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Jul 21, 2015

Service, Tips and Spirit Stay Local for Nassau Bay Youth

By Joshua Orsak


The goal for this year’s relatively local mission trips, overseen exclusively by staff and volunteers, brought profound witness to the community and deeper relationships for participants.


For years, St. Thomas the Apostle Episcopal Church has kept to a pretty consistent script when it comes to short-term mission experiences. Our junior high group would take part in a local trip through some well-established organization like CUSE (Cathedral Urban Service Experience), while our high school group would go out of state with an organization like Mission Discovery or Youthworks. But over the last few years, we’ve taken more and more control over our trips. We attempted to create an experience that was genuine and Spirit-filled, but which truly helped those outside the church, avoiding any danger of ‘voluntourism’.


The senior high trip we called the “Tips For Jesus Mission Trip.” It was centered out of various churches in Southeast Texas. Each night we stayed at a different church. We travelled to All Saints in Hitchcock, Grace in Alvin and St. Mark’s in Bay City. These churches graciously opened their doors to our group, often providing meals and always wonderful places to stay and worship. The churches were just so beautiful, and our youth were really moved by the hospitality we received from our sister congregations.


Each day, we chose a different service project. We did everything from setting up meals for hungry children in the Houston area to light home repair. But the real focus of our trip were the various meals we ate at local restaurants. The youth raised extra money to provide large “Tips For Jesus” to our waiters and waitresses. We experienced gratitude and kindness in a way that is hard to overstate. In one instance, each youth put a five dollar bill in the tip jar at a diner in Santa Fe, and when we were done, others in the restaurant started doing the same thing. The women behind the counter were in tears, and our youth were thanked by several patrons. It was a very moving experience.


The idea was to turn upside down our normal sense of who is servant and who is being served. Doing the work was rewarding, staying at the churches was moving, and being a part of this ‘tips for Jesus’ movement that is going on really helped us feel the way God has blessed us and given us the opportunity to bless others.


The Junior High trip wasn’t really a trip at all, in the sense of going somewhere far away. We stayed overnight each night at St. Thomas. This was our first year to do a Vacation Bible School in almost half a decade. Each morning our group provided much of the manpower for VBS, and every afternoon we did another service project, spiritual event or fellowship opportunity.


This was the first all-girl mission trip I have ever been a part of, and let me tell you, girl power was in full force. I have been on few mission trips that created as much comradery or opportunities for spiritual growth as this one did. There was a feeling of safety and familiarity that allowed us to move into worship, study or just having fun very easily.


It goes to show you that you don’t have to go far away to make a difference or have the kind of Christ encounter that often happens on mission trips.


So the themes for the year ended up being “doing it differently and keeping it local.”


Orsak is Youth & Young Adult Minister, St. Thomas the Apostle, Nassau Bay.