers and nights spent sleeping on the floor in a church or school building are common, she said.
"They're really making a sacrifice to give up what they have to help somebody else," Ms. Ferrell said.
The youths are not alone in their sacrifices.
More than 70 adult church members, some age 75, have traveled to Jamaica, Alaska, Puerto Rico, Grenada, and Mexico as part of the mission program in the past five years.
They have also helped victims of natural disasters in Homestead, Fla., and Davenport, Iowa. The Severna Park mission team plans to go on missions this summer to repair churches in York, Pa., and Frederick.
On their missions they spend eight to nine hours a day mixing mortar, hammering nails, and lifting structures to build Methodist churches, sometimes from the foundation up.
In Unalaska, in the Aleutian Islands, the group put up cinder block walls, beams and rafters, said Barbara Russell. "It's exhausting. You're ready for bed early."
Mrs. Russell said helping people is her reason for being a missionary.
"It's just an important way of serving God," she said. "You find that you get more out of it than you give them."
Mrs. Hancock said the missionaries also create a bond with the people they help.
"When you interact with the people, when you sing songs with them and worship with them, you're sharing life with them," she said.
"You just feel God's presence whether you're filthy and dirty and hammering or in a clean shirt and skirt in church with them."