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Ecumenical Work Week 2011 marked by intergenerational cooperation

2011 Ecumenical Work Week, Sioux Falls

American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) has been rebuilding communities and changing lives by leading Ecumenical Work Week since 2006. Unique aspects of the 2011 effort—held the first week in August and dubbed “Here Until the Work is Done V”—included participation by volunteers from nine American Baptist Association of Colleges and Universities-member higher learning institutions and a multigenerational team from Massachusetts.

Approximately 86 volunteers worked in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, which was devastated by hurricanes Rita and Katrina in 2005. Jobs included building a porch, scraping and painting interiors and exteriors, planting a garden, moving families into new homes, doing yard work, hanging drywall, sanding, and removing debris.

“It was heartwarming to see the generosity of volunteers as they served as the hands and feet of Jesus in the Lower 9th Ward,” said Victoria Goff, ABHMS national coordinator of Volunteer and Disaster Response Ministries.

Drywalling Man with a protective mask Gardening

More than 50 students and staff members represented the following higher learning institutions: Bacone College, Muskogee, Okla.; Benedict College, Columbia, S.C.; Franklin (Ind.) College; Judson University, Elgin, Ill.; Linfield College, McMinnville, Ore.; Ottawa (Kan.) University; Virginia Union University, Richmond; University of Sioux Falls, S.D.; and William Jewell College, Liberty, Mo.

“Righteous,” “genuine,” “humbling” and “inspirational” are a few of the ways that students described the experience.

A number of students said that they were touched by the friendliness, kindness and excitement exhibited by residents and homeowners with or for whom they worked. “It’s so sweet. Yesterday we were with a lady, and as we were leaving, she said, ‘There go my new friends,’ ” recalled one Franklin College student. “It just touched my heart.”

A.M. Gathering for assignments Group picture at the Levee Hard work

Finding the opportunity suitable to parishioners who often feel they’re too old to participate in mission work or have no skills to offer, First Baptist Church (FBC), Hanson, Mass., sent 12 volunteers, ranging in age from 14 to 72 years. It was the church’s first time at Ecumenical Work Week, and parishioners are already looking forward to participating next year.

 “The heart of our mission team felt the need to open up mission opportunities to include those of the congregation who might want to be a part of the experience, regardless of age or limitations. Ecumenical Work Week provided the perfect setting and resources to do just that,” said FBC’s Sean McGeoghegan, who served as a team work leader. “It also provided an opportunity for the younger members to work alongside and get to know some of the older congregants. There was a display of respect and teamwork as the youth worked alongside elders. It was absolutely amazing and liberating to witness.”

For information about ABHMS mission opportunities, contact Goff at victoria.goff@abhms.org or 1-800-ABC-3USA, x2449.

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