Hundreds gather to witness Summer Servants, local missions in Syracuse

An atmosphere of excitement, welcome and anticipation filled the gym during the Summer Servants Community Dinners July 16 and 23. The evenings were scenes of teens hugging their parents and siblings, of homeless men joining tables for dinner, of local pastors and ministers conversing about transformative experiences.

   Summer Servants is a local mission trip for teenagers run by the Brady Faith Center, and its Thursday night community dinners showcase to families, churches and residents what its mission is all about. Summer Servants sends teens into the community to serve, hear stories and develop relationships during one week in July. It ran two weeks of camp this year, joining eight churches, both Catholic and non-denominational, making it an example of an ecumenical mission with a common goal: to find and know Jesus in the poor and marginalized. Service sites included Hopeprint, Casey’s Place, Bishop Foery, Vincent House, Brady Faith Center, and Minor Home Repairs; some groups also made special visits to the Food Bank of Central New York, Tiny Homes for Good, Inc., Matthew 25 Farm and L’Arche. On top of working at these service sites, each group had the opportunity to serve at either the Rescue Mission or the Samaritan Center for lunch or breakfast for one day out of the week.

Kevin Frank, director of the Brady Faith Center, spoke during the week and at the community dinners, urging the crowd to view faith not as a moment, but a movement. Move toward outward service, toward compassion, toward right thinking, and toward the parts of the city we avoid. Teenagers stood in front of their families and shared worship songs and stories about how a moment or person touched their hearts. The theme of Summer Servants 2015 was “Kinship,” best juxtaposed as this: Service is “Don’t just stand there; do something!” Kinship is “Don’t just do something; stand there!” Teenagers learned the difference between service, charity, kinship and justice, and were able to break down barriers in their hearts, minds and lives that hold them back from experiencing kinship with those who are different from themselves.

Several of this year’s Summer Servants offered reflections on their experiences:

“Our group did many different jobs during the week such as painting, gardening, porch repairs, rebuilding and other jobs and activities. Most of the time, we were helping people that were unable to do the work by themselves. All of the people that we helped during the week were so grateful for anything we did, even if it was just a small task or helping for a few hours of the day. Even though we only worked at a certain location for a short period of time, we built close relationships with the people that we served. Not only were we able to give them our help, but we were able to give them our friendship as well.” — Megan Lynch, St. Mary’s, Baldwinsville group

“Summer Servants has greatly affected my life. I wake up every day grateful for the many things I learned over those five days. I went into this camp just thinking I was going to be giving back to my community. I came out with a group of new friends and so much more knowledge about my faith.”  — Maddie Scullion, Holy Cross Church, DeWitt

“A woman who came to the Samaritan Center for breakfast looked me in the eye and wanted me to know she had tripped and fallen, and was working to get back up again. She thanked us for what we were doing and she taught me yet again, to look beyond what you see. The people I met made such a difference in my life. I learned so much during my week with Summer Servants.” — Meredith Ramin, St. Mary’s Church, Baldwinsville

“I have done service in other places of the world but there is no better feeling than knowing that you don’t have to travel far to make a difference for those in need. Going into this week I expected to do work with other teenagers and help people in our community that needed an extra hand. I soon learned that we were not only there to serve but to form kinship with others and share kindness.” — Mack Conan, Holy Cross Church, DeWitt

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Summer Servants. I had lots of fun and learned that to give is better than to receive. I wish that Summer Servants were longer, though. I can’t wait to come back again next year.” — Crystal Stobart, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, Baldwinsville

To find out more about Summer Servants, visit summerservants.com and follow on Twitter and Instagram @comeandseecuse.

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