By Shelby Stewart
Mark Sanders has seen his children off on mission trips for the past few years—this year he finally joined them.
“They had been doing the trips, and my wife had been attending,” said Sanders. “And she told me I had to go because they needed people to fix stuff.”
The mission trips come yearly for members of St. Anne Church, 825 S. Ortonville Road, and this year a total of 80 volunteers, 22 from St. Anne, went to Blue Knob, Pa. the week of July 23 through the group TeamEffort.
TeamEffort offers opportunities for middle and high school youth groups to put their faith into action through mission trips where they will complete projects such as repairing and renovating homes for families in need, building mission and ministry facilities, leading children’s outreach programs, working at homeless shelters, responding to natural disasters, and reaching out to individuals and communities through Christian service.
“I had my four youngest, my 19-year-old, 18-year-old, 16-year-old and my 15-year-old,” said Sanders. “We went to Pennsylvania and they set up a couple of houses for us to work, and we literally helped couple of little old ladies.”
The group helped two women with houses that they weren’t able to care for, fixing decks, painting, landscaping and odd jobs around their homes.
“Honestly, the second house, they had planned to let us paint the deck,” said Sanders. “The lawn in the back yard was knee deep, she had four lawnmowers that didn’t work, so we fixed two lawn mowers so the kids could cut her lawn. But the whole deck was sagging and on the verge of breaking.”
While they didn’t have all the supplies needed to fix the deck, Sanders and the other volunteers were able to improvise and lift the deck with the jack from a 1946 Buick and put support posts under the deck to secure it.
“She was so grateful,” he said. “She was like 84 years old, her husband has stage four cancer and he’s in hospice and she’s the caretaker so she hadn’t been able to do anything in a few years.”
The deck and the lawn were in such disarray that he said some of the little trees that had sprouted in the flowerbeds were 2 inches around. He also said a volunteer had stepped on a step for the deck, which then splintered and shattered as the volunteer fell through.
“He was able to roll with it and he was fine, but I just thought what if it was that woman,” he said.
The work wasn’t just in the yard, as they continued to spend time at the house.
“My daughter, after the first day, said she saw something else she wanted to do. She wanted to clean the garage,” he said. “We took a dumpster full of stuff out of her garage that has just collected over the years that she couldn’t move. It brought a lot of joy to her.”
There was also painting and patching to be done inside from past roof leaks, though the leaks had been fixed, the damage hadn’t.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but I honestly felt that after we went there, the second lady was why we were there,” he said. “She was in a really tough spot. She was bawling when we went to leave.”
Not only did the volunteers work on the house, but they got to spend time with the woman they were helping.
“She was just happy to have someone to talk to,” he said. “I told the kids, if she stops you, talk to her, we’ll still get the work done. Every one of those kids, she chewed their ears off.”
Though it was his first trip, Sanders says he would go again.
“I think we’re going on the mission trips, whatever comes next,” he said.