Our team will be traveling to Puerto Rico July 28 – August 4, 2018.

We will follow the leadership of key leaders and organizations in Puerto Rico to work towards relief and rebuilding efforts. Serving in a place where Spanish is the primary language will give our group an opportunity to step into a genuine cross-cultural experience. We’ll help to address poverty and homelessness by partnering with local organizations. Service in Puerto Rico is highly relational, whether you’re working with children, youth or people in rehab programs. Our team will hear from local residents of Arecibo about the unique aspects of life on the island — in this culture, listening to stories is an act of service.

Watching the devastation, displacement and crisis caused by the recent hurricanes in Puerto Rico places in each of us a sense of engagement that propels us into action. In response, YouthWorks has added an additional site in Puerto Rico this year. We are working with local leaders, pastors and organizations who have reached out to YouthWorks and made clear their need for help and support.

Our Team

Jillian Brannon, Sam Carlson, Hans Dykstra, Grant Hultgren, Harley Kendall, Emily Manning, Lydia Marsolais, Nathan Miller, Hannah Moen, Noah Montero, Brandon Nordell, Emma Grace Ojile, Gracie Olson, Morgan Seim, Ryan Seim, Taylor Seim, Haley Thannum, Nate Thannum, Josh Young

Blog Updates

Puerto Rico Day 4

Today was our last day serving at our service sites, so the day started off on a bittersweet note. We barely woke up in time for breakfast due to our sleepy state after a hard few days of work. By the way, despite your assumptions that the sleeping conditions are hot and sweaty, they are quite the opposite. Each night we experienced blasting air conditioning which made us shiver; we were the only group that didn’t come prepared with sleeping bags. After breakfast, we left for our service sites!!!!!!!

Hey! It’s Harley!! Hans, Sam, Taylor, Lydia, and I all went to a greenhouse and we helped paint. After we are all covered in paint and sweat, we had our lunch break. The family that owned the greenhouse was extremely kind to us and gave every single person a coke. We sadly left the greenhouse and headed back to the church.

Hey it’s Morgan and Emily here! We were in the same group this week:THE FRAPPÉS!! We spent the week at a church called la Iglesia Episcopal San Pablo. Today some of our group spent a lot of time moving pews in and out of the sanctuary so that the floor could be cleaned for a wedding. As for me and Emily… have you ever used a machete? Well we have! In fact you could even call us the machete queens. We swung and sweated hard to make the landscaping outside the church looking NICE!! Each day, we also got to enjoy some amazing Puerto Rican food homemade by the women at the church. The generosity and love that these women shared with us through their wonderful cooking was absolutely heartwarming. After lunch, Morgan and I got to have a little bit of fun. Connected to the church is a thrift store that the church owns and operates. We got to put on a fashion show for Maria and Sonia! They wanted us to try on as much as possible and even emphasized that we could take anything that we wanted. It was amazing how much joy it gave them to give us gifts, and their kindness towards us was touching. Saying goodbye was the hardest thing we had to do. Every one of the ladies referred to us as their “niños,” their children. They also told us their home was also our home, and said goodbyes with tears in their eyes.

Turning it back to Harley…
We had a cook out and invited the community of Arecibo to come as well.
During the last night, the leaders of the Youth Works missions team decided to take the time to wash each youth leader’s feet. It was very dark in the room because they were setting the mood so that it would be more serious. Meanwhile, all of GPC youth group held hands and prayed for our youth leaders. Then Nathan brought all of us outside and prayed over us individually and washed our feet as well. It was very emotional and is a moment that I personally will never forget.

Thanks for reading this awesome blog 😘

Puerto Rico Day 3

Today is Wednesday which means we are more than halfway through our trip! This morning we ate cereal for breakfast then we had devotions. After devotions we took a trip down to downtown Arecibo. Walking through the town square was an interesting adventure. We learned about the history of Puerto Rico through the murals and cathedrals of Arecibo. In 2015 a petition for murals to be painted passed in the local government; allowing for the local artists from the island to create pictures of their rich history. Among the murals were political images, social rights leaders, and important historical figures. The thing that stands out most to us is the pride that the Puerto Ricans have for their country and their history.

After touring downtown we split off into our work groups and headed for our worksites. The Mofungos continued to work at a farm outside of Arecibo where we engaged in theological and philosophical conversations while shucking beans. Others in the group continued painting the small building being used to facilitate agricultural education. Five of the boys headed to a local ranch and collected manure for fertilizer. At lunch we sat around and discussed cow breeding with Augusto. Then we headed back to the church.

Meanwhile the Flanes were at the church helping clean out the storage closets. We took out musical instruments, paintings and other random things. After cleaning we talked to the church pastor about the sanctuary and how Hurricane Maria affected them. After the hurricane they had to redo the entire sanctuary. Even though they only had a few months to fix everything the sanctuary looked amazing.

