The past fourteen days have been a whirlwind. After weeks of training, preparing, and the early bird week, we headed back to Rutland on Thursday morning. Our first group was scheduled to arrive on Sunday! Even though we’d done everything possible to be ready, I was still nervous. It was time for our team to take complete ownership of a week of programming, at our own site!
Just as I expected, Sunday came quickly. I love Sundays here. Since we’re living in the church we attend, I get to listen to our organist practice while I do devos before church. She’s a sweet lady named Kristine, and I played piano with her for a service once. Our sanctuary is beautiful here, and the services are very traditional: never flippant or too casual. I’m always reminded of how awesome and glorious God is.
After church and some last-minute cleaning and cooking, the church groups arrived around 5:30 pm. We had two church groups come, with a total of around 45 people. Almost all the youth were in middle school, so it was a pretty energetic group. I noticed right away that there were a lot of sweet kids.
On Sundays, our schedule is different from the normal week. We all have dinner together, then we have a youth orientation where we introduce ourselves, play a game, talk about the community, and go over some rules. Then the youth make mail bags for our “Mountain Mail” system and hang them on the wall. We write notes to each other throughout the week, and it’s been really encouraging and fun! (Although we do have to tell them it’s not a dating service.)
After they’ve made their mail bags, we have the Gathering. This is one of my favorite parts of the day. We start with fun music and a game, then go through different elements designed to bring the group to a more reflective mood: Upta Uplifts (recognizing people for things they’ve done that day), worship (which I play piano for, and really enjoy), Yea Gods (telling about ways we’ve seen God working), Staff Stories (a staff member tells a story from their life), and a few other things. After the Gathering, the church groups meet while we have a staff meeting. Then we do last minute dishes, hard boil eggs, clean up, or anything else that needs to be done, and get to sleep.
After the first Sunday of programming, I was elated. It had gone almost perfectly, and the kids were all friendly and sweet. I almost couldn’t believe how smoothly it had gone!
Mondays through Thursdays at YouthWorks all have similar schedules. We have breakfast prep early in the morning (where a staff and a crew of youth cook together), then breakfast at 7:30. After everyone eats, we have building clean up and breakfast clean up, then half an hour of devos. We have little trip journals that guide the youth through different Bible readings and reflections about their days. Then at 9, everyone gathers together for service orientations, where we tell the groups more about where they’re going to serve for the day.
We have a lot of service partners, but here are a few examples:
-Mountain View/The Meadows/Rutland Health and Rehab: These are the three nursing homes/assisted living facilities I coordinate volunteers for. The serving at all three looks pretty similar, as the youth play games with the residents, go on room visits, help with activities, and get to know the residents. One of my favorite activities is at the Meadows, where everyone sits around a table and plays volleyball with flyswatters and a balloon!
I’ve seen many youth and adult leaders impacted deeply by volunteering at the nursing homes. Spending time with the residents freshens their perspectives, and on top of that, it’s always a genuinely great time. The residents have so many stories to share, and they’re so grateful and excited to spend time with us. If you can’t tell, these have been my favorite places to serve. I’ve had many sweet moments with the residents, and I look forward to getting to know them better over the summer. It’s a passion God has been showing me, and I’m excited to see where it brings me!
-Pine Hills Park: This is an extensive trail system right in Rutland. They have both hiking and mountain biking trails, and every single one has been built by volunteers. The park brings in tourism, which is great for Rutland. Shelley is the lady who coordinates and leads our volunteers, and she’s very dedicated to the park. The work there is hard, as the groups are building a new trail, but I’ve heard them say they enjoy seeing how much they can get done.
-Open Door Mission: This is a really great place, and serves Rutland in many ways. They have a soup kitchen, shelter, and thrift shop all in one building. They are committed to serving anyone and everyone: even if someone is lonely and wants company, they are invited to eat there and find companionship! The kids help in both the thrift shop and soup kitchen.
As I said, we have more partners than this list, and I’ll write about them later in the summer. We really are blessed with great relationships with the people in Rutland, and the opportunity to serve in diverse ways. Going to these service sites with our groups is my favorite part of the day. It’s a great time to get to know the kids better, while also watching them learn about service. It’s amazing to see their eyes opened to broader perspectives as they do things they never have before.
The service day lasts until about 3 (everyone eats bag lunches wherever they’re serving), then it’s time for showers. We have four different places where groups shower, and staff go to each for shower duty. The process takes quite a while, then everyone heads back to the church for dinner prep, dinner, and evening activity orientation.
Each evening looks different, since our evening activities change every day. On Mondays we go to an indoor rock climbing gym, then Ben and Jerrys. The kids learn how to belay each other (which is scary, but not as scary as you’d think), and it’s a lot of fun! On Tuesday, we go to a place called the Vermont Farmers Food Center, which is linked to the Farmers Market. A man named Greg talks to our groups about food sustainability and the ways the farmers market helps people in Rutland get fresh produce. On Wednesday we go to a beautiful state park for pizza and games. Thursday is our community cookout, where we go to a park, grill food, and invite the community to have a free meal with us. Every evening activity is designed to get the group out into the community, have fun, relax, and have time to get to know each other better.
We also have the Gathering each night, then church group time and staff meeting. By the time everything is wrapped up for the day, it’s usually after 11 pm. The days are exhausting, but also very full of laughter, learning, and fun.
All in all, our first week was pretty perfect. It was great to get to know the kids and watch what God did in them over the week. When they left on Friday, our staff team headed to Walmart and Sams Club for our weekly shopping. (This is a day-long process). Then we had Saturday to rest and relax. We usually spend Saturdays sleeping, going out to eat, going to the farmers market, and doing whatever else we don’t have time to do during the week (did I mention sleeping?)!
Then on Sunday, we did it all over again! It was overwhelming to dive into another week after just one day of rest, but God gave me the strength and desire to meet the new kids and pour myself into every moment of the week, just like last I had before.
Schedule-wise, our second week was similar to our first. However, we had more high schoolers, so I found myself adjusting the ways I approached them, made conversation, and related to them. The first few days of the week were honestly quite rough, as we got to know the kids and coordinated everything. Many of the kids were from an affluent community in Connecticut, and had had very different upbringings than I had. Even though this made it difficult in the beginning, I found that God worked in some amazing ways that week. He shifted my perspective from frustration to patience and understanding. He showed the youth what service looks like, and opened their hearts to being servants. He brought unity between the church groups in a way I didn’t at all expect. I’m thankful to participate in these youths’ mission trip experiences, and see what God alone can do in their hearts.
I am definitely so glad I said yes to a YouthWorks summer. I’m learning a ton about God, service, myself, and others. God is opening my eyes to new perspectives constantly, and it’s great to watch as he does that in the youth who come to serve, too!
Tomorrow, my team and I leave for Boston to help a YouthWorks team there, then we have a month left of programming here in Rutland. It's all going so quickly, but I know He has so much more in store for the rest of the summer. I’ll keep you updated! Thank you for following along with my journey, and for all your thoughts and prayers!
Hello! I'm Anna, a college student living in the Midwest. I'm a strong believer in uncontrollable laughter, powerful words, and a morning cup of coffee. I pray these posts will encourage you to live a full life with and for God: unhindered. Follow me on social media for post updates!