The idea developed over the course of 14 years as we — pastor, Christian education director and business manager of Trinity UCC in Wooster, Ohio — led countless church members through 50 weeks of mission trips. We have traveled to a wide variety of locations from Providence, RI to Tijuana, Mexico. During many of those trips we began saying, “We could do this!” We COULD provide quality housing and meaningful work and education right in Wooster, Ohio.
North Street Mission — a Big City Mission in a Rural Community — was born in Summer of 2017.
The project started three years earlier when the Head Start pre-school program that rented six church rooms moved into a local elementary school. We remembered our audacious statement, “We could do this!” and investigated the possibility of creating a mission trip destination in Wooster. We kept with our church’s local, regional and global mission focus and decided that we had the ability to turn the now-empty space into a mission housing location for other groups. Volunteers transformed the former third-floor classroom spaces into four bunk rooms, a gathering room and two rest rooms with showers. Like any renovation project delays and cost over-runs happened, but we never lost sight of our “We could do this!” statement.
Our primary goal, however, was to develop the best possible work and education opportunities for mission groups. Our church has had a daily breakfast program for over 22 years. From the beginning, this was going to be the foundation for the mission work we offered at North Street Mission. We then reached out to other agencies in the Wooster area looking for volunteers eager to learn and serve. We now can offer a variety of work and education opportunities depending on the wants and needs of each group. Groups would start the day at our breakfast program and then serve and learn through community agencies.
We were ready to receive groups, but where were they? We are building those connections through our website, Facebook, YouTube and are advertised through the UCC’s Mission Opportunities. We learned that promotion of our new mission opportunity took much more time than we ever imagined.
This past summer, we hosted our first two groups. It seemed like college all over again — procrastinating until the last minute to prepare for a final exam. We stated in the UCC Mission Opportunity book that we needed four weeks to prepare for each group. We learned that we needed more like eight weeks to complete the necessary forms, set schedules with our breakfast program and other agencies, plan opening orientation and closing reflections and complete last-minute prep for our bunk rooms.
In the end we were able to host our first two groups — a youth group of eight from a UCC church in northeast Ohio and a family of four from Cincinnati, Ohio.
The weeks went fast and we enjoyed getting to know our new friends. A huge benefit of getting away for an out-of-the-area mission trip is that your group bonds together as they work and play during the week. The group also develops relationships with new friends at the host location. “The breakfast program was really about community first and food second,” one participant said. “The church workers really love the people they serve.”
We are excited to enter into our second year as “Big City Mission in a Rural Community.” We hope to host many more groups in the future so we can live out our dream: “We CAN do this!”