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Teens explore unique kind of spring break
Several will spend days off helping others
0405spring
Local students Laura Vinson, left, Maggie Auffarth, center, and Casey Martin will spend their spring break at the Bowery Mission in New York City, America’s oldest homeless shelter and ministry. - photo by Tom Reed

0405SPRINGaud

Andrew Bearden, a Redwine United Methodist Church intern who works mainly with the church’s youth, talks about the spring break mission trip the youth group is taking.

They could be playing in the surf and sand or otherwise kicking back at home with family and friends.

This week is, after all, spring break — that annual ritual of rest and recreation.

But some teenagers have chosen to feed the homeless or strap on a tool belt and get busy with some manual labor.

Torrey McDowell, 17, a Flowery Branch High School junior, had plans to go to Panama City Beach, Fla., when she learned that the youth ministry at her church, Redwine United Methodist Church off Poplar Springs Road in South Hall, had mission work in mind that week.

“I knew I wasn’t going to Panama City anymore,” she said.

The church is going to Jacksonville, Fla., as part of a camp sponsored by Gainesville-based TEAMeffort.

“We’re going to be doing mainly construction-style stuff, and just trying to make an impact on the community down there,” said Andrew Bearden, a Redwine intern who works mainly with the church’s youth. Eleven youth and five adults are going on the trip, which ends Friday.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to do a spring break mission trip for our youth,” said Bearden, a Gainesville native. “They are so excited about it. I think for the past six weeks, every service we’ve had, at least one of the youth has lifted up the trip as a prayer request.

“We just have some really great kids who love serving the Lord and love loving on people too.”

Joshua Chastine, 14, a freshman at Jackson County Comprehensive High School, said he enjoys going on church trips and participating in such efforts as Gainesville Aid Project, a service initiative started by the youth of Antioch United Methodist Church in 1980.

“It makes me feel better when I’m helping other people,” Joshua said.

Kristian Krebs, 15, a North Hall High School freshman, is going on a mission trip to Guatemala with his church, Lakewood Baptist, on Thompson Bridge Road in Gainesville.

It is his second trip away from home but his first out of the country.

“I’m pretty nervous about it. I get homesick,” he said. “I’m praying about that.”

Krebs said he believes he’ll do OK, though, as he’ll be with a lot of friends.

Plus, from a spiritual standpoint, “Christ is my best friend, and I’ll get to spend more time with him,” he said.

Ginny Early, assistant director of student ministries at Westminster Church on Thompson Bridge Road in Gainesville, will be taking a group of high school girls to New York City Friday through Sunday.

They are going to stay and work at the Bowery Mission, considered to be America’s oldest homeless shelter and ministry.

“We will be cooking and serving meals and assisting with cleaning and other work around the mission,” Early said.

In addition to serving three hot meals each day to hundreds of homeless men and women, the Bowery also has a residential treatment and recovery program for men.

“Those of us who went to the Bowery last June really felt our own hearts transformed and our lives forever altered,” Early said.

Three of the eight girls accompanying her — Laura Vinson and Casey Martin of Gainesville High School and Maggie Auffarth of North Georgia Christian School — said they were excited about the trip and being able to help the needy.

Vinson, 16, said she had thought about a restful spring break but changed her mind immediately when she heard about the trip — her and the group’s second to the Bowery.

As for Martin, 16, “this will be new for me. I’ve done mission work before in middle school, in New Orleans, and I loved it.”

The girls said losing part of spring break for such an endeavor is important.

“It’s giving back,” Martin said.

“We think we have it hard with school and busy schedules, but there are people who are suffering all year long,” Vinson said.

Auffarth said she believes the trip serves as an opportunity to “let God shine through us ... to people we’ve never met before, and I really think they’ll teach me something.”

Bearden said spring break is fine as a time to unwind and have fun — which his group will do some of, especially as the youth are so close to some popular beaches.

But there are some definite spiritual benefits.

“What’s funny is (youth group members) take a lot of pride in (returning to) school and ... saying we were able to go down and help a family that needed help,” he said. “They’re excited about that.”

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