SIKESTON -- For two local churches, the summer is not simply a time to kick back and relax. Members of the First United Methodist Church and Miner Baptist Church in Sikeston are using their time for mission work across the U.S. and around the world.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, volunteer workers are still greatly needed in the Gulf area and both churches will answer the call.
Miner Baptist is sending one of its adult Sunday school classes to Alabama to work with the Habitat for Humanity to provide hurricane relief.
The FUMC has two groups, one consisting of adults and another of youth, planning to travel to Mississippi to provide hurricane relief in June. They will be working with Volunteers in Mission, a group that unites Methodist mission groups from across Southeast Missouri to work toward a common cause.
The FUMC youth are not the only ones taking time from their summer vacation to volunteer. The Miner Baptist youth will travel to St. Louis to work with an inner city church and run a Vacation Bible School there.
Jason Grubbs, youth minister at Miner Baptist, said it is important for youth to get involved with mission work. "I think it is life changing and is definitely as valuable as any academic or athletic accomplishment. It allows kids to be taken out of the element they know and rely on themselves and their faith to adapt."
The two churches have also set their sights beyond the U.S. Both have groups traveling abroad to provide aid.
Miner Baptist has a group of adults who will travel to Nouveau Laredo, Mexico, in mid-July where they will work with impoverished people of the area. Another group of adults will travel to Romania in early August to set up and run a Vacation Bible School.
The FUMC has chosen Costa Rica as their overseas destination for the third year. A group of 15 adults will build the Latin American Biblical Seminary in late July, where over 100 students from 16 different nations are studying theology. The money saved on paid labor at the college will go toward scholarships to those students who could not have otherwise paid for their studies.
There is much debate about the reason groups travel abroad when there is work to be done in the local community.
"If we don't go abroad and help these people, who will?" said Benton resident Jim Mills, coordinator of Southeast Missouri Volunteers in Mission. "A lot of people say it is a vacation, but it is not. This is not a vacation, it is work. It takes a lot of thought and courage to do something like this."
The groups take the last day of their trip to go sightseeing, and Mills thinks this is one of the most important parts of the trip.
"We don't pick out the best sights in the world that you see on TV. We want our groups to see what is really going on in the country. One group saw a beautiful landscape, turned the corner and saw a family living in a teepee made of cornstalks. This is when they realize what is really going on, once they see the people." said Mills.
Collectively, the churches in Missouri have sent more people to participate in mission work than any other state in the U.S., Mills proudly stated. He plans to send two groups from the FUMC abroad next year, one to Costa Rica again and another to Peru.
Mission work is not exclusively for those who want to travel. These two churches and others in Sikeston and the surrounding area perform the vast majority of their service work in and around the community.
A number of churches will send groups to help clean up the storm damage in Caruthersville. Other groups will work with Mission Missouri and other community organizations.
"Help around the streets, down the block, your next door neighbor. You don't need to leave Sikeston to do it," said Mills. "Mission work is a never-ending job."
Anyone wishing to help in the effort can contact any local church or community service organization for more information.