Young People Hope to Change the World

Simone McCarron from Bridgewater United Methodist Church in Bridgewater, N.J. works with schoolchildren in Belmopan, Belize. Photo courtesy of Bridgewater United Methodist Church.

Simone McCarron from Bridgewater United Methodist Church in Bridgewater, N.J., 
works with schoolchildren in Belmopan, Belize. 
Photos courtesy of Bridgewater United Methodist Church. 

By Joey Butler*

May 14, 2013 | NASHVILLE, TENN. (UMNS)

When United Methodists worldwide hit the streets, the road or, in some cases, the air, May 18-19 during Change the World weekend, many young people will be along for the ride.

Bridgewater (N.J.) United Methodist Church is changing the world by visiting another part of it. On May 18, a team of 22 people — 12 of whom are college-aged — will leave for a 10-day mission trip to Belmopan, Belize. They will help to finish the first stage of the Caribbean Methodist High School in Belmopan and do repairs and volunteer in classrooms at the local elementary school.

This is the second year a team from Bridgewater has worked in Belize. “I’m thankful to get to go again,” said director of youth ministries Cathi Reckenbeil. “You start a relationship and when you get to come back and continue, that’s the neat part.”

Many others, like Gator Wesley Foundation at University of Florida, will be doing community service projects closer to home such as community cleanups or helping neighbors with minor home repair.

Walk or ride

Lakewood United Methodist Church in North Little Rock, Ark., is sponsoring Walk for the Waiting, a walk-a-thon to raise awareness and funds for hundreds of children in orphanages and foster homes in Arkansas.

“Not everyone can adopt a child, but everybody can do something to help,” said Joe Roitz, Lakewood’s communications minister. “You can walk to raise awareness, or you can sponsor a walker to be able to fund the goals of the project.”

This is Lakewood’s second year of involvement with Change the World. Last year their event focused on Imagine No Malaria, and it was so popular that they did it again during Advent. “You get so much momentum on these things during Change the World weekend that you can revisit them throughout the year,” Roitz said.

Preferring not to travel by foot, members of the Purdue University Wesley Foundation will be bicycling about 400 miles from Chicago to Door County, Wis., to raise money for missions — half goes to United Methodist Committee on Relief and the other half goes to support campus missions and ministries. Bikers will stay at United Methodist churches along the way, which also support the mission by providing meals.

Young people drawn to service

Sarah Bayoch wields a hammer helping to build the Methodist High School in Belmopan, Belize.
Sarah Bayoch wields a hammer helping to build the Methodist High School in Belmopan, Belize.

Hands-on mission work is often the best means to attract those who normally don’t frequent church, especially young people.

“We think service projects are the most effective way to pull people into the church,” Roitz said. “People begin attending church through some life event that touches their heart, and these service projects create an emotional connection.”

Reckenbeil at Bridgewater said that for them it’s true of all their youth, not just their young adults. “They will come for worship, but doing any kind of service is appealing. One of our students was helping me pack supplies for the Belize trip and she remarked, ‘I love all the mission we do,’ and I told her that’s what The United Methodist Church does. So much mission is available and it’s so cool to have those opportunities for them.”

Reckenbeil said that last summer her church took 20 college students to New York City for three days to work in soup kitchens, then toured the Board of Global Ministries to learn about available mission opportunities.

“One of our college students was inspired to apply for a missionary position and was accepted, so he’s coming with us to Belize and then serving in Japan for the summer,” she said.

Prepare to Change the World

On May 18-19, United Methodists around the globe will unite in service with their local communities for the fourth annual Change the World weekend. People in more than 1,500 locations internationally observed Change the World in 2012.

United Methodist Communications has created several free planning resources including sermon series and ideas for service projects. To locate an event in your area, go to Join the Change the World conversation online on Facebook, or on Twitter and Instagram using #changetheworld and #rethinkchurch.

*Butler is editor of young adult content for United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Joey Butler, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

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