Totally Giving Back

Totally Giving Back: Teen Missionaries

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A group of teenagers from Wisconsin learned many life lessons during a recent missionary trip in San Francisco.

Pastor Bill Knapp of Fox Point Lutheran Church, Wisconsin, and volunteer Mark Metzendorf led 73 high school students on the street missionary in early July. The group spent a week distributing care packs and performing service projects in the Tenderloin and Golden Gate Park regions. They also brought supplies to individuals and families living in tents along 16th Street and other locations.

Metzendorf said the experience was amazing.

“We did not come with any judgment, only a desire to help, even if for the short time we were there,” he said. “Our youth gained the courage and skills to engage, love and help people with real needs.”

Metzendorf said everyone in the group gained “a renewed appreciation for the blessings in our lives and a stronger desire to be of service to others as a central mission in our lives.”

An eye-opening experience

The group set out one evening to distribute 475 care packs to the homeless they encountered. They were under the guidance of the “Night Ministers” from St. Mark's Lutheran Church in San Francisco.

“As we set out ... we were all on edge,” Metzendorf explained. “We were well prepared by the night ministry team. We encountered some very rough living conditions and human situations — active drug users, sex workers and families living in tents.”

Some of the homeless were concerned for the group's safety and warned them to go away because it was unsafe to be there. However, the missionaries did not encounter any danger or threat, Metzendorf said. They found people in need who were pleasant. However, due to shame or pride, some would not interact or accept a care pack.

The reaction from most of the people they met was “gratitude and delight,” he said.

“I think this mainly comes from the personal attention and concern our high schoolers brought to every interaction,” he said.

An ongoing effort by Fox Point church

The missionary effort was part of an annual youth service trip organized by the Wisconsin church. Other missionary destinations in the past were South Dakota (Native American Reservation), New York City, Jersey Shore (Atlantic City), Colorado and Washington D.C. This was the group's first trip to San Francisco and Metzendorf's seventh missionary trip as a parent and adult leader.

“The purpose of our trips is faith building, service to others and fellowship for our high schoolers,” he said.

San Francisco was chosen as a destination because of the amount of the high number of homeless and underprivileged people, the variety of social service programs available, and the opportunity for youth to experience the city, he added.

Gifts for those in need

Prior to the trip, the group assembled 1,000 care packs for the people they would encounter. proudly supplied drawstring bags for the event. The high school students and others filled the bags with socks, toothpaste, Band-Aids, shampoo, soap, cookies and other donations from the congregation.

Metzendorf before the trip told the drawstring bags “will be the right size for the contents we plan to distribute to each person, and will be very useful by the recipient.” We were touched by their gratitude and happy to help.

We want to thank the youth and other volunteers from Fox Point Lutheran Church for their compassion to others and a job well done!

Totally Giving Back is a program supported by and its staff to help individuals and groups in need. We believe it is important to give back to our local communities and spread hope to others around the world.

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