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Ohio’s Stillwater Youth Get Rare Chance to Help Neglected Children

By Abigail Schaefer

The summer of 2008 for 14 youth at the Stillwater church in Dayton, Ohio, was quite challenging, yet very rewarding. Each youth member needed to raise approximately $1,000 to fly to Helena, Mont., for a homeland mission trip. Raising the funds included a lot of laborious “work camps” throughout the hot summer months.

The mission trip took place at InterMountain (intermountain.org), a facility where neglected and abused children go to for relief and comfort. The two-year program includes a school building, cottage homes, tight schedules, three meals a day, plenty of recess, and one-on-one school assistance. Staff with strong religious morals and beliefs showers the young residents with love. Most of the students have experienced foster homes that didn’t want them, and relatives who didn't care.

This year, for the first time in its 100-year history, InterMountain permitted a church youth group to come and help. The Stillwater group, led by Chris Staats, spent a week doing a number of activities for the school.

One of their main “jobs” was to help set up for a play that the kids put on every year, called “Masterpiece Theater.” Their performances are always based on parables from the Bible. This year it was the “Story of the Three Trees.” Its theme: God loves everyone no matter who they are, and He has a special plan for their lives. The Stillwater youth cut out hundreds of paper pine trees, flowers, and other props used to make the gymnasium come to life for the children, staff, and audience of grandparents and other close relatives.

The Adventist youth also spent time with the kids during recess twice a day, and taught some puppet ministry classes. Many of Stillwater’s young missionaries were a bit nervous about addressing the group of children. They were afraid to say anything that might hurt their fragile feelings or to seem like they didn’t care. They knew this trip was for the kids, and they spent as much time as possible helping out and making sure everything went smoothly.

“It was a real blessing. I felt that we were able to change some lives,” says Staats. “I also think that our youth’s eyes were opened to see what really goes on in the world, and can now better relate to others in their own schools.”

From teaching the youngsters cartwheels to talking about their favorite subjects in school, the Stillwater youth were awed at the experience of “hanging out with them and making them feel like they have loving older siblings.” They got to demonstrate God’s true love for these abandoned children, showing them that God does have a plan for everyone.