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Building homes in Bahamas

Charity: Nine teens spend their spring break helping to build two houses

Posted: April 30, 2010 9:28 p.m.
Updated: May 1, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Christopher Howell hammers a nail into a header for a door or window frame to strengthen the house.

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Spring break typically sends teens to the beaches, movie theaters, shopping malls or confines of their comfortable beds. But nine high school youths from First Presbyterian Church in Newhall spent their spring break ministering to others.

The teens worked on two houses at All Saints Camp, an HIV/AIDS camp near Nassau in the Bahamas.

"I could have stayed home and been with my friends, but I wanted to make a difference," said Nancy Harris.

For seven days, the group, which included, Harris, Ian Fletcher, Christopher Howell, Megan Bullock, Georgia Harris, Nancy Harris, Leo Vannini, Ashley Karzin, Melissa Selva, Samantha Spigelman, John Hoogendyk, and Sharie Telles, spent about eight hours a day nailing on siding and framing doors and windows.

When they were not sawing and hammering, they gave spiritual and physical aid to the residents of the camp.

"This was a labor of love for my youths," Hoogendyk explained. "Nobody asked them to do it. They just started finding things they could do to help the camp residents."

The youths melded as a team. In doing so, they moved efficiently on the construction of the two homes they worked on, finishing most of the exterior portion of the homes.

Hoogendyk was amazed at the work his group completed, because all their electrical tools were lost in transit.

"This did not stop the kids," said Telles, the second adult leader on the trip. "They used the one saw available at the camp and ported all the sidings and boards to where they were needed."

Though the work was physically demanding, the teens agreed it did not deter them. Everyone kept up the encouragement.

"I heard over and over, ‘You can do it. I know you can,'" Hoogendyk said.

There wasn't much down time. That was because the teens chose not to rest.

"They spent their (down) time visiting with people, playing with the kids and singing and reading the Bible, while visiting shut-in residents," Telles said. "I think taking water to the sickest of the residents was the task closest to their hearts."

The trip was facilitated by Next Step Ministries, a nonprofit ministry pairing students who want to minister with groups in need of help.

Through this group's leadership, the church's youthful missionaries were given a hands-on opportunity to minister to a community marginalized because they are HIV positive or have aids.

As Cranston Knowles, one of the leaders of Next Step Ministries, wrote in his introductory letter about the group, "Sadly, these persons are often neglected and forgotten by their families and society as a whole."

Many of the camp residents touched the youths, Hoogendyk said.

"If everyone acted like the people living in the camp, we would have a better world," Bullock said. "Here were people who were sick, possible dying, and they were giving us moral support."


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