Students show compassion through service
Members of the Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church’s Fusion group hold a prayer circle before leaving for New Jersey on Jan. 17 to help rebuild homes destroyed or damaged in October’s storm. Pictured are (from left) Kierstan Green, senior at Pickerington High School North; Dustin Ichida, youth coordinator; Tim Levert, youth pastor; Hannah Mapes, a senior at Watkins Memorial High School; and Brooke Angle, a senior at Reynoldsburg High School. Buy This Photo
The relief work in New Jersey was not easy -- sanding and painting drywall, insulating walls and laying floors.
Even worse, it was itchy.
"My group put up insulation under a crawl space," said Brooke Angle, a senior from Reynoldsburg eSTEM Academy. "We had these body suits on which covered everything, but our faces were super-itchy."
Angle is a member of Fusion, a youth group at Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church. She and 19 other juniors and seniors, all from Reynoldsburg, Watkins Memorial and Pickerington High Schools, traveled to Middletown, N.J., last Thursday, Jan. 17. The group spent three days working with Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild homes that were destroyed by hurricane Sandy in October.
The storm is not a distant memory in Middletown, where flooding destroyed or damaged so many homes that thousands of people remain in hotels or temporary housing.
Angle said some neighborhoods were like ghost towns.
"In the neighborhood we were in, only three people were still living there," she said. "We heard the storm brought three to eight feet of water into most of the houses, so most are completely unlivable."
Other students on the mission trip included: Josh Arp, Elizabeth Baldwin, Chris Burns, Josh Dorsett, Kierstan Green, Christina Hess, Henry Hinze, Hannah Mapes, Ashley Mauritz, Skylar Myers, Catie Robinson, Courtney Shaver, Alex Sims, Curtis Sims, Sierra Soley, Erin Wallace, Anthony Williams, Rachel Wolfe and Daniele Woolever.
Adults who went along are youth pastor Tim Levert, youth coordinator Dustin Ichida and John Linley.
Angle said the students were split up in small groups for different projects.
"A lot of us were painting, some put up insulation, and we also put down a floor in one of the houses," she said.
Ichida said the students wanted to "get their hands dirty and do something to help these people.
"We went to Alabama after the tornadoes and had 100 students and adults volunteer," he said. "Because of what God has done in their lives, these students want to give back."
He said the students on the Middletown trip were "amazing."
"People say children are our future, but they are also our today; they are the ones who push our churches and the community to do more," he said. "We see how much they care about people and they choose to go out and serve. It is humbling to watch and makes you want to go out and do more."
Ichida said there are about 150 kids in Fusion.
"We get together on Wednesdays and Sundays," he said. "On Sundays, we worship together in the morning and then in the evening we have our youth gathering.
"Community is valuable to these kids," he said. "They see that it is cool to follow Jesus. They can do great things and love each other. They have their faith to hang on to and can do great things for the kingdom."
Ichida said the group "goes where the need is."
"If something devastating happens, these kids mobilize themselves," he said. "We don't push them to go; they push us to go."
Angle said she was happy to help with the relief effort.
"These people really need help," she said. "We take advantage of things here and don't realize what we have. Some people in Middletown don't have beds or food. One lady told us she was trapped in her house upstairs for five days after the storm. She was such a beautiful person and loved God so much.
"I wanted to go on this trip to be a part of something bigger than me," she said.
Angle said she would advise other students to become a part of a church group.
"We all have such a passion for God and we are a huge family," she said. "Every single one of us are best friends. It is awesome to have a family outside of your family that you can talk to and get advice from. We are a close group of people."
Ichida said they will send another group to New Jersey for more relief effort in the future.
"There is still so much need in that area," he said. "Once you get into the heart of the ocean cities, it is just disastrous. It will be years before they don't need people to help. Habitat is filled with requests beyond what they can handle."
Anyone who wants to help fund the next trip or learn more about how to help with the relief effort may email Ichida at firstname.lastname@example.org.