It’s the season of love and most of us associate Valentine’s Day with love and romance. However, there’s great group of young people from the River Cities area who remind us that love is about friendship, too. The LinC Student Ministry at Poinciana United Methodist Church hosted their annual Friendship Dinner on Saturday, Feb. 9 and love was definitely in the air.
The teenagers from LinC can usually be found like many other teens after school, dressed in their sweaty clothes from basketball, soccer or cheerleading practice, but this past Saturday the teens were transformed into elegant waiters ready to serve the crowd that showed up for a fancy dinner and an elegant evening filed with love and friendship.
“The Friendship Dinner at PUMC is all about that, friends and family sitting down to eat fabulous food, to talk, and enjoy the moment,” said Judith Hamlin, who is better known as Grandma Puddy. “I was with my daughter, my grandkids, my sisters-in-Christ, and our friends, knowing that whatever the cost was it’s to support the LinC Summer Mission for 2013. What could be better than that?”
“I’m so proud of the teens and their dedication. They work hard throughout the year to raise money so that they can go work hard on a Summer Mission Trip,” said Louise Jagessar, director of LinC Student Ministry. Louise and her husband, Terry Jagessar, have been leading and mentoring young people in our community for the past 17 years.
Terry Jagessar and his father, James Jagessar, were behind the scenes all day, preparing the gourmet meal. The elder Jagessar is a devoted member of another church in the area but every year he agrees to help prepare the meal for the Friendship Dinner.
“He does it because he has a heart for missions and love of God. He understands the impact that serving others through mission trips has on young people,” said Louise Jagessar. “I want to thank my father-in-law for all of his help as well as friends and members of Poinciana for their ongoing support. Of course, this wouldn’t be possible without all of the LinC volunteer leaders — Marcia Beeche, Mike Saladrigas, Lily Mendez, Lisette Bermejo and Alyssa Palma.”
Throughout the year, LinC hosts other fundraisers like carwashes and spaghetti dinners to lower the cost of their trips. They also receive donations from various church members and community members, and that has been a significant help over the years.
LinC’s first mission trip was 17 years ago with five teenagers. The Jagessars drove their own vehicle to the St. Petersburg/Tampa area. Since then, the mission trips typically average 24 students and they rent two 15-passenger vans. Over the years, their mission work has been in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.
Their week-long mission trip is organized through TEAMeffort. They bring youths and their leaders from thousands of churches of different denominations to work side by side on life-changing, eye-opening, faith-building mission trips. The youth have an opportunity to put their faith into action. They complete projects such as repairing and renovating homes for families in need, leading children’s outreach programs, working at homeless shelters, responding to natural disasters, and reaching out to individuals and communities through Christian service.
The teenage years are known for being rough years, a time when young people are trying to find themselves. Teens have to deal with the influences of media and peers, temptations and rebellion, and issues at home or at school.
“Over the years I have seen teenagers turn their lives around and choose to do the ‘right thing’ even when it’s more difficult,” said Louise Jagessar.
Poinciana has had the good fortune to be able to witness young people who grew up in the church go on to choose the path and life of ministry, become part-time ministry leaders and even a few who are now ordained pastors who serve and lead their own churches.
Several of the teens have grown up and have chosen to continue to serve in missions by working for the entire summer, for three-month mission trips, and even an 11-month mission trip around the world. College students who grew up in the LinC Student Ministry host N.O.W. “Night of Worship” every Saturday evening at 7:30 at Poinciana. It’s a labor of love and they are seeing lots of fruits from their labor.
LinC has yet to announce the destination of this summer’s mission trip. Gatlinburg, Tenn.; Top Sail, N.C.; and Louisiana are at the top of the short list. LinC Student Ministry provides more than just summer mission trips; it’s a place where teens can find love, support, a sense of belonging, and a church family. Wherever the group goes this year, they are sure to be involved with meaningful mission projects and an adventure they’ll never forget.