At a recent circuit picnic, I was talking with Pastor Mike Saylor about a recent trip he and a number of his parishioners made to Cleveland to work with Building Hope in the City. He talked excitedly about the impact which their several days had on the people and places where they had served, but also about the impact the trip made on the people he brought with him to Cleveland. The paint job they gave the school at St John, South Euclid, spruced the place up just in time for their open house. The school saw 12-15 new families register. Some fatherless pre-teens received some positive male-bonding from the visiting teens. That inner city life is different from rural northwest Ohio struck one adult as he remembered the response one little girl gave when instructed to make something with the ball of clay set before her: “I think I’ll make some cocaine.”

The day before I had a chance to view a quick 5-minute slide show of teens from Bethlehem, Fairborn, who had participated in an Appalachian servant event helping to improve some homes. Ohio District teens and adults have also served elsewhere in Appalachian southern Ohio.

Two points: 1) Ohio District Lutherans don’t have to make “exotic” trips to Haiti or elsewhere for a short-term mission trip. Not that those are bad things to do, far from it! But for those who can’t travel that far, we have a load of opportunities, hidden treasure, right here! This is especially noteworthy because, as I understand it, Millennials in particular want to make a difference by their actions. They are no further away than 2-3 hours from making huge impacts! 2) Pastor Saylor’s first visit to Cleveland inspired him to pull together the community center in Convoy, a new ministry for Redeemer and the other congregations of Convoy. If a congregation wants to go through the visioning process, he suggests that its leaders first invest a few days in one of these service projects. The experience just might open an inspiring eye to discover ways their congregation back home could become a positive influence in its community. I heartily agree.

To take it one step further, these opportunities to share the love of Christ through service should be accompanied with words about the love of Christ. As the old song says about love and marriage, “You can’t have one without the other.”

If you’d like further information about such projects, contact Pastor Saylor () or Pastor Kevin Wilson ().