Since 2001, JELA has been sending junior and senior high school students to the United States for Christian-based summer volunteer mission trips. In addition to home stays with local congregations, these trips involve one week of volunteer work while being immersed in an ecumenical Christian program. This year, from July 24th to August 6th, JELA commissioned 14 youth volunteers to serve at a camp in Princeton, Illinois, along with home stays with the congregation of Mamrelund Lutheran Church in Kent City, Michigan.
The Japanese youth joined over one hundred American youth volunteers from churches in surrounding states to serve the community of Princeton, repairing homes for the elderly and those in need. During the week-long camp organized by Group Mission Trips, the youth were involved in work projects during the day and participated in morning and evening worship programs. This year’s program theme was “Relentless”, which showcased the life of David from the First Book of Samuel, and focused on how David “relentlessly” pursued and served God throughout his life.
For most of the Japanese volunteers, this was their first experience overseas with little or no English fluency, so while most were excited to participate, they were also initially nervous and shy. However, as camp proceeded, the Japanese and American campers were able to find ways to communicate and work together. And by the last day of camp, new friendships were made and the kids did not want to leave.
Overall, the Japanese youth were immersed in an environment to serve with and for others, share their views with peers from a different culture, and grow in experience and faith. JELA believes this experience will motivate them to continue serving and growing even after returning to Japan.
Edited camp reports by youth participants are available here (in Japanese only).