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Dutilh Student Ministry Members Are Youth on a Mission

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For one week at the end of July, Dutilh Church’s young people stepped out of their everyday lives to dedicate their time and talent in service to the Connellsville community as part of Uth4Mission, a project of the Western Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Dutilh Student Ministry’s 2019 mission trip stayed relatively close to home—an intentional choice by Bud Fickley, director of student ministry.

“We wanted them to see that mission work can be local and to show the kids that you don’t have to go to another state or country to do mission work,” Fickley explained.

Another of Fickley’s goals for the experience was for the students to get to know their peers from Methodist churches across the region. By all accounts, both objectives were met.

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Students spent their days weeding and mowing a cemetery; painting the inside and outside of Connellsville Community Ministry, which houses a food pantry, thrift store, and other social services; and making memories at Jumonville.

Dutilh’s group served alongside students from four other area Methodist churches. In addition to their daily service work, the students were able to enjoy the pool at Jumonville, worship together daily, engage in team-building activities, and explore Jumonville’s grounds—from hiking to its iconic cross to sharing s’mores and mountain pies by the campfire at night.

Members of Dutilh’s youth praise band—Sam Hogue, Elia Honeycutt, and Katelyn Lemke—provided music for the nightly worship services. They celebrated communion with Associate Pastor Jim Gascoine at the end of the week.

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Katelyn Lemke, a sophomore at Seneca Valley High School, enjoyed her experience.

“One of my favorite parts was after we finished each project, seeing the faces of the people we helped,” Lemke said. “It reinforced that even small acts like painting someone’s door can brighten their environment and make a difference in their life.”

Lemke also appreciated the opportunity to grow in her faith and to meet young people from other churches around the area.

“One night at Jumonville a group of us hiked to the cross. We sat there in complete silence, looked out at the view, and we prayed together. It was a really special moment,” Lemke said.

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Fickley’s goal of having students get to know other young people from the broader Methodist community was a success. Lemke said that making friends with kids from other churches was one of the highlights of the week for her.

Lemke explained, “I didn’t expect that we’d all click so quickly. At the end of the week, it wasn’t like ‘I’m part of Dutilh Church and you’re part of another church.’ It felt like we were one big family.”

Brad Kuchta, a senior at Mars High School, said that spending time with the other young missionaries was his favorite part of the experience.

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“I formed a lot of new friendships and met new people from other churches,” Kuchta said, “and also strengthened bonds with my friends from Dutilh.”

The week offered moments of levity as well. Fickley said “O’Brad Apparel” was a highlight for many. Kuchta explained that the fashion movement began when a friend gave him $5 with the goal of creating an outfit entirely from the local thrift store where the students were serving.

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Kuchta paired mismatched items such as bright yellow belts, large sunhats, and striped shirts to create his O’Brad Apparel brand during the week. His colorful creations were modeled by various students and provided fun memories for all.  

Pastor Tom Parkinson said, ““We are so proud of these students!  Not only did they embody Dutilh’s mission to ‘love to serve’ in Jesus’s name, they also grew in their love for God and others, creating lifelong memories along the way.”

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The students are grateful to be able to experience the mission trip. “It was a really good experience,” Lemke said. “I feel very blessed to have been a part of it. It definitely brought me closer to God.”