Canaan Baptist Church Youth Ministry travels south on relief mission

August 14, 2014

DSC_8261 DSC_8237 DSC_8281 DSC_8240By Don Edward Pannell
Special to the Milwaukee Times
(Part one of a three part series)
Several youth from Canaan Missionary Baptist Church with their director and chaperones completed a successful relief mission to the Waccamaw Youth Center from June 15 to June 22, 2014. The purpose of the mission was to assist in helping to repair and paint the facility. Waccamaw is a comprehensive residential center in Conway, South Carolina that provides therapeutic services to abandoned or abused boys aged 10-21.
Asked why they decided on the venture, Canaan’s youth director Melissa Thomas states, “We are mission-driven to assist others in the community and abroad in whatever capacity we can. It meant a lot for us to go and show our love, our fellowship and our commitment towards another community.”
Ms. Thomas described the trip as successful because of how it affected her and the children. “It changed my life personally and as I conversed with the children, they spoke of how they gained a different perspective in seeing boys who were less fortunate than themselves.”
Ms. Thomas’ sentiments were shared by the other adult attendees as expressed by chaperone Gwen Webb, “I enjoyed riding the bus with the children, though I have never participated in this type of activity with this many children. My job was to prepare them for what we were to accomplish on the mission. It was a good experience for me and the children because the kids there had never seen Black children come to help out as they did.”
One youth, 19 year old Jason Smith, enjoyed the experience so much, he expressed his willingness to return tomorrow if asked to do so. “The experience was social in the sense I was able to interact with people from other places that were there for the same reason. It was spiritual in the sense of how it made me feel good knowing I was helping someone that was less fortunate than me.”
Jason went on to say he also was able to communicate with the young men at Waccamaw, not only because the majority were African American, but because they shared some of the same interests. “We were able to light a bonfire together and play basketball at night and spend more time together in a social setting. If I had to sum it in one word, I would say fabulous!”
Another adult charged with ensuring the youths had a “fabulous” time was chaperone Juliet Starks. “I have wanted to do a mission like this since Hurricane Katrina. So when the opportunity was presented for me to go, I jumped on board right away. I wanted to do something different outside of my every day routine, something that would help change a life. Though we didn’t know what to expect, we found the facility to be quite beautiful. At the same time they stressed, … this is our home! I also was very glad to see how the youth, especially all the girls blended in. We could see the girls didn’t dress much differently from the “northern” girls. They had a night where one of the girls shouted out ‘…let’s start an instagram!’ So they were all getting along just fine!”

Cousins Shamia McGowan and Whitney Fisher agreed that the culture, while somewhat different, did not prevent them from getting along and blending together. Shamia stated that being originally from the south, she was familiar with the culture but they were the only African American group there. The highlight of the trip, stated Shamia was, “When we connected with the boys who wanted to help us do our work and also invited us to the bonfire.” When asked to sum her trip in one word or sentence she immediately stated “Delirious!” The reason for her interpretation was having to return to a rest stop for a forgotten item. Shamia said, “We were ten minutes from where we were to stay and someone discovered they left their purse at the rest stop. We had to drive back an hour and a half just to realize it was no longer there. We returned three hours later, and no one got to eat because we missed dinner!”
(Continued next week)