Workcamp Draws Youth Closer to God

This article was originally published in the Sept.\Oct. issue of Currents, St. Peter’s newsletter publication

Summer is the time when teenagers may find relief from their hectic school schedules, as well as from the many important life-changing decisions they must face during the school year. This free time also gives teenagers the opportunity to focus on their spiritual lives, their relationships

with God and one other — and to just have some fun.

This summer, Youth Coordinator Ed Overell and two other adults took 16 parish youth to Greenville, Mich. for the annual Youth Workcamp.

“For me as the youth leader at the church, where it’s my responsibility to create opportunities for our youth to grow in faith, Workcamp is my favorite part of my job, year in and year out,” Ed says. “It’s an insane amount of work to prepare and fundraise for, but getting to watch what it
does for the kids — I kind of take in what the Workcamp experience is and see them realize, when they put God front and center, how great things can be and see how much they get out of serving other people.”

Workcamp is a weeklong youth service trip sponsored by Group Mission Trips. This year, a total of 350 youth from around the country gathered for a week of service and spiritual growth. During the week, the youth divide into work crews of six people each. The individual crews perform service projects, working at residential homes in Greenville and the surrounding area. These projects include painting rooms, repairing decks and more.

“Our group of kids really worked hard,” Ed says. “They enjoyed themselves, they had a good time, and they worked hard to serve these people. We gather at the end of every day to share stories, and it’s fun to hear 16 and 17-year-old kids talking about working to help somebody that they’ve only known for two or three days. And you also hear about how close they become to
these residents. They want to go and they want to scrape this house, or climb up on this roof, or spend time digging holes. They want to do this for people they’ve never met, because they want to serve, which is really fun.”

The youth build strong friendships during the week. They also benefit spiritually from the work they do for the residents of Greenville.

“I had an amazing time,” says Victoria Rabuse, 16, who attended her second year of the Workcamp. “It was really good. I made a lot of friends. You make lasting friendships, and you know that your work is having a big impact on the people whose homes you’re working on. You know your work makes a difference. It’s not a temporary thing.”

The other key aspect of this trip is the focus on faith. Each night of the week, the youth gathered for a time of praise and worship.

“I had a much deeper connection this week to the praise than I had in years previous,” Victoria says. “I walked out of it with a stronger relationship with God, and a stronger relationship with the people I came with.”
Victoria is not alone. Indeed, God is at the center of the work and cooperation shared by the youth throughout the week. This has a profound effect on their faith and relationship with God.

“I felt closer to God through it,” says Olivia Vogel, 16. “The message that we had to share was really powerful, that God is making everything new.”  Like Victoria, this was Olivia’s second Workcamp.  Neither of them want this year’s trip to be their last. “I want to come back after I’m done with high school, and keep doing it,” Olivia says.  “I don’t want it to stop.”

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