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Church youth return from mission, learn life lessons

Physically exhausted but spiritually exulted, a group of teens returned Saturday from a mission trip in Oceana, West Virginia. Each year the United Church of Fayetteville sends its youth group on a journey to serve others in need, and it's done so through Reach, a non-profit Christian organization that offers quality workcamp experiences. For Youth Ministries Director Tom Parmenter, the workweek was nothing short of divine.

"I've been in heaven for a week," he said at Sunday morning's UCF service. "We left our comfortable homes and beds for a week. We left our families; left our own purposes behind. We worked, served and met other people. It's as close to living like Christ as we can. I do really feel like I've been experiencing Heaven all week."

Crews were comprised of seven or eight people from all different parts of the U.S., and the youth groups that arrived together did not necessarily work together.

"It was awkward at first," said mission participant Lyn Watts, but within a few days, the strangers became friends.

"People opened up," she said, especially during daytime devotions when the teens would talk about their day and how God had touched their lives.

"It was a good time for everyone," said Lizzy Price, who led her group's prayer time.

Days began at 8 a.m., and "housework" included painting, staining, building and fixing. They would get free time to interact with one another through sports and games in the evening.

Each teen related brief stories Sunday morning that which drew laughs and smiles among their supporters sitting in the pews. They told how residents were entirely receptive of their help; were filled with joy when they were there and even helped when they could. The kids also told stories that reflected their own personal growth by the time their mission was complete.

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