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Youth group helps clean up after tornado

Two weeks ago I took a trip with my youth group, Lakes Area Vineyard Church, to Cedar Falls, Iowa. It's a trip we've taken the last four summers to SOS Midwest.

SOS stands for Summer Of Service! Which is exactly what it is. Youth groups from all over the Midwest come together for a week filled with service projects. Students who are on fire for God go out and connect with people by meeting their needs.

I have gone all four years, but this year was different from the previous three years. I went down expecting to meet other's needs the way we always have. In years before, we handed out water, Popsicles, did car washes, went to the House of Hope, went to the food shelf, and everyone's favorite, cleaned restrooms.

Though we still did a few of these things, we were able to do them differently. Like the car wash -- instead of washing a car for free we did a $1 car wash. But instead of receiving the dollar we gave the dollar to those who came.

Some went to the House of Hope, which is a shelter for single, low-income mothers. There is always something that can be worked on here. Like painting, fixing up, etc. The women there are wonderful and appreciate anything that we do.

Something new this year was Operation Threshold. Operation Threshold is a building for low-income mothers who need food, diapers, toys, clothes and other necessities. Recently, it was completely destroyed by a major flood. This building had to be gutted. We went in and smashed toilets, pulled out insulation, put things in a truck to go to the dump and tried to clear it out.

To be honest, it wasn't great fun. Everyone was itching from the insulation touching our skin, we had to wear masks that made it hard to breathe, and it was hard work.

When we got back onto the bus to return to the church, everyone was worn out and even a little crabby. But for me, looking back on it, I am so glad for the experience. It felt so good to know that our work actually made an impact on that building. It just made it that much closer to get it up and running again.

The last two days everyone went to another new site, Disaster Relief. I thought that Operation Threshold was hard. This was were a whole town was demolished by a tornado from two months ago. Everything in the town was gone except for a house here and there.

The banks were missing. So many houses were ruined, all that was left was the foundation. It was a horrible, heart-breaking site. Not much had changed since two months ago, and this was the last week for all the construction workers that were sent in.

We had two groups separated at this site. One group was cleaning out the basement of a lady's home. They had the privilege of not only cleaning it out, but also praying for her. She even told us the story about her neighbor who was killed by a pipe hitting the back of his head. But the reason the pipe hit him was because he was protecting his wife, laying on top of her. Someone even made the observation that that is what Christ did for us. It made quiet a few eyes water. What an amazing love.

The team I was on cleaned out a house that completely caved into the basement. Luckily, everyone in this family had gotten out.

It was so cool to see all the people in my group work together. There were a lot of big, heavy pieces that needed to be moved and to see a group of teens come together as one, it was amazing.

The week wasn't all work though. We played games and had fun, and in the mist of all the disasters, we still had excitement and people making jokes. We even made new friends.

We were able to go to Lost Island, which is a huge water park with different waterslides. We had an adventure day. We could watch movies, go paintballing, rock climbing, the arcade or a surprise adventure.

Though we gave a lot out physically, we also received a lot emotionally and spiritually. The week was devoted to talks on the Armor of God and being in His Army.

The worship was phenomenal. Big Daddy Weave was there one night. But even the youth group worship band was great. To see all the students going in front to dance and give their hearts to God was so cool.

Above all though, my favorite part was to watch God change everyone's heart. There is such a dramatic change, watching people from the first day to the last. There is no doubt that God showed up there. Not one person went untouched spiritually.

Every year God shows me that no matter how young you are, you really can make a difference. And if the world doesn't see it, He does. The experience was great and I'm already excited for next year.

If you would like to see some of the pictures from the trip, you can visit