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Neighbors helping neighbors
JULY 4, 2011
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One area youth group decided to keep their mission trip close to home

By Kristen Miller
News Editor

COKATO, MN – Every other year, Albion Evangelical Free Church’s youth group embarks on a week-long out-of-state mission trip. This year, however, the church decided to keep it local and help their own neighbors.

“There is plenty of need in our own backyard,” said Nate Wilson, who is the youth group leader, along with his wife, Taumi.

Instead of spending resources elsewhere, they decided to stay close to home this year as a cost savings.

“There’s people here in our own community who need help as much as elsewhere,” Taumi said.

Last week, the youth group spent their mornings teaching vacation Bible school at the church, their afternoons working on service projects in the Cokato community, and their evenings camped out at Koinonia Retreat Center in South Haven.

The idea was to still stay together as a group, but be disconnected from family and friends, without cell phones, Taumi said.

One of the group’s main service projects for the week included helping a Cokato woman whose husband is an Army National Guardsman awaiting deployment for Kuwait, at Fort McCoy.

Ralphael and Layle Dawa happen to be neighbors to Russ and Bev Irvin. So, when Nate asked Russ if he knew of any ideas for the youth group’s service project, Russ suggested the Dawas.

He knew that the couple’s home had experienced flooding in the basement this year with the abundance of rainfall.

There was also some landscaping around the house that Ralphael was unable to complete before he left for Fort McCoy. This is Dawa’s second tour.

In addition, Layle, who works for REM Minnesota, with group homes in Cokato, is recovering from recent surgery and is unable to do much around the house.

The group of 14 youth, grades eight through 12, along with their leaders, rebuilt the Dawas’ egress windows and fixed the landscaping around the house to prevent water from seeping into the basement.

‘There was also a beautiful flower garden that [Ralphael] started, but due to [Layle’s] health, she couldn’t maintain,” Taumi said.

So, the youth group weeded the garden alongside the house and added mulch.

They also finished the rock border and added some more flowers and plants to it.

Layle, overwhelmed with the project, didn’t have words to express her gratitude for the work the group was doing.

“They don’t even know me,” she said, adding that the group even seemed to be having fun doing the work, without complaining.

“God has called us to take care of our own neighbors,” Taumi said. “If we can learn to help each other, the world will be a better place.”

Albion Evangelical Free Church is located at 11480 Fifth Street NW, Cokato.

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