Sixteen Grace College students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in youth ministry and 21 students of other majors recently returned from a spring break trip to Los Angeles. The seven-day trip is one of two ways youth ministry students can fulfill the degree’s cross-cultural field requirement to gain hands-on ministry experience in an inner-city context.
“I love the classroom and the learning that happens there, but what a great opportunity it is when the student can take the education of the classroom and connect the dots to real-world ministry,” said Brad Deetscreek, instructor of youth ministries at Grace. “Going to Los Angeles provided an incredible look into other cultures and reminded our team of the deep love God has for all people.”
Students had a full schedule which included visiting churches, leading chapel services, helping with food pantries, and packaging hygiene kits for individuals on Skid Row, a 54-block area in downtown Los Angeles where it is estimated that more than 8,000 homeless individuals reside.
The group partnered with two local Christian organizations while in Los Angeles: Dream Center and Momentum Ministry Partners Urban Center, both of which provide support to those affected by homelessness through residential and community outreach programs.
Students returned from the trip with stories and experiences that will shape their approach to youth ministry going forward.
“The work we did at Skid Row and at the food pantry will benefit people more than we’ll ever know,” said Andrew Rininger, a third-year student working toward a bachelor’s degree in youth ministry. “It’s a reminder that God will work beyond what I see and that gives me faith.”
Emily Tonkovich, also a third-year student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in youth ministry, agrees.
“The experience in Los Angeles was eye-opening for many of us, and there’s no doubt, it increased my passion for ministry,” she said. “The experience provided us with training that we were able to apply later that day or week. It was so great to get the opportunity to put what we learned into action right away.”
For senior youth ministry student Nick Hettinger, putting his learning into action included an opportunity to preach a sermon on the trip, a capstone experience for Nick who will begin his first youth ministry position this summer at Orchard Hill Church in Pittsburgh, Pa.