After everyone got back to the church we had a salsa dancing class, and a non profit group called Sicómoro, who raise money to help out the youth in Puerto Rico, share about their ministry with us. For dinner we had traditional Puerto Rican dish made by a church member named Olga. We’re preparing for our last day of service tomorrow.

Sam and Emma 🙂

Puerto Rico Day 2

Tuesday was our second full day of service in Puerto Rico! WEPAAAAAAA! This morning we had waffles for breakfast, and then split for individual devotion time. The devotion was about emotions and how important they are to serving. After that, we played ‘the beads needs’. Our lesson was about miscommunication and the importance of developing a relationship. At 9:45AM we left for our service sites. Some went to the farm, some went to a church, and others went to a senior living complex. At the farm, they painted an old stone house to make into a shed/kitchen and continued clearing the brush/cutting down trees. The last farm group worked in the field where they planted and fertilized. At the church, they moved pews, cut down brush, powerwashed the ground, and enjoyed an authentic Puerto Rican lunch. At the senior living complex, they continued painting the staircase and had an incredibly deep discussion with a woman named Ruth. We all left our service sites around 2:00. On the way home we stopped at a fruit stand along the road and got some fresh fruit. One of the youthworks leaders knows the owner of the stand. He generously gave us coconut, pineapple, mangos, bananas and some honey. When we got back to the church we had free time. During free time we all have a chance to shower. When we were all done our church went to a frappé shop. While waiting for all of them to be made (because the poor lady had to make 18 drinks by herself) we hung out at the beach. There were big rocks we were able to climb all over. Once we got out frappés we went back to the church for dinner (taco Tuesday). After we all ate, we gathered and did mad props and yea God’s. Mad props is where we recognize things we other people do that we are thankful for, and yea God’s is where we share about ways we’ve seen God at work and present that day. One example of this is Marlin (one of the leaders from another group) shared the Gospel with 5 people from the assisted living complex and all of them accepted Christ. After this, we all got dressed nicely and headed over to a small local church, called Iglecia el de Resurecion, for a personal service. We sang songs in Spanish and heard a wonderful message that was translated by one of the youthworks leaders, Esteban. The woman pastor spoke elegantly about self evaluation. She called us all Jewels! Her voice was and message were very powerful. At the end of her sermon, she asked for volunteers to get prayed over. Nathan Miller went up first and was overwhelmed by the holy spirit. Soon, everyone in our church followed and went up to receive the special prayer. The evening was very emotional for all the churches. Immediately following the service, we all got ice cream (how generous)! When we got back to the base we had church group time. Multiple students spoke on the effect that God has had on them. At approximately 11:30 PM, we hit the hay. 🙂

