Though the children around her were bouncing off the walls Tuesday to release some of their pent-up energy after a long day at school, Abbi Hardy knew she was in the right place for her service project this week.
“It’s fun just because they have so much energy, and it makes me have energy as well,” said Hardy, a sophomore at College Heights Christian School. “They’re sweet kids.”
College Heights high school students are spread across four states and three countries for their annual Missions Week, in which they take a break from classes in order to serve others.
“Part of our mission statement is to produce servant-leaders with a biblical world view, so we hope this is a practical way to produce servant-leaders for the future,” said Sonya Wilkins, missions coordinator. “Teenagers are really focused on themselves, and ours are no different, and they need experiences like this to nudge them forward in their walk to progress themselves personally and spiritually.”
More than 70 students and their sponsors have stayed in Joplin to serve at organizations such as Rapha House, Crosslines Churches, Spring River Christian Village and the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home.
Other students have left the state, and even the country, for their service projects. They are in Jamaica; Mexico City; Beverly, Ky.; Kansas, Okla.; and Ozark, Ark., where they are working on projects such as vacation Bible school programs, home-repair assistance and drama/puppet ministries.
Two dozen students, including Hardy, will spend this week at the Neighborhood Life House, a nonprofit organization in north Joplin that offers a variety of after-school programming for children. They will teach Bible lessons, lead praise and worship sessions, do arts and crafts, and also cook supper for children who attend.
“They’re basically here to love on the kids and let them know somebody cares, and tell them about Jesus in the process,” Wilkins said.
Senior Makenzi Markham was monitoring the sound booth for the praise band early Tuesday afternoon before corralling a group of children for a Bible lesson. She said she has assisted at the Life House in previous years during Missions Week, and returning to serve again this year was a natural decision.
“There’s so much you get out of the week,” she said. “Most people think we’re serving them and they get something out of the week, but you get to partner with the kids and know their stories, and they bring you so much joy.”
Katie Hargrove, Life House director, said the College Heights students are not only leading the after-school program, but they also have helped with behind-the-scenes work at the organization, such as preparing materials for the program each day.
“It’s been a blessing because we have a lot of volunteers who help, but it’s hard to get enough volunteers on a consistent basis,” she said. “We love having them.”
Hardy said she has begun to pick up some of the lessons that Missions Week is designed to teach students.
“It’s almost better to learn how to work with people in different situations than learning skills in a classroom,” she said. “I see how much we can impact kids or other people in the community just by doing a simple task.”
Scope of project
MISSIONS WEEK at College Heights Christian School is primarily for high school students. Middle school students participate in a limited missions experience by spending one day this week serving local organizations or doing community service projects on a smaller scale, said Sonya Wilkins, missions coordinator.