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August 3, 2013

With Hearts As Big As Texas

[By Alice G. Knotts]

God has been at work with 58 teenagers and adults who went from First United Methodist Church in Duncanville, Texas, to San Diego, and it’s unique that such a large team would undertake a campus ministry mission project.  The Texas team was inspired by the outreach of the United Methodist Wesley Foundation serving San Diego State University that reaches at-risk college students with low income, foster care and military backgrounds as well as others.  Wesley Foundation SDSU launched a non-profit organization, Wesley House Student Residence, that provides affordable housing and support programs, and the team came to help.

The Duncanville United Methodist team gave a week of their time and donated materials and tools as well as labor to make an older apartment building look more contemporary.  They tackled the hardest jobs–painting the exterior of the 8,000 square foot building and replacing fences that saw Eisenhower in office.

“Wow, this group is just what I needed,” said board member Patty Bender.  “It makes people believe in God all over again.”  Exactly.  Where there’s a need and God answers prayer through the hearts of strangers, it’s a miracle.

Josh Fitzpatrick, staff member of First UMC overseeing this mission trip, heard about the campus ministry from the Wesley Foundation Director, Rev. Dr. Beth Cooper.  Josh Fitzpatrick is building a Christian faith community of young people so committed and caring about other people that their witness is an example to the world.

Seventeen year old team member Conner Baxter who has participated in five mission trips says, “Knowing that I have what I need to live every day, and that other people don’t, I just like to help people out.  To be a Christian means to live out God’s purpose and intent.&rdquo

Preston Jaynes, 16, says, “I want people to see that I’m ecstatic doing God’s good work.”  Sergey Ivory, 14, added, “If I didn’t have enough money to go to college, I’d like to live in a place like this.” Tara Kelton, 16, says, “I just know my faith says to do good for others.”

Julio Olnos, 18, declared, “It’s our duty as Christians to serve others because through our witness we show our love for others and the love that God has for them.”  Mikaela Harkins, 13, noted that on this trip she is growing in her faith.  Ashley Strickland, along with her friends covered from head to toe in splattered paint, loves the Bible study time with the team.  McKenzie Harkins thinks it’s very important to encourage younger kids to come to church.

One adult member of the team, Steve Puckett, says that working with teenagers has provided healing for his war-torn and war-hardened soul.  “I share my faith story with young people, and I thank young people for helping me restore my soul.”

A “Move that bus!” crowd scene at the end of the work event reminded all that the makeover gift has been given because the Wesley Foundation serving SDSU has given to others.  A shoestring reminded all that times may have been hard but have not dimmed the vision of what it means to keep reaching out in Jesus’ name.

Victor Sanchez, a 2013 San Diego State grad and Wesley Foundation SDSU alumni, expressed gratitude and told mission team members how much the Wesley Foundation helped him find his calling and his voice.   The Rev. Dr. Beth Cooper thanked each volunteer with a gift reminding them of the faith that we share.

“We join hands and hearts with each other and with God,” said Dr. Beth.  “It’s a God thing when we support campus ministries and grow our youth and young adults to have hearts as big as Texas.”