While most teenagers were spending their summer vacations sleeping in and hanging out with friends, a group of local area teenagers spent time helping others and learning how to put themselves in other people’s shoes. During their recent six-day mission trip, the kids undoubtedly left a lasting impression on the residents of Raymondville. A small town of just over 9,000 residents, Raymondville lies about 20 miles north of Harlingen, one of the first of many small towns along the roads and highways leading to the Texas Rio Grande Valley. Like countless other small, Texas towns, Raymondville has been particularly hard hit by the recession and rising unemployment rates. With a median household income of just over $20,000 a year, many of the residents of Raymondville are hard-pressed to make ends meet, much less to afford the kinds of services the kids from First Presbyterian Church of Kingwood provided while they were there. As part of their ongoing commitment to hosting and promoting charitable service through its mission program, First Presbyterian Church of Kingwood sponsored almost 100 teens and more than a dozen adult volunteers to visit the small town to help those most in need. Their trip turned out to be life changing for the kids who took part as well as the residents they helped. Undaunted by hard work, the kids spent most of their time helping to repair six homes for deserving people who lack means to make the repairs on their own. The transformation to these homes, and the neighborhood, is nothing less than a miracle. As Matt Davis, Director of Student Ministries for First Presbyterian of Kingwood explained, “After five days of intensive constructing, yard work, scrubbing, roofing, painting, and much, much more, the entire street had been transformed.” The group treasured the experience that allowed them to get to know the people in the community. In response to her trip, Anne Vondrak, a sophomore at Kingwood High School told her congregation, “We got to know a lot of the people that owned those houses and the way they talked to us and the way their faces lit up when we came each day made me smile. I was just happy that we got to have an effect on them like that.” But repairing the houses was not enough for this dedicated group of teens. After spending excruciating hours every day in the hot Texas sun, the kids not only hosted a daily Sports Camp for area children at various local parks, but also spent hours working with a local church group to a Vacation Bible School program for local children, helping others learn the value of charity and kindness. In a society where it is becoming easier and easier to ignore the plights of others in favor of playing video games and text-messaging, these teens used a wonderful opportunity to help others while gaining an appreciation for the hardships many Americans are facing every day. Ultimately, the experience they gained on this unique trip will leave them with lessons that will last a lifetime. Perhaps Jason Johnson, a junior at Kingwood High School, illustrated these lessons best when he told his congregation, “There’s no other experience like a Mission Trip - from the work sites, to the games, to the nights of worship and lessons, and even in the guys’ cabin. We went to Raymondville to make a difference; to serve with a higher purpose; to do as God commanded us to do; to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.” Photo: First Presbyterian Church of Kingwood Raymondville Mission Trip June 20-26, 2010 Illustrating the power of charity and helping others

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