Washington trip blossoms into mentoring program for Omaha youth
What started as a summer trip to Washington, D.C., for three Omaha churches has blossomed into a mentoring program for many of the youth who want to get closer to Christ.
“It was a learning trip, but it was also a faith-formational trip,” said the Rev. Israel Kamudzandu, pastor of Living Hope UMC. “We prayed a lot with these young people, and got to know their lives and where they came from.”
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles spotlighting some of our predominantly African-American and multicultural churches during Black History Month.
The Roots and Wings Education Mission Trip, Aug. 10-13, brought 21 youth and 10 mentors from Living Hope, TRI Community and Saint Paul Benson together for some sightseeing – several of the city’s memorials and a tour of part of the White House – and an emotional visit to the newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Many of the youth and mentors, Kamudzandu said, were visibly shaken at seeing the coffin of Emmitt Till, a 14-year-old boy who was lynched in 1955 after being accused of whistling at a white woman who was a clerk at a local grocery store.
“It was very transformative,” Kamudzandu said of the museum.
The youth and mentors bonded during the trip, talking about their faith journeys and praying throughout, and didn’t want the experience to end once they returned to Omaha.
“They found this trip to be their home,” Kamudzandu said.
Now called the mentors group, veterans of the trip meet once a month for pizza and Bible study.
“We want to mentor them and expose them to the church, because some of them were not familiar with the church, but now they are wanting to come to church,” Kamudzandu said.
The trip, Kamudzandu said, also brought to light that most of the youth in the program were part of the foster care program.
“That was something new to me as a pastor, that some of these kids don’t come from houses like you or I, but moved from one house to another,” he said.
Seven of the youth, he said, have been baptized since returning from Washington.
Kamudzandu said he was working with the youth to show them what goes into a Sunday morning worship service, and that they may eventually have suggestions of what they would like to see in a sermon.
“How can we bring these young people into the life of the church? How do we know where they are spending their time, who they’re talking to?” he asked. “What does church mean for them, as a group of young people?”
Kamudzandu said another trip is being planned that he hoped would strengthen the bond of the youth and their mentors.
“Our hope is to take them to another mission place, probably outside Omaha or outside this country, depending on if we can get the funding,” he said. “There was so much bonding that took place, so much sharing – new friendships are forming.”