Most teenagers spend their summer watching TV, at the beach, or just hanging out at the mall with their friends. This summer, however, a group of teenagers from Elkins decided they instead wanted to spend their time helping the less fortunate and spreading the message of Jesus Christ.
From June 14-28, Vertical Youth, the teen ministry of Elkins-based Summit Church, sent eight teenagers and three adult leaders to the country of Trinidad and Tobago. They had one goal: to serve others as Jesus would, through acts of service and preaching the Gospel. They partnered with Dove International Missions in Lancaster, Pa., meeting together before the trip for training and preparation before flying to Trinidad and Tobago.
Trinidad and Tobago is a small island off the coast of Venezuela that is roughly the size of Rhode Island and is home to about 1.5 million people. While there, Vertical Youth ministered in schools, neighborhood parks and local churches. The ministry was largely drama-based and focused on building relationships, sharing personal testimonies and living out the gospel of Jesus Christ through acts of service.
Vertical Youth, led by the husband and wife youth pastor team of Randy and Renee Ellis, also partnered with the local Youth With A Mission base to upkeep their 74-acre facility by cutting grass, painting the buildings, digging drainage ditches and other activities.
"There are people all over the world who need to hear about the love of God and see the love of God through our actions," said Randy Ellis. "We were blessed to not only be able to minister in service, but also to see over 300 people raise their hands to receive salvation!"
"It was wonderful seeing our group come together and grow even closer than we were before the trip," said Renee Ellis. "God even opened the door for us to minister in a school that had never been reached with the Gospel!"
Summit's Lead Pastor, Hal Boehm, was excited about the trip from the beginning. "Randy and Renee do a fantastic job with our teenagers, and they stay true to their mission of raising up this generation to have compassion and serve people whether they live in a different country or right down the street."
To date, Randy and Renee have helped lead and organize trips to Peru, Dominican Republic, Czech Republic, Bolivia and Guatemala, as well as local trips within the United States.
"Not many teenagers have the opportunity to consistently have the experiences our Vertical Youth do, and they're learning more about God and themselves in the process," Randy Ellis said. "What these teenagers are doing now in the molding of their character has already begun to have positive repercussions. I have no doubt it will continue to impact the community of Elkins for years to come."
Summit Church meets every Sunday morning at the American Mountain Theater in downtown Elkins as well as throughout the week at 302 Goff St. Vertical Youth meet Sunday and Wednesday evenings at the Goff Street location. For more information on either Vertical Youth or Summit Church, visit www.summitelkins.com.