For 38 summers, youth from churches across the state have been visiting the Rio Grande Valley to participate in Mission Service Project. MSP is a week-long service opportunity where teenagers work with adult sponsors to improve a home for someone in need.
This project began at the Mission United Methodist Church in 1981. It was inspired by a trip their group had attended in the Appalachian Mountains. They went on that trip in order to help fix the homes of people in desperate need of help. They came home with a vision to do the same thing in their own community. Of that vision and a partnership with other local churches, MSP was born.
Partnerships foster change
Fast forward, and this mission has not just continued, as it did during the second week of June this year, but it has grown and evolved. It now includes not only churches, but also local businesses and community organizations. Approximately 10 years ago, Susan Hellums, the border area mission coordinator for the El Valle District of the Rio Texas Conference United Methodist Church, took over the yearly coordination of MSP.
During that time, she partnered with a local community organization Arise. Arise works in the colonia communities to carry out a number of programs. They support children for educational success, families for strength from within and persons of all ages with cultural transitions, and a sense of responsibility to make their community a better place.
Arise leaders have a true community connection through their daily involvement with the local people of each area. That connection allows them to know the people and their stories and ensure that each applicant meets the assistance requirements. Their relationships help MSP to choose the right families to assist each summer.
“ARISE has been such a great support to MSP, they know the families and their needs months before we ask for a list of families,” said Veronica Dillon, youth director at First United Methodist Church McAllen.
Arise is not the only partner that MSP has during this endeavor. McCoy’s Building Supply has been a partner since the early years of the project development. A yearly grant from McCoy’s provides assistance with buying building supplies for each of the projects that is completed.
“It started with McCoys in Mission, because that is where MSP started. When we started working elsewhere, they just kept giving,” said Hellums.
The Mission Continues
An endless number of youth and adult volunteers have dedicated hours of their time to improving their community. Countless community members have assisted in bringing this mission to the people and making sure the right people are involved. Contributions of money and expert advise from numerous business people ensure the successful completion of projects.
“MSP is important for the community because it fosters creativity, community with our neighbors, awareness of the needs in our own back yard, and perseverance with our youth,” said Dillon.
This combination of heart, support and dedication has served to create an almost four-decade-long endeavor that continues to this day to improve our local community.