With Love,
Jillian, Taylor and Josh 🙂

First Days in Puerto Rico

Checking in from Arecibo, Puerto Rico! All we can say right now is wow, this is beautiful. Being able to take in God’s creation in such a unique perspective, being in a new culture, all the colors, amazing food, just, wow. However, needless to say, “waking up” at 3 am (lol, we never slept) was fun in a ‘different’ way… Flying in over the island took all of our attention, seeing this beautiful island from above. We rented our vans, and drove off to Luqillo, where we stayed in a Hostel (think a mix between a hotel and a dorm room), and went on a tour led by Michelle, a local who ran the Hostel. Through that, we received out first piece of Puerto Rican culture. After we had all settled in, we traveled down to the beach, where we stopped at a variety of different food stops (“it was essentially a Puerto Rican strip mall” -Gracie), from arepas, to tacos, to Frappés. We then went and swam in the ocean, taking in a beautiful sunset in the process. After some late night bonding and laughs, it was time for bed.
The next morning, we were awakened to the sound of 30 or so roosters. That was exciting… 🙂 But it was fine, because we had the most amazing breakfast, one that the US could not beat. Hands down. We then traveled over to the rainforest where Michelle brought us over to a more secretive spot along the river, complete with a rope swing and a 15 foot platform, perfect for jumping off of (sorry mom). We still have bruises from hitting the water too hard. But they were totally worth it. Probably the student’s highlight of the trip so far. It was a beautiful way that God revealed himself to us, through the laughter, fun, and joy that we all experienced. After making a short (yet windy) stop at the Yokahu Tower, we headed into San Juan to get a bite at a seafood restaurant (well, some of us did. And waited for a good two hours for it. But all worth it in the end). After that, we headed to the YouthWorks site in Arecibo! (An hour late, but whatever) The staff and other students were so sweet and nice, and we look forward to working alongside them for the entire week! After dinner, we participated in the now-popular Zumba, with one of the YW staff leading it! That was an experience for sure. Then was “The Gathering,” also referred to as Chapel (lol). This included a couple worship songs, (one in espanol!) and the introduction to the theme verse YW had for the week, Phillipians 1:6 (so good. Just so good) After a quick (and classic) GPC group chat, it was lights out. Also, quick note about that, one would think that it would be really hot with no site-wide AC, but all of the sleeping rooms were set to 60 degrees, so we all turned into Popsicles, but oh well :).
Monday morning, after an early-morning smiley-faced wake up, we were ready to serve Jesus!!! After breakfast, our church was split into four different groups to serve in different spots: a farm, a church, and a nursing home, all doing odd jobs that were needed to be completed. Being the last group for YW in Puerto Rico, we have mostly been “putting the bow” on all of the work that has happened over the summer. One of our goals for this week is leaving a mark and a positive memory of our presence here, doing all of our work for the Lord, and not just for us. This week, Brandon is located at the church, helping with a lot of the final details, with a wedding happening there at the end of the week. He had the jobs today of cleaning air conditioning filters and beginning to power-wash the building and the common areas. Best job ever, as he gets a constant mist on him. Brandon is incredibly excited to be working in ways that he doesn’t normally at home, and finding new ways to see God through his interactions with the local people of Puerto Rico, and glorifying Him through his work. This week, Gracie will be able to experience two jobs. For half the week she will be helping move brush and wood from the fields off a farm!! She ended up with lots of bruises and scratches but it was all for God so, yay! For the other half of the week she will be able to work at a children’s daycare! Gracie is really looking forward to that!! Gracie is excited to see what else God has in store for her during her time of serving! After a long, sweaty day, what better than to go and cool off in the ocean, at a beach named after sardines! The times we weren’t coughing on saltwater and constantly scraping ourselves on sharp rocks, we laughed together, and continued to mingle with the other students, who are based out of Maryland and Iowa. We enjoyed dinner on the beach, and the beach enjoyed our dinner too (a whole pizza fell in the sand lol) (“The most depressing thing I have ever seen.” -Gracie). After that we packed up our vans and headed back to the YW site. We then experienced what real stress is: the art of the timed 5-minute shower. It was fine though. In fact, since we were all Krispy-Klean, we got some KrispyKreme donuts to cap the day’s food. We were then approached by Haley to write this blog, soooooooooo here it is! 🙂 On a final serious note, this week has already been so amazing, seeing how God is already doing so much in Puerto Rico, from preventing accidents and providing seemingly unknown miracles, He has revealed to us His true power and presence. GPC believes that we are not here to do “our good,” rather, to do God’s good, allowing Him to lead us with joyful hearts and open minds.
We hope that you enjoyed our little synopsis, and we cannot wait to fill you in with even more detail when we arrive back home in the States! AH! <- Gracie's idea
We out (in God's love)!
Love, Brandon and Gracie 🙂

Prayer Requests for Trip

As our team heads to Puerto Rico on Saturday, please be praying for us! Here are some prayer requests for the team:
– God would be glorified in EVERY aspect of the trip
– God’s Word would be proclaimed with power and produce life change
– God would put a hedge of protection around the entire trip

We will be sharing some photos and updates while in Puerto Rico on GracePoint’s Facebook page next week. Please keep our group of 19 leaders and students in your prayers!

Snow Delay… But God Provides!

April 14, 2018 a.k.a. Snowmageddon 2018 arrived as we were preparing food for what was supposed to be the day of our Fundraising Lunch, April 15. Our team still prepared the food and after deciding the weather was too harsh it was decided the Fundraising Lunch will be rescheduled.

Thankfully a number of our Dessert Auction donaters were willing to post their desserts on Facebook to still be auctioned off and we ended up with over $200 of donations from this fun online “bidding war”! Praise God!

Fundraising Opportunities

Over the next few months we will be having a number of fundraising opportunities at GracePoint Church! One fundraising opportunity will be a Silent Auction with items including a St. Paul Saints Kids Package, Minnesota Landscape Arboretum VIP Passes, Good Earth Gift Basket, and more!!!
All proceeds will go to support the Sr. High Puerto Rico Mission Team traveling to Arecibo, Puerto Rico July 28 – August 4 this summer. It has been six months since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, and our team of 19 is busy preparing to go serve and love this U.S. island territory in the name of Jesus.
Please partner with our church’s student-led mission efforts by inviting friends to bring your checkbooks to give generously, and praying for our team to bring God’s hope and life amidst the challenges of recovery.

Planning Begins!

We have begun planning our trip to Puerto Rico! Students and parents met last Sunday, February 25 to discuss trip logistics and fundraising ideas.

We are eager to get started raising funds for our trip in July! We will have a Fundraising Banquet on Sunday, April 15 at GracePoint Church and have a few other opportunities during the month of April for members of the church to give. If you have a specific need students can help with to raise money for this trip, please contact Nathan Miller at nathan.miller@exploregracepoint.com.

Please pray for our team as we begin the fundraising process that we can trust God to provide and that He will begin to mold our team together during our training sessions.

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