By Julie Krienke
DELANO, MN Experiencing a week-long adventure in God’s creation was the main goal the youth group of Mt. Olive Lutheran Church had when they journeyed to Montana on a mission trip July 18.
Chad Hoppe, leader of Mt. Olive’s youth group, said the church began planning the nine-day trip in late October 2009.
“Members of the youth group had to sign up quickly so we could see how many kids there were and what kind of transportation was needed,” Hoppe said.
The youth group that traveled to Montana consisted of 11 members of the youth program at Mt. Olive, which includes high school students. According to Hoppe, nine boys and two girls decided to partake in the mission trip.
“They had a good time, and it was probably a good experience for all of them,” Hoppe said. “About half of them had never seen mountains before.”
Hoppe, along with two other chaperones, led the youth throughout the course of the trip. On the way to Montana, the group stopped at several locations to do mission work.
“We stopped and did service projects at three churches on the way,” Hoppe said. “On Sunday night, we stopped and camped in the backyard of a church. We made a strong point to help out others.”
According to Hoppe, the group stopped in Wolf Point, MT, to do preparations for a Vacation Bible School (VBS) program there and help fix up a church by scraping paint.
“At Wolf Point, they scraped the parsonage so church members could paint the church,” said Scott Loberger, principal at Mt. Olive School and chaperone of the trip. “They made it much easier for church members to get the project done.”
The group then stayed at a ranch outside of Wolf Point for the night.
The second stop made by the youth group was in Billings, MT, followed by Bozeman, MT, to do more planning for VBS programs.
“At the other churches, we stopped and canvassed,” Loberger said. “We dropped off flyers and information about the church to the neighborhoods that were around the churches.”
After much service work, the crew made their last stop in Victor, MT, where they stayed at the home of Hoppe’s grandparents, who have a home in the mountains.
“That was kind of our stop-and-go point throughout the rest of the trip,” Loberger said.
The rest of the group’s time was spent hiking in the Rocky Mountains and fishing in the surrounding lakes.
“We went to Big Creek Lake to hike 12 miles,” Hoppe said. “We stayed there for three nights and then hiked back on the fourth day.”
According to Hoppe, the group cooked and ate all of the fish that they caught. When it came to hiking, many youth members got their fair share.
“Some of us were really gung-ho and hiked to the top of the pass each day,” Hoppe said. “That was another 10 miles of tough hiking.”
Yet, the group was well prepared, as they had done some hiking at Lake Rebecca Park Reserve in Delano prior to embarking on the trip.
“I enjoyed being up before the sunrise and seeing it rise over the mountains,” Hoppe said.
According to Loberger, the group was fortunate enough to have good weather while in Montana.
“It rained every day until we went camping,” Loberger said. “So, we were really lucky.”
After their nine-day trip to Montana, the group made the 21 hour car ride back to Delano. According to Hoppe, they encountered a thunderstorm and drove through it for four hours in North Dakota and Montana.
The other necessary key that was completed before the group could begin their journey was fundraising.
“We bagged groceries at Cub twice, and we had a Red’s Café fundraiser in Montrose,” Hoppe said.
In addition, the youth group hosted a cookie bake at the church, had a Valentine’s Day babysitting night, raked leaves in the fall, and took part in a Coborn’s cookout.
Because of all the fundraising, youth members only had to pay a small deposit for the trip. According to Hoppe, the group raised all the rest of the money.
Perhaps the combination of service work and an excursion in the heart of the Rocky Mountains was what made the experience so great for the youth group.
“I think that they gained an appreciation that they can be of service and that they have the ability to help out,” Loberger said. “And then the camping trip opened up their eyes to getting out of the city.”
According to Hoppe, the trip was beneficial to not only the youth members, but also the chaperones.
“It shows that there are others out there in Montana that believe in the Lord as well,” Hoppe said. “My favorite part was just hiking out in the mountains, being in God’s country, and seeing His creation.”