Hollis church sends 42 volunteers on mission trip

Courtesy photo Volunteers from the Congregational Church of Hollis pose for their camera while on their latest mission trip to repair homes in Wallingford, Conn.

On Sunday, July 8, 33 youth and nine adult volunteers of the Congregational Church of Hollis left for a week-long mission trip to Wallingford, Conn., to repair homes of low-income, disabled and elderly residents of the community. The 42 volunteers included residents from Hollis, Brookline, Merrimack and Pepperell, Mass., with many of them mission trip “veterans,” having participated in previous trips. The mission project – organized by Group Mission Trips nonprofit organization – included 17 churches representing 10 states and one Canadian province, more than 350 volunteers, 54 homes and more than 9,000 total volunteer working hours for the week. Tired, but grateful for the experience and to be able to help so many, they returned home on Saturday, July 14.

This is the 18th annual mission trip that members of the Congregational Church of Hollis have participated in, with trips to eight states and even Canada over the years. Youth attendees must be entering ninth grade or above. While a lot of work (both in preparing for the trip and while on the trip), this annual pilgrimage is a much-anticipated and looked-forward-to event for many!

Projects range in size and type, from interior and exterior painting of single-story and multi-story homes, to building/repairing decks, handicapped-accessible ramps and other home repairs and improvements. In addition to helping the residents involved in a very significant way, volunteers also get the opportunity to learn skills and the use of tools they often have never done or used before.

As fulfilling as the work itself is, it’s the relationships forged over the week that are often truly life changing. Volunteers are assigned to work-crews of six people, typically five youth and one adult representing all different churches (not members of your own church). While this feels a little awkward the morning of day one, it’s amazing how quickly the crews bond to achieve the task at hand and overcome the inevitable obstacles throughout the week. By the end of the week, crews frequently get emotional in saying goodbye to each other and to the resident they have been interacting with and helping all week.

Kelsey Berry, the adult organizing leader for this year’s trip, started attending these trips as a youth at the Congregational Church of Hollis. This was her seventh mission trip, five as a youth and two as the adult organizing leader.

“It’s been a really rewarding experience leading our group these past two years. I’ve been blessed with so many positive relationships and experiences of growth throughout my time with Group Mission Trips, and I can only hope I was able to share some of those same things with our kids and adults for the 2017 and 2018 trips,” said Berry.

As Lilly Ogren’s first mission trip, it left a lasting impression on her.

“At first I was skeptical about coming to work camp, but after a week of getting to meet new people, help my residents, and get closer to God, I definitely want to come back for another mission trip. I’m not very involved with church, so coming on this mission trip really opened me up and was able to help me feel more connected,” said Ogren, a junior at Hollis Brookline High School. “I liked getting to talk with my crew members every day and watch us become more comfortable with each other. By the last day, we had grown as a group, and it was hard saying goodbye.”

Jack Duquette, a sophomore at HBHS and two-time trip attendee said “It was nice to see how much our work meant to our residents.” Jack’s father, Kevin Duquette, was one of the adult leaders attending this year (his third mission trip). Kevin was thrilled to get a construction project at this year’s mission trip, building a new deck for his resident, who was so happy with and grateful for the results.

For Naomi Kopser, a senior at HBHS this year, it was her fourth mission trip and she doesn’t plan on it being her last.

“I always love going on Mission Trip to further my relationship with God, my youth group, my crew/resident and my family. It really brings different groups of people together for a week to see the amazing work one group can do,” said Kopser. “This experience changes lives for the better.” Naomi’s mother, Julie Kopser was also an adult leader this year (her fourth mission trip also) and her father, Matt Kopser, has attended several mission trips in previous years as an adult leader.

Amy Ryherd, as one of six freshmen attending the mission trip this year, didn’t know what to expect.

“I didn’t expect it to be so much fun, plus seeing how much we helped our resident felt so great. He was really nice and so grateful. I wish it would have lasted two weeks. I’m definitely going again next year,” said Amy Ryherd.

Amy’s mom, Cindy Ryherd, attended as an adult leader. It was her first mission trip, as well.

“I can’t tell you how amazing and gratifying it is to see so many people, especially youth, give up a week of their summer to help complete strangers in such a meaningful way. In a world where we are often bombarded with negativity, it is such a positive and uplifting experience,” said Cindy Ryherd.

For more pictures of the mission trip, visit http:/

/hollischurch.org/community-and-service/mission-work-camp-trips/. Planning is already underway for next summer’s mission trip.