Although Miami Springs is not your typical destination spot for youth summer mission trips, Miami Springs native Clark Rinehart thought it would be perfect.
Rinehart, who currently resides in Raleigh, N.C., was born and raised in Miami Springs. He attended Springview Elementary, Miami Springs Middle School, and graduated from Miami Springs Senior High School in 2005. Rinehart received a scholarship to the University of Miami where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering.
Even greater than his academic achievements is Rinehart’s commitment to his faith. As a child and teenager, Rinehart attended Poinciana United Methodist Church with his parents and sister. Being a part of the church was a big part of his life. His great-grandparents were missionaries in South and Central America and during his teenage years and college years Rinehart was able to attend many mission trips of his own.
After his time at University of Miami, Rinehart decided to take a leap of faith that would lead him to Duke University, where he would earn his Master’s in Divinity.
Rinehart is all grown-up now. He’s a married man and is serving as the director of high school ministries at Grace Community Church in Raleigh, N.C.
This summer Rinehart decided he would return home to Miami Springs, only this time he would bring 45 high school students and a few chaperones for safekeeping. “We chose Miami for our mission trip because of the relationships that I had with Poinciana and its diverse, urban community,” Rinehart said.
Grace Community Church of Raleigh made its way to Miami Springs and Rinehart’s parents, who still live in Miami Springs, played a vital role in all of the logistics. The Miami Springs community welcomed the group with open arms. They took showers at the Miami Springs rec pool and, with true mission trip luxury, they slept like sardines at Poinciana United.
Rinehart’s mother, Yvonne Rinehart, office administrator at Poinciana, brought on board local pastors Gordon Pike of Poinciana and David Imhoff of Grace Lutheran and during the evening hours, local children from both Grace Lutheran and Poinciana played games, made crafts, and sang songs at a mini-VBS hosted by the North Carolina group.
During the day the teens worked on various projects in Miami Springs, North Miami and Florida City. They painted and pressure-cleaned at Poinciana and made their way north and south to serve at Grace Haitian UMC and Branches UMC.
“Our preschool children just loved interacting with the teens from North Carolina,” said Jodie Beltran, who has been the director of the Children’s Enrichment Center at Poinciana United Methodist Church for the past 16 years. “They did so many different projects around the church. We really appreciate Clark bringing his group here to Miami Springs. They were such a blessing to our church, to our preschool, and to our community.”
On their free days the group was able to enjoy the rec pool and Crandon Beach. After a long day of work, the group was even invited to cool off lakeside at former Miami Springs councilman Rob and Ernestine Youngs’ home. The North Carolina group and the Poinciana group came together for swimming, fishing and barbecuing.
“I am so proud of Clark and the heart he has for young people,” said Rinehart’s father, Clark Rinehart, Sr., who works at Doug Orr Plumbing. “He brought his youth group here because he wanted them to see where he grew up and feel the love he experienced at Poinciana and in Miami Springs. He wanted to give back to the community that he grew up in.”
“It was awesome to meet so many young people with such a strong faith,” said Nick Bello. Bello just graduated from Miami Springs Senior High and is a member of Poinciana’s LinC Student Ministry. “After spending a week together we feel like we’re family.”
Lives were changed and new friendships were made, but the morning came for the North Carolina group to pack up and head home. Their departure day was bittersweet for the Poinciana youth as Poinciana’s youth were leaving to Puerto Rico on a mission trip of their own. They say all good things must come to an end, but with faith uniting them, this scenario may be different.
“I really enjoyed witnessing the connections that were being made between the Poinciana students and the Grace students,” Rinehart said. “I think we might be back next year.”