Four diocesan churches are escaping this summer’s heat by joining together for a mission experience in Anchorage, Alaska.
A group of 50, from Ascension, St. James in Dallas, Saint Michael and All Angels and Epiphany are combining for a mission trip to build a cold weather greenhouse at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Anchorage, for both a senior living center and the state’s largest food pantry which are located on the church property.
Sarah Klitzke, who lived in Alaska with her husband, the Rev. Paul Klitzke, is helping lead the trip. She said she has bonded with the other youth leaders in the diocese over lunches and shared best practices. “We all started meeting organically a couple of years ago,” she said. “We get together once a month, go to someone’s church and talk about their ministry, then go to lunch and share ideas. The Alaska trip was born out of that,” Klitzke said.
The monthly meeting has brought youth leaders from churches throughout the diocese together to laugh, pray, commiserate and share in ideas.
“There is a huge spirit of partnership that we have cultivated with youth ministers across the diocese and it’s forming a culture of collaboration,” said Amanda Payne who is a youth leader at St. James in Dallas. “This experience will open us up to create bridges for our common ministry and life in the church.”
The Alaska group is scheduled to go July 18-25 and includes 12, 6th and 7th graders; 13, 8th and 9th graders; and 13, 10th - 12th graders, plus adult chaperones. “We are intentionally mixing up our youth from these churches so they can all get to know each other, as we hope that someday these are some of the same people who will be serving on our diocesan councils, committees, and projects together,” Klitzke said.
In Alaska, the group will work during the day and hear lectures at night from a variety of locals including a dogsled competitor and a radio station host. The missioners will also hike to the top of Flattop Mountain for a midnight worship service, which will still be in daylight due to Alaska’s long daylight hours in the summer. “For me, there is no easier place to connect with God then the beauty of creation that Alaska offers,” Klitzke said.
The mission to Alaska will also offer increased cultural awareness for the youth, said Payne, who has many refugee youths from Myanmar going on the mission. “My refugee students have never seen snowcapped mountains or met indigenous Native Americans, so I believe the cross exposure will be eye-opening on both sides.”
While the Alaska trip is full, fundraising efforts are in full swing. Anyone wishing to make a donation to the greenhouse project or the mission trip itself can contact Sarah Klitzke at . All gifts of both prayer and financial support for the group is welcomed.
Anyone working with youth in diocesan churches are invited to join the casual, rotating, monthly lunch meetings and should contact Sarah Klitzke as well for more information. There are currently eight churches represented, and all are welcome at that table.