Pam Shaw marveled as she watched a group of students from First Baptist Church in Plano build a fence for her backyard.
“It’s amazing how many people are willing to come out and do something like this,” she said. “Sometimes we think people don’t do things like this anymore, but they do. This bunch did.”
The Plano volunteers were among 264 students and leaders from eight Texas Baptist churches who participated in the Bounce Back Home Day of Service on June 27.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of many mission trips because of travel restrictions, safety concerns and global uncertainty.
For David Scott, director of Texas Baptists’ Bounce Student Disaster Recovery program, the cancellations did not mark the end of a summer of missions and service. Rather, the change in plans offered a chance to challenge students to be creative and find missions opportunities in their own communities.
Bounce Back Home Day of Service offered students the opportunity to serve without the risk of travel. It also taught them missional living can happen in their own neighborhoods, not just in faraway places, Scott noted.
“We get excited about going to different places and serving there, but there’s so much to do at home too,” Scott said. “Even though this was not what we initially planned, we still made an effort to encourage kids and youth groups to be on mission in their communities. And that’s a big deal.”
Serving two neighboring senior adult women
The 34 students from First Baptist in Plano and their leaders served two senior adult women who live across the street from each other. Each lives alone, and both of their backyards had become overgrown and unsafe.
The students set to work pulling weeds, cutting tree branches, putting in pavers and clearing debris. At Shaw’s house, the students also built a new fence gate, since the old one had deteriorated.
Ian McGee, a junior, said he participated in Bounce Back Home because he had been involved with Bounce before and saw the importance of serving others. The pandemic brought normal life to a halt, and many of the students had few opportunities to serve or engage with others. The day of service gave them a valuable opportunity to add meaning to their summer vacations.
“You don’t want to be sitting at home doing nothing when there are people out there who need help,” McGee said.
Removing debris, meeting needs
East of San Antonio, First Baptist Church of La Vernia split its team of 27 students and leaders into two worksites. One group served a local food pantry, creating food kits that could be distributed quickly and hygienically.
The other group worked at the home of a recently widowed woman. Her late husband was—in her words—“a hoarder,” and clutter covered almost every inch of their 2.5-acre lot.
Jonathan VanBruggen, student ministry pastor at First Baptist in La Vernia, explained his student group originally planned to serve in Houston. However, when they realized that was not feasible, VanBruggen adapted to find needs to meet in their own city.
Since the students would work one day instead of a whole week, he wanted to maximize their impact. He rented dumpsters, and church members brought their tractors to the house to help clean large items off the woman’s property.
“This was our big program for the summer. We normally do a mission trip with Bounce each year, because we believe in the mission of Bounce, reflecting Christ in our community and making disciples,” VanBruggen explained.
Worshipping and working together
In the evening, the students participated in the Bounce livestream worship service. Even though the students were tired from a long day of service, it was still meaningful to gather together and worship, VanBruggen said.
When a group gathers together, they can make a huge difference for those around them, he added.
“Yes, it was some sweat work for us, but it really wasn’t that big,” VanBruggen said. “But it was a huge blessing for the homeowner. I wanted this day to be as much of a blessing as possible.”