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The Wilton United Methodist Church has continued its mission-minded living into 2017. At the end of Advent season, the church raised more than $7,000 to donate to purchasing water pumps and pump maintenance training. This year, 24 people affiliated with the church volunteered at Sager Brown UMCOR Depot in Baldwin, La., leaving Iowa Jan. 21 and returning Jan. 28.
“We have a very committed, mission-oriented church,” Lanette Morgan, team leader for the mission trip, said about the large group. “We don’t need a lot of motivation to get people to do a mission.”
Several church members from Wilton go on mission trips with other groups and organizations. But, the Wilton UMC Mission Team tries to plan a large group mission trip every other year and smaller, closer-to-home trips said Connie Zeleny, chair of the Mission Team. In the past, teams have gone to the UMCOR Distribution Center in Chatham, Illinois, and to the Tree of Life Ministry in Mission, SD.
Morgan and the Mission Team decided to go to Sager Brown this year to change up the scenery from the Midwest and get people a little more excited to go.
“We thought people probably wanted to experience something more exciting and a different culture,” she said. “People like to escape cold Iowa winters, and that may have been some incentive for people to go!”
Morgan said the enthusiasm was immediate. Within two to three weeks of announcing the mission trip, 20 spots had filled up. In the end, 22 people from Wilton and two friends of the church members from Georgia went to Sager Brown.
Like in years past, the planning of a large group mission trip takes time, money and energy. Typically, church groups must reserve dates at mission sites a year or more in advance, said Morgan. The last trip to Chatham, Morgan had to reserve dates a year in advance. This time for the trip to Sager Brown, she had to reserve slots more than two years in advance.
“This has been a two-and-a-half year project because you have to make reservations that far in advance,” said Morgan. “Sager Brown is such a popular mission site.”
After the dates are set and approved, $25 per person must be sent to Sager Brown for registration. After the registration fee is paid, then comes the paperwork. A talent survey helps the Sager Brown staff place volunteers for work. Volunteers must sign liability and medical forms, provide proof of insurance and pass a background check. Morgan coordinated all the paperwork, except for the background check, which Pastor Mike Agnew handled.
The next step was raising money for the trip. The cost per person was $120 for lodging and $110 for meals. Additionally, Sager Brown required each person bring $50 to donate school supplies to 10 children. Luckily, the Mission Team holds an annual auction that raises thousands of dollars for mission work. The Mission team donated $90 towards the cost of food and lodging and covered the cost of school supplies donations.
“The whole church gets involved with the auction,” said Zeleny. “It has helped us do mission work in the community and outside of the community.”
The team arrived on Sunday, Jan. 22, and was able to meet with other volunteers in food and fellowship. The next day, though, the team went right to work. Volunteers helped with several projects at Sager Brown.
Some fill school kits and stitch the school bags, while others put together health kits. At the depot, several group members helped load semis with school and health kits going to Lebanon. Some of the group went into Baldwin and helped build and install a wheelchair ramp at a local home. Other outreach ministries were available to help with including light cleaning at a facility for the elderly, reading with children at a Head Start and helping with maintenance at a domestic violence shelter.
Most the projects helped people outside of Sager Brown, but one project helped the volunteers. Two of the Wilton team members turned several of the wooden Adirondack chairs into relaxing rockers for volunteers after a long day at work.
It wasn’t all hard work during their time in Baldwin, though. The volunteers got a much-deserved day off. They visited the Tabasco hot sauce factory on Avery Island and Vermillionville, a historical site like Living History Farms in Des Moines. The homes and “actors” are descendants of the indigenous people in the area including Arcadians, Native Americans, and Creole. They also visited a state park on the Gulf of Mexico.
This year’s mission trip and previous mission trips are continual reminders to the Wilton church members of our duty as Christians, said Zeleny. And often, those working in mission feel just as blessed as those they are helping.
“Sometimes it feels like we were so much more blessed than the blessings we brought,” she said.
For more photos and stories from the mission trip, visit the Wilton UMC to Sager Brown Facebook page.