June 26, 2023
Ohio youth breathe new spirit into MDS Family Project in Idaho
They drove 27 hours straight to clear downed trees, spruce up living quarters, refurbish a volleyball court, and much more at Camp Palisades, tucked in the beautiful Targhee National Forest in Idaho.
In the process, young people from the United Dayspring Mennonite Church in Berlin, Ohio, breathed a new spirit into the camp—and kicked off the MDS Family Program in a big way.
Fifteen-year-old Fred Schrock said volunteering for MDS made him feel like anything is possible. “We probably could have gotten this whole camp fixed,” he said.
Alongside the hard physical work, the young people said the week they spent at Camp Palisades brought them closer to God. “The way it strengthened my faith was seeing how people come closer when they work together—and also being out here in nature, seeing the mountains, seeing how big everything is,” said Abigail Schrock, 22.
“For me, with us all being from the same youth group, seeing us love each other—and love each other well—while working, strengthened my faith,” said Maria Troyer, 19.
Their work differed from a typical MDS project in that they were fixing a camp for those who will arrive after them—not for a disaster survivor they met face-to-face. “I think it’s really cool knowing what we did is going to affect people we will never meet,” said Michael Yoder, 22.
Youth group leader Kevin Miller said serving with MDS brought the group even closer. “One thing I always enjoy about mission trips and being with the youth is the bond and closeness it creates with a group, when they spend time and have fun working together,” he said.
In the coming weeks, more families will be arriving for the MDS Family Project at Camp Palisades, which is a ministry of the First Mennonite Church in Aberdeen, Idaho.
Gary Krehbiel, a member of the church who serves on its campground committee, said the youth group has been a real blessing. “It seems like our congregation is all getting a little bit older and we can only do so much,” he said.
As he visited the camp to see the progress, he added, “I could not stop smiling. I don’t remember the last time it looked so nice.”
Michele WhiteEagle, who is serving as project director of the MDS Family Program, expressed how incredible she thinks the young volunteers are. “They’ve volunteered with excitement and adventure,” she said. “Now not only MDS families but families from the church and from the community will be able to experience the camp as well.”
WhiteEagle agreed with Krehbiel that the sense of newness shines in the camp’s physical facilities and in its very spirit. “I see new dreams for the camp,” WhiteEagle said. “Who knows where God is going to take this in the future?”
Story by Susan Kim, MDS Writer