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Helping the less fortunate in L A

By Anna Erickson

A group of 30 Calvary Lutheran youth and chaperones went on a mission trip to Hollywood and returned with a different view of poverty and homelessness.

Hollywood is known for the glitz and glam but the city has another side. This is where youth from Park Rapids spent their time helping those in need.

“While in California, our group served among several organizations, nonprofits, food banks, homeless shelters and more,” said youth pastor Dana Kocka. “What we were amazed by was the sheer number of volunteers that keep these nonprofit organizations running.”

Katelynn Warmbold said one day they split into groups of about eight people and were given just a couple dollars to feed the entire group supper. They were told to go to the streets and ask for money or food.

“We got to experience what it felt like to be in that situation,” she said. “Some people were kind and some didn’t want to even look at us.”

Her group ended up with a loaf of bread, peanut butter and bananas.

“The vast amount of homeless people living on the streets in California is jaw dropping,” Kocka said. “After our first day of service, our evening came to an end with uplifting testimonies shared from two people that were once homeless. These testimonies opened our eyes and hearts and gave us an understanding that being homeless can happen to anyone, even though homelessness is very different here in Minnesota.”

DOOR (Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection) helps groups see the face of God in the city by serving in community-based ministries. They reflect on the message of the Psalmist: “God is in the midst of the city,” (Psalm 46:5).

“DOOR organized all of our service projects throughout the entire week,” Kocka said. “They were incredible to work with because they truly lead by example and are hands on with their ministry. They found it important for our youth to experience service to the full extent and they did this by making sure all groups were serving in all aspects.”

For example, they served in places where they were behind the scenes (such as sorting food for the LA Food Bank) and then where they were serving one-on-one or face-to-face.

“They helped our group realize the importance of all serving. If nobody stepped up to serve behind the scenes with service work, that would be one piece of the puzzle that would be missing and a very important piece that is,” Kocka added.

Tristan Breitweser said the number of homeless people surprised him. He returned to Park Rapids with a different perspective.

“I’m pretty stoked to go on another mission trip,” he said.

One of the parts of the trip that stuck out in Warmbold’s head was when they went into Skid Row.

“There was a sign that said ‘Population: Too Many,’” she said.

That was too true.

“At the end of our mission trip, we had two days to experience the many things in the Los Angeles, however our youth wanted to continue serving,” Kocka said. “So we donated our sleeping bags and several basic hygiene necessities to hand out to the homeless on Skid Row.”

As a group they decided to give their sleeping bags and pillows away. However, some of the youth went even further and gave away clothes, shoes, socks and more.

Youth will share their experience with the congregation.

“Christ was so alive within this mission trip and it is my hope and prayer that they can continue to let Christ’s light shine in and through them every day,” Kocka said.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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