With a little hard work and elbow grease, the youth at St. John Baptist Church finished building a walkway and painted walls, among other projects, during a week spent in Tampa.
This is just the second year the church’s youth has taken a mission trip with local mission organization Team Effort, according to group leader Ebony Watson. She started leading the youth missions because, she said, volunteer work is important in spiritual growth.
"They need to realize what they have here and they do have a lot here, they just may not realize it and respect it," she said. "It’s important to give back and learn more about God’s will and what’s God’s plan is. Teaming them up with Team Effort has been a big plus because they utilize both aspects — mission and teaching the kids more about God’s will."
Tyra Wimpye, a 10th-grader at Gainesville High School, said the mission trip surprised her and she enjoyed every minute.
"This trip was kind of different for me because last year we went to New Orleans and I knew we were going there for a reason — because of hurricane Katrina — so I kind of knew what we were going to do," she said. "When I heard that we were going to Tampa, I wasn’t sure what we would do."
But, she added, once they arrived the focus was on the task at hand.
"The first day was my favorite day because you get to go and say, ‘Here we are,’" she said. "And you drive up to your work site and know that’s where all the memories are going to happen."
The youth worked at a center called HARC, or Hillsborough Achievement and Resource Centers, a facility for mentally challenged adults. The group stayed in dorm rooms at Eckerd College.
"The guys, they build a fence that surround the place and the girls got to paint a room. We got to talk to the people and get to know them," Wimpye said.
It was Jajuan Nicely’s first mission trip and he said he learned a lot.
"I learned about helping people and how good it is to help people," said the 13-year-old.
The St. John group worked the week with four other youth groups compiled by Team Effort. St. John traveled to Florida with about 20 people and four adults.
Through the experience the youth group members grew spiritually, and also grew closer together.
"We are all sisters and brothers now, like one big family," Triston Wimpye said. "The experience taught me how grateful I am. ... We were able to help other people without gaining something back."
Added his sister, Tyra, "On the beach, it was night time and they lit candles and everyone prayed with each other and everyone was crying, but it was fun."
Another learning experience was raising money for the trip. The youth group had to raise money themselves, which made it even more worth the experience for the kids.
"We sold clothes, had a yard sale, sold donuts," Triston said.
But all the hard work was worth it to Nadirah Robinson.
"I learned that I don’t have to be rewarded to do something nice for other people," she said.