Approximately 160 youth and adults have participated in an annual week-long project to serve others within their own hometown.
For the second year in a row, several local churches have brought their youth together to work on what is known as The Jerusalem Project.
The Jerusalem Project originated in 2004 in Cherokee County with 30-40 people and 4-5 projects. The Cherokee County project now has more than 700 volunteers and takes on approximately 40 projects. The Jerusalem Project began last year in Union County, and similar projects have also begun in Chesnee.
The project has grown locally in just one year, as there are 60 more participants in Union than there were last year.
The name — “The Jerusalem Project” — comes from Acts 1:8, in which Jesus said to his disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Jerusalem was their hometown. One of the projects local organizers — Allison Coker — pointed out that there is also a need in Union.
“We are called to go out in our own Jerusalem,” Coker said. “Youth can see that there is a need for missions here in Union. They don’t have to go out of state or the country. There is a need right here.”
This year’s project kicked off on Sunday evening and wrapped up on Thursday evening. Eight local churches participated in this year’s project — Oakbrook Community Church, Tabernacle Baptist Church, Buffalo Baptist Church, Mon-Aetna Baptist Church, Christian Fellowship Baptist Church, New Life Baptist Church, Brown’s Creek Baptist and Upper Fairforest Baptist Church. Youth participants —ranging from rising seventh graders and up —from each church participated.
Beginning on Monday, participants were split up into nine teams. Coker mentioned that youth leaders try to split youth up so they are not with their own church groups, allowing them the opportunity to get to know students with whom they may not already be acquainted.
In the mornings, groups went to various houses and completed work such as building ramps, painting houses, partially repairing roofs, yard work and minor repairs.
“Whatever is feasible for youth to do,” Coker said, mentioning that those involved with the project make sure there is a real need at each site.
Over the course of the week, participants covered 14 different project sites.
Following their work in the mornings, groups met for lunch and prepared for their afternoon work. In the afternoons, groups volunteered at locations including Union County Carnegie Library, Mon-Aetna Daycare, Union County YMCA, Union County Recreation Department, the First Baptist Church Clothes Closet, Tabernacle Baptist Church Food Pantry, Council on Aging Food Pantry, Union County Pregnancy Center, Sunshine Adult Daycare, Oakmont Nursing Home and Ellen Sagar Nursing Home.
In the afternoon locations in which children are involved, Coker said youth volunteers worked with the children in a backyard Bible club-type setting. In the clothes closets and food pantries, volunteers served by sorting and packaging. At the pregnancy center, they sorted clothes and cleaned. At the nursing homes and adult daycare, the youth volunteers sang, played games and kept the clients company.
Each night, all participants have dinner together and enjoy a worship service at Oakbrook Community Church. The churches took turns providing meals, except for one night when dinner was provided by Checklist Ministries.
Funding for the projects first comes from youth volunteers, who each pay $50 to participate.
“They pay to work, basically,” Coker said.
This year, however, additional funding came from Broad River Electric Cooperative’s Broad River Electric Charities. Broad River Electric Charities donated $4,000 for Union County’s Jerusalem Project. The group also made donations toward The Jerusalem Project in Chesnee and Gaffney. The donation was part of the $26,000 given by Broad River Electric Charities in May to various nonprofit organizations and ministries in BREC’s service area.
Josh Crotzer of Broad River Electric Cooperative said The Jerusalem Project was a priority among all of BREC’s causes.
“Broad River Electric is very aware of what Jerusalem Project is about and the blessings they bestow on their neighbors, having hosted the Cherokee County Jerusalem Project for a number of years in our auditorium,” Crotzer said. “The Broad River Electric Charities Board were more enthusiastic in their support of this ministry than we had ever seen them and I think it is because of the inspiring work these kids and their leaders are doing.”
Other donations came from participating churches, and Food Lion and Save-A-Lot donated snacks for participating youth.
Coker pointed out that the project has touched both the youth volunteers and those who have benefited from the help.
“One woman who was over 90 years old asked how much the yard work would cost,” Coker said, explaining that the woman was shocked to find out it was free.
“She said she was over 90 and that no one had ever done anything for her like that for free. She was overjoyed that they would come out and do that for her.”
Coker said that a man who is 74 years old told the group he knew that he was lost and that they had helped lead him to the Lord.
Coker also mentioned that youth volunteers with obligations such as school orientations or football practice call between their other obligations to find out what sites need them and what they can do to serve.
On Saturday, the youth who participated in The Jerusalem Project will be rewarded with a day at Carowinds during the annual Rock the Park event, which features a concert of various contemporary Christian artists.