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“When’s the next MDS trip?”

That’s a question Ron Long of the Vincent Mennonite Church in Spring City, Penn.often hears from youth at his church.

Long, who has been involved in youth ministry for decades, coordinated the church’s first Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Summer Youth Program participation in 2017 to Pine Ridge, S.D., where young people helped repair storm-damaged homes.

The group then went to Bloomington, Tex. in 2018 and Conway, S.C. in 2019, where they helped flood survivors in those communities.

“The kids love it!” said Long. “The youth are always asking when they will be able to go on the next MDS trip and where it is.”

Long believes that the MDS Summer Youth Program nurtures a spirit of volunteering and giving back that stays with young people throughout their lives.

“This is why we have such success getting MDS volunteers for future adult trips,” he said. “It is so interesting to hear the young volunteers talking about their MDS trips and explaining to the congregation just what it means to them to be a part of MDS.”

Although the pandemic creates some uncertainty for the future, MDS is inviting young people from across the U.S. to sign up for one of four one-week Summer Youth Programs that will be offered in different regions of the country.

The four project sites will be:

Bennettsville, S.C., where youth will focus on repairing homes damaged by Hurricane Florence in 2018.

Jennings, Louis., where youth will be working on homes damaged by Hurricane Laura, which struck in August 2020, and Hurricane Delta, which hit the same area two months later.

Camp Mennoscah, Murdock, Kan., where youth will build wall sections for MDS homes. They will also be repairing camp facilities, landscaping and planting trees.

Paradise, Calif., where youth will help build homes that were destroyed by a wildfire in the town of Paradise and the surrounding county.

Youth groups and individuals who want to sign up can visit the Summer Youth Program Calendar at the MDS website at https://mds.volunteermatrix.com/syp.

Young people, youth group leaders and parents should be aware that MDS has developed COVID-19 safety protocols for all projects. For details on COVID safety, visit the COVID-19 Volunteer Awareness and Waiver Form at the calendar.

Due to the border closure, applications from Canadian youth groups can’t be considered at this time.x

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