SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Past mission trips by the Peace Dale Congregational Church youth group have traveled all over, but this year, they stayed closer to home and assisted a Providence-based Methodist church.
The group of 11 went to the Mathewson Street Methodist Church in Providence over the weekend of Nov. 16-18 to help the homeless of Providence. The church has a mission trip at least once a year, which in the past has gone to New York City and participated with Habitat for Humanity and different soup kitchens.
“We wanted the kids to see that you don’t have to travel far away to see a great amount of need,” chaperone Emily Cummiskey said of the reason the mission trip stayed in Rhode Island this year. “The pastor there, Pastor Jack started this mission to have worship services that would be welcoming to the homeless.”
The services began as a soup kitchen, Cummiskey said. On Sunday mornings, the church serves breakfast and Pastor Jack Jones gives a sermon. “Everybody that is attending the breakfast is also welcomed up to the microphone to give sort of a testimony, and it is amazing to see,” Cummiskey said. “So this church is not only fulfilling the faith needs of people that otherwise may not feel welcome in the church, but is also feeding them and he’s also giving them a voice.”
Over 325 homeless people were at the breakfast on Sunday, from toddlers to the elderly.
The youth group also sorted and organized donated clothing for distribution to the attendees, as well as sort through artwork created by the homeless into a gallery where the proceeds go directly back to the artist. “The racks were empty by the end of the day.”
Cummiskey says the group were taken aback by the sheer number of homeless in Providence. “My daughter volunteers at the Wednesday night dinner table at the church, and so she’s used to that population, but it’s handfuls of people that are coming in to dinner in South County,” she said. “To see over 300 people lined up, coming in to get their meal and their clothing, they were really taken aback.”
The group also had the opportunity to rehearse with a gospel choir made up of homeless people on Saturday. “So people come in from their park bench to practice in the choir, and the kids practiced with them, and then they performed the songs alongside the homeless population,” she said, saying it was not only kids from the mission, but people they had walked by on park benches. “I think that the take-home message for them was that you’re really all in this together, and the next day it was impossible to just walk by people because we had had this common experience together of practicing with them in the choir.
“So as we were walking through the city, we’d see people that we had just really become friends with, and the kids are still talking about that experience.”
Cummiskey said the group also let them know how grateful they are for everything they have. “They also are talking about how they can start some of the services at our own church in town-they are inspired!”
The group stayed over at the church on Friday and Saturday before coming back on Sunday afternoon.
For more information on Mathewson Street Methodist Church and their work, visit mathewsonstreetchurch.org.