Church youth help to rebuild small S.C. town


July 30, 2002|By Debra Taylor Young | Debra Taylor Young,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THE YOUTH MISSION of Wesley-Freedom United Methodist Church in Eldersburg has made a long-term commitment to the people of St. Stephen, S.C.

Bob Jacoby and his wife, Sally, directors of the youth mission at Wesley, have led mission teams to the small, rural town on the northern outskirts of Charleston since 1996.

"Each year a larger group goes," said Jacoby, even though the team spends the week in less-than-glamorous accommodations - often sleeping on the floors of local churches, the firehouse and an elementary school.

Last month, the Jacobys took 33 high school students and 13 adult leaders to St. Stephen as part of their commitment to help rebuild the town, which was severely damaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

They also sought to strengthen the efforts of local minister and community leader Jeremiah Washington to address local problems.

"Jeremiah's mission is to minister to the truly needy of his community," said Jacoby. "Most of the kids we see there are poor and are not part of typical families."

He said that many of the community's children were born to teen-age mothers and are being raised by their grandparents or other kids.

On this last trip - their fourth - the group was supposed to renovate two run-down trailer homes and help Washington with his vacation Bible camp. But when the team arrived, it learned that one of the homes had burned and the other had a lien on it for $2,000 in back taxes and could not be touched.

The youth team divided into two groups and alternated time between the demolition site of the burned trailer and the vacation Bible camp, where children gathered to play games, listen to Bible stories and sing.

Jamie Stallings, 17, made her second trip to the town last month. On her first trip, she and the mission team helped clean a community park that had fallen into the hands of local drug dealers. "We found needles on the ground. Broken glass was everywhere," she said.

She was glad to find that with the help of the mission team, the area had been transformed to a place where families could spend the day.

All of the teens contributed to the effort. Greg Klimovitz, 18, and Jen Morgeson, 17, played the guitar for sing-alongs, which were popular with the children.

Kristen Trumpler, 18, a graduate of Liberty High School and team member, helped organize the 100 children who attended the Bible camp. All the teens befriended children at the camp.

Wesley-Freedom's dedication to the community is strong. When the team left, it had made many friends and had demolished the burned trailer, saving the lumber and other valuable building materials for the next mission team to begin rebuilding. Team members left each child a T-shirt as a reminder of the trip, and ordered some for parents and grandparents in the community to be sent later, a total of 150 shirts.

They also paid $2,000 in back taxes on the other trailer, so that the next mission team could begin renovations.

Jacoby said that every Christmas, Wesley-Freedom sends gifts to the community. This trip cost about $8,000.

Jacoby said he expects Washington to visit Eldersburg in the near future, for a second time, further strengthening the bond between the two ministries.

Local band to play

Sykesville Recreation and Parks will feature a local band Friday at its Concerts in the Park series.

The band is the Rollers and consists of four Westminster High School students - Peter McKibben, Nick Jewett, Pat Bubert and Chris Laatsch.

The band plays blues and rock 'n' roll classics.

The concerts are free. A snack bar will open at 7:30 p.m.

Information: 410-795-8959.

Debra Taylor Young's neighborhood column appears each Tuesday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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