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Episcopal Diocese develops youth mission experiences

The Pacific Inland Northwest Exchange (PINE) is one of several ministries the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane is developing to encourage Episcopalians to step outside the walls of church buildings and serve neighbors.

Michelle Klippert and Tracy Waring, Episcopal Diocese Youth Ministers
Michelle Klippert and Tracey Waring put away some of the crafts from the summer youth exchange and children’s program.

It is a way to take the church to the people who do not come to church, said Michelle Klippert, youth minister at the Cathedral of St. John in Spokane.

This summer PINE offered summer mission experiences for middle- and high-school youth, while providing meals and activities for low-income children.

The diocese offered two four-week sessions from June 21 to Aug. 14.  One was in Spokane at the West Central Episcopal Mission.  St. John’s Cathedral housed the mission teams. The other was through Between the Ridges in Yakima with housing at Campbell Farm in Wapato.

Tracey Waring, a lay leader at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and Michelle coordinated the Spokane experience.

Michelle’s participation in and leadership of 13 mission trips strengthened her commitment to youth ministry.  As part of that ministry, she facilitated a group of 45 on a mission trip to Mission Arlington in Texas.

In her ministry, Michelle has taken youth to the East Hastings drug area in Vancouver, B.C.; the Blackfoot and Fort Hall Indian Reservations; the Church of the Nativity in Lewiston; Campbell Farm in Wapato and Los Angeles, where she grew up and attended an Episcopal church.

In Los Angeles, teens worked with the Episcopal cathedral and diocese to help run a food bank, paint it and work with neighbors in LA’s skid road.

She has also taken youth on mission-at-home experiences, helping agencies in Spokane.

Michelle met her husband while studying sociology and human development at Washington State University. After they married in 1986, they moved several times before settling in 1995 in Spokane. Since her husband’s death last year, she has begun work to complete her studies.

Tracey was baptized in an Episcopal church and attended other churches as a child, coming back as a teen and leaving in her early 20s.  In 1995, Michelle started going to the Cathedral of St. John in Spokane and started working in children and youth ministries there in 1999.

“I love accompanying children and youth on their journeys of faith,” she said.

In youth ministry at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, Michelle uses a six-year curriculum, “Journey to Adulthood,” which suggests service-learning trips.

If youth go on a mission, they come back to the church as adults and donate time and money worth $250,000,” said Michelle, who completed a certificate in youth and theology through Princeton Seminary by going to conferences.

“There is power in taking youth out of their home town and showing them poverty somewhere else, where they can see it clearly,” she said.  “Once they recognize poverty, it’s hard to ignore it at home.”

Michelle said youth return committed to help people in need in their hometown.  A mission trip sets the foundation for their engaging in ministry from helping as acolytes to volunteering at a food bank.

She has used that curriculum for 15 years for Sunday school and Wednesday night youth groups.

Through her studies at Eastern Washington University, Tracey started the Clothing Closet at Salem Lutheran, as part of the GOAL Project for people coming out of prison.  It combined with Open Gate at 22 S. Howard in 2013.

Tracey’s early years were in Stamford, Conn., but after her parents divorced, her mother moved to the Northwest to be near her family. Tracey lived in Vancouver, Wash., and worked for a medical supply firm in Seattle, but realized that to move ahead she needed a college degree.  She decided to go to EWU in Cheney, because it gave credits for life experience.  She moved to Spokane in 2005 and graduated in interdisciplinary studies in 2008.  She earned a master’s in social work in 2010 and then a master’s in public administration and adult education.

“I had time for my passion to do youth ministry,” said Tracey, who met Michelle at quarterly gatherings for diocesan youth ministers.

They began talking about mission exchange.  Meanwhile, the Episcopal Church moved to a model of asset-based community development for ministries.

Looking at the diocese’s assets, the idea of mission trips arose,” Tracey said. 

Between the Ridges, Campbell Farm, the Cathedral, St. Andrew’s and West Central Episcopal Mission decided to create mission opportunities for youth.

In Spokane, youth started the day at a summer food program based in the West Central Episcopal Mission, formerly Holy Trinity Church.  Teens served meals and worked with children.  In the afternoon, they worked with Our Place, Project Hope and other agencies to do yard cleanup for West Central Neighbors.

In Yakima, youth worked with Campbell Farm’s summer food program in the morning and at different agencies in the afternoon, such as the food bank, Noah’s Ark and a Yakama Indian Nation yard clean-up program.

Late afternoons and early evenings, there was recreation.  Each day closed with worship.

Each youth kept a notebook with responses to questions designed to stir theological reflection on what they were doing and why they did it:  “Who are my neighbors?  Where did I see the face of Christ today?” They also discussed their experiences.

The teens talked as they packed 1,000 pounds of tea into smaller bags at the food bank.  They understood they were part of something bigger, Tracey said.

The program is for teens in youth groups.  Adults accompany those under 18, as young as 10.

Part of the mission of PINE in Spokane was to run a Stone Soup Café for 10 weeks, serving breakfast and lunch, and offering a program using “Godly Play,” building Bible stories in Lego, music, crafts and other activities.

Dixie, a youth participant, learned that many children don’t have access to art and craft supplies at home.

“Putting a piece of paper in their hand and watching their creative side fly was the best part of working with PINE,” she said.

Over the summer, the Stone Soup Café served 36 three-to-13-year-old children and about 40 teens from Project Hope a total of 4,761 meals.  Youth in Project Hope run two urban farms, grow vegetables, mow lawns and sell what they grow in an open market.

Children caught “doing good” earned blessing bucks they used to buy ice cream or school supplies for their backpacks.

PINE received a mission zone initiative grant through the national Episcopal Center.  Bishop James Waggoner, Jr., contributed $5,000 and spent time with the children.  The USDA funded food.

About $10,000 is left from the grant, and the diocese now includes PINE in its budget.  Each youth paid $300 for the week.  With 10 a week, fees raised $3,000. 

Michelle noticed that during the first week or two, children took three helpings at the meals, not knowing when they would have food again.  It decreased as the summer progressed.

“We fed children in different ways.  They were hungry for food and for interaction with caring adults,” said Michelle, who noted that their attention span for reading and their physical agility grew.

“If children are hungry, they can’t concentrate and learn,” she said.

Along with the summer program, Michelle and Tracey educate people about what mission is  as they share about the summer.

Most mission trip plans start in January, so they are beginning to recruit for next summer.

For information, call 481-1167 or email tlwaring728@msn.com or call 290-0488 and email mmklip@comcast.net.





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