With servants' hearts and a mission for God, 17 students and three adults from Northpoint Christian School in Southaven, Mississippi, spent four days this week ministering in Hopkinsville.
Sixteen girls and one boy took lessons they learned in the Christ-centered college preparatory school's Home Missions Studies class and put them into action.
"During the school semester they study about home missions, what it's like to be a missionary, biblical basis for being a missionary, fulfilling the great commission in our own personal lives," said Dr. Jason Mackey, spiritual life director at Northpoint. "Part of that class is to take things they learn in the classroom and do hands-on experience with it."
Mackey, Northpoint principal Sam Wrigley and bible/home economics teacher Becka Pitner accompanied the group of teenagers 200 miles northeast to Kentucky with a mission to serve others.
"We understand in the small period of time that we're not going to change the world in 72 hours, but on the other hand, we can do some things that genuinely demonstrate the genuineness of God's love … especially during Holy Week," Mackey said. "Easter is coming up and by us being here and fulfilling the greater commandment to love God by loving our neighbor, we are also fulfilling the great commission -- to go make disciples -- we are showing God's love … to me that's our main goal."
Service to seniors
The mission trip was coordinated locally by Edith Marcum-Hewell with help from former Heritage Christian Academy teacher Lori Sanderson. Sanderson now teaches choir at Northpoint.
Marcum-Hewell met the Northpoint group Monday afternoon at Westwood and Foster Senior Homes to coordinate a mini spa day for the residents and to help them fold luminary bags for the June 7 Christian County Relay for Life at the Stadium of Champions.
"I get a blessing from watching them make people happy," she said. "To serve God we are to serve other people. It's great to be able to watch young people be able to serve and to be happy."
Northpoint juniors Matty Walden, Abby McCoy and Hope Joy Owens spent several minutes talking with and painting the fingernails of Westwood residents Laura Cook and Margie McDowell.
"I think it's important for them to feel loved, that they are appreciated and that people want to come and hang out with them," McCoy said. "It's fun and I've learned a lot today."
McDowell said she was pleased with the spa treatment she received from the trio.
"I got my nails done and they look pretty. I had three beautiful ladies who had to paint them," she said. "I love the idea that these are young missionaries. I love it. I'm going to be praying for them. They are going to do well."
Westwood resident Joan Saturley, a thyroid and bone cancer survivor, thanked the Northpoint group for helping with the Relay for Life luminaries.
"I'm a survivor. I keep fighting. I don't give up," she said. "I think they're lovely. I appreciate them. I really appreciate them."
Students spent Tuesday afternoon visiting, singing and playing bingo with residents at Covington's Convalescent Center, 115 Cayce Ave.
Walden said the experience left an impression on her.
"This one lady, Emma, was very joyful, despite being very disabled. She was very excited to get a (bingo) coverall. That impacted me," she said. "She was very joyful about everything. I need to be that way. Especially when I get older."
Service to students
The Northpoint crew spent several hours Tuesday morning at Indian Hills Elementary School.
Students were assigned individually to classrooms in all grade levels. They spent time reading, listening and sharing with Indian Hills students and teachers.
Northpoint sophomore Mallory Roberts sat on a carpet of primary colors in Heather Rodgers' kindergarten class.
"The kids were trying to learn to read, so they were reading books to me. If they couldn't read a word, I would help them sound it out," she said. "My brother is 5 and he's about to go to kindergarten, so it's really cool to see how much they've grown (in reading skills) in the year. I only saw them for one day and they were doing really good."
Roberts said the children greeted her with warm smiles and hugs.
"I think the kids really needed someone to love on them and build a relationship or friendship with someone," she said. "Even with the older people in the (senior) homes, they just wanted someone to talk to and someone to spend time with. That's kind of the whole point of us being here, is just to share some love with people."
The Northpoint teens divided into two teams Wednesday morning with one group serving at the Salvation Army and the other at Impact Ministries, a food and clothing distribution ministry.
Outside the Salvation Army soup kitchen, Nya McLaurin, Brooklyn Sullivan, MacKenzie Watson, Josie Austin and Lauren Epps leapt outside their comfort zones into a sea of manual labor --- pulling and sweeping up weeds.
"I just think it's a great way to show that we are here to love and serve the community in any way we possibly can - even if it's just pulling weeds …," McLaurin said. "When we came here I did not know we'd be pulling weeds, but I don't mind."
Inside the soup kitchen, the students cut cake into pieces, served the noon meal to about 75 patrons and washed dishes and trays with volunteers from Second Baptist Church.
"We appreciate that they are willing to do the dirty work of pulling weeds outside. We are just blessed when anyone is willing to come do what we need because the needs vary quite a bit from day-to-day," said Alisa Barton, director of social services. "The Salvation Army is different wherever you go, so they get to see what's unique from the one in their community, if they have one at all. We're just thrilled to have them here and that they are willing to serve."
Meanwhile, Walden, Baylee Avent and Galin Burton assembled hygiene product bags while Pitner, Hannah Clark, Joy Fowler, Brenna Luff, Haleigh Roberts and Desirea Smith from Northpoint filled food product bags and hung up clothing on racks at Impact Ministries on West Ninth Street.
Pitner, a teacher for 32 years, said she was pleased with how her Northpoint students served at Impact.
"They just give and give and give of themselves. They are selfless and want to love others and help others," she said. "I see a servant's heart."
The final mission stop was at Buffalo Lick Baptist Church Wednesday night. The Northpoint team removed an old playground, striped the church parking lot and spruced up the grounds for Easter weekend.
"You don't come on a mission trip to go on vacation. You come to work and we did," Mackey said. "I feel great about the people we met, the relationships we made. Our students did a fantastic job sharing God's love, interacting with people we served. It wasn't just pulling weeds and serving food. They took time to sit and get to know people, talk with them and love them in a practical way. I'm proud of them for that."
Serving at home
"I see that's so important for us to realize how many needs there are (everywhere)," Pitner said. "Sometimes it takes going away (on a mission trip) to see what needs are somewhere else, then come back home to realize those needs are there too."
Before the group left Thursday morning, Walden said she had set some goals for herself during the mission trip, but also received blessings in return.
"When you go on a mission trip you want to impact others, but I prayed that I would be impacted also. People impact you and you grow also," she said.
"Miss Margie said 'if you're called to something, you just go do it. You don't have to worry about money. You don't have to worry about anything. If you know God is calling you, you just go do it. It will work itself out.' It made me feel better going places, knowing it's going to work out."
Owens said she felt like God had been telling her to focus more on relationships in her life.
"I feel like in every Christian's life there's going to be high points and low points. I had gotten to a low point. I wasn't reading my bible as much … with being busy with school and sports," she said. "I feel like I've been able to set some time aside to get closer to God."
Northpoint junior Sammy Lee was determined to be a better leader during his time in Kentucky, especially since he was the only male teen on the mission trip. He plans to continue serving others back in Mississippi.
"One of the biggest attributes of a leader is that you are able to stand alone without caring what other people think," he said. "Showing the love of Jesus --- the only way you can do that is you've got to have that same courage to stand alone."
Walden said she hopes Northpoint students on this mission trip offer a positive example of whom teens can be today.
"Through Christ, we're the next generation," she said. "Tons of teenagers across the country and the world are living for Christ. Put us together and we can really do some good for the world."
Reach Michele Vowell at 270-887-3242 or email@example.com.