Sharing Their Time, Sharing Their Love

January 13, 2019
The Tewksbury Congregational Church organized a 2012 mission trip to Juarez, Mexico, where they helped build an orphanage. Tewksbury native Tara MacMullin, right, took a selfie with two children from the community. COURTESY PHOTO Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

TEWKSBURY -- The Tewksbury Congregational Church has organized trips to West Virginia and Mexico over the years that have meant so much more than simply visiting a new place. These mission trips are an opportunity to make positive change with community support.

This summer, a group of people, mainly students, will travel to help Native Americans at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. It is among the poorest counties in the United States. A group of church members, including James Kenney, are organizing the weeklong trip. Kenney has attended a few past trips with his family.

“There’s a real heart in our community, in our church, for serving,” he said. “We really try to share the love of God. Not just writing a check, but getting our hands and feet out there and showing it personally.”

Kenney said his daughter, who is now 25, attended a trip to Juarez, Mexico when she was 13.

“We were building an orphanage there,” Kenney said. “My daughter came home and got rid of a lot of her possessions. For a 13-year-old to do that, it made a big impact on her.”

The upcoming adventure will include some light construction work appropriate for the age group attending and some community cleanup.

“We’re not going there as tourists. We’re going to build awareness and to build this group of kids into a service team,” Kenney said. “It’s going to be an intense week. It goes from early morning into the evenings. We’re not on vacation.”

The experience also provides an opportunity to learn about new cultures.

The trip is open to anyone from age 11 up to college-aged students and is primarily focused on youth. Tewksbury residency is not a requirement to attend. There will be one adult present for every six kids attending the trip. Kenney said there is plenty of room for those who want to join the trip, but a final number of who is attending must be finalized by the end of February.

“It’s probably one of the most fulfilling things a person can do because you can really see that you’re making a difference and feel you’re making a difference. And it’s not because of the money you give,” Kenney said. “It’s just because you’re sharing all of yourself with someone else. You’re sharing your time, you’re sharing your love.”

To help fund this year’s South Dakota trip, the church is hosting an event dubbed “SOUP’er BOWL SUNDAY” on Sunday, Feb. 3. The fundraiser will take place at the church, located at 10 East St., from 11 a.m. to noon.

People are encouraged to come by to enjoy various homemade soups, stews and chili. While the offerings will be free, there are suggested donations of $10 per quart of soup and $5 per pint. It will also serve as an opportunity to meet some of the youth attending the trip.

“The world is so complicated at times. We see all the division in our country and our communities in many, many ways and the difference between cultures and different economic statuses,” Kenney said. “I’m hoping that these kids get a real sense that we’re all the same -- that we’re all God’s children here and it doesn’t matter where you live and what your background is.

“Our goal is to just bring a little light,” he added.

For more information, contact the church at 978-851-9411 or tewksburycc@verizon.net .

Follow Kori Tuitt on Twitter @KoriTuitt.