By Kaytlyn L. Sheldon Special to the Osceola Edition REED CITY - At the beginning of this month, more than 400 youths and adults from across the country traveled to lend a helping hand to the people of Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. Twenty-one of these individuals were from St. Philip Neri Catholic Church in Reed City. Of those, 13 were youth from eighth grade through twelfth grade. "This trip was a good experience," said Barb Spindler, who was on her second mission trip as an adult leader. Her group built a handicap ramp for a gentleman who had a heart attack recently and is now undergoing chemo for cancer. "I enjoyed the interaction with the young people in our parish. It was great to see that they were willing to give up a week of their vacation!" The volunteers are affiliated with Group Workcamps Foundation, a faith-based organization that brings together youth ages 10 to 20 and adults for week-long summer workcamps, in which participants complete minor home repairs. "All religious denominations were represented at camp," said St. Philip's Father Loc Trinh. "The one common ground that connected us all together was our faith in God and our willingness to deepen that relationship with Him through our love and service of others." Participating youth learned the valuable home repair skills of basic carpentry, roof repair, painting, and drywall. All the participants were divided into groups of 7 (three females, three males, and one adult leader), so that no one who traveled together worked together. Each work crew group was assigned to one needy family. "This experience tested my patience and made me trust in the bigger picture," said Trevor Mund, 17, who was assigned to redo a trailer skirting and build a couple of decks for his first mission trip. "It definitely took me right out of my comfort zone." The work began early in the morning until 3 p.m. in the afternoon. "These trips are about building faith in the participants while helping to build and fix homes for those who are in need or physically unable to do it for themselves," explained Father Loc Trinh. "The residents whom you helped came from many different backgrounds, faith, and walks of life." "The lady I was helping suffered from depression for the last 14 years. She finally sought counseling about six months ago." said Mund. "On Thursday, we started talking about her relationship with God. She said, 'This is God right here - you guys being here.' That was my favorite moment of the trip." "My favorite part was meeting new people from all the different states," said Ricky Droke, 16, who was assigned to paint the outside of a home on his first mission trip. Another favorite part for most of the participants was the evening programs centered on the workcamp's theme "Connect." "Each evening program focused on a subtheme of 'Connect,'" said Angela Decator, 16, who was assigned to paint the exterior of a mobile home in a trailer park on her third mission trip. "We would worship by singing and talk about what we had experienced that day during our youth group devotions." Part of the evening program was sharing God sightings, which is when God's work was witnessed while working during the day. The theme of "Connect" was definitely felt by the volunteers. "We felt so welcomed in Elizabethtown not only by those whose homes we helped, but by the whole town community who embraced us with open arms. " It was a great week," said Father Loc Trinh. "It was a blessing. "This is the church's third short mission trip. Last year, the group went to Rochester, New York and the year before they helped out the Indian reservation of Red Lake, Minnesota. "Our church communities of St. Philip in Reed City and St. Anne in Paris have been very supportive of these trips over the last three years with prayers and finance. The trip was also an opportunity for our young people to travel and see new places. We can serve Jesus and have fun at the same time. "This trip was so inspiring for the group that they have all ready chosen to go to Centralia, Illinois for next year's workcamp. Although a group of 21 individuals traveling to assist others in need sounds impressive, there were other groups at Elizabethtown that had over sixty members." "How awesome would it be if we combined efforts with our churches here in Reed City and went together to Centralia next July?" encouraged St. Philip Youth Leader David Mix. "The trips are open to anyone who wants to go," said Grothe. "You don't have to be from our church." "I just think that the kids in that one week mature a lot," said Spindler. "They open up to each other. Parents should definitely consider letting them go. It's a really good experience for them." "If you get the chance to go, you should," added Droke. "It changes your life." For more information on the national Group Workcamps organization, visit http:\/\/www.groupworkcamps.com\/. To learn more about the St. Philip trip next summer, contact the church office at (231) 832-5544.