Hurricane pushes Nikiski youth to New Orleans

Posted: Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Last year, the youth group from North Star United Methodist Church in Nikiski chose Mexico as the place they wanted to go for a mission trip.

Then hurricanes Katrina and Rita slammed into the Gulf States and blew a new idea into the plans of the north Kenai Peninsula young people.

“They asked if they could help and make a difference in that area,” said Laura Skiba, church pastor.

Skiba already had registered the group for the Mexico trip through Group Workcamps Foundation, a nondenominational Christian organization based in Loveland, Colo., but was able to change the plans.

The foundation sends church groups all around the world to do work missions where needed, and the need was definitely present in the New Orleans area.

Five young people from Nikiski, Skiba and her husband, Kevin, and one adult and a teen from Soldotna United Methodist Church, will travel to New Orleans on June 10 for a six-day work mission.

Ranging in age from 13 to 20, the North Star United Methodist members include Layne Griffith, Joel Ribbens, Tyler Payment, Evan Holloway and Sawyer Skiba, the pastor’s son.

Joining the group from Soldotna are Zach Daly and his older sister, Emily McBride.

“What we do is hands-on service projects for needy families and individuals,” the pastor said. “We do cleanup and rebuilding.”

She said the Workcamps Foundation asks volunteers to rate themselves in terms of their carpentry and painting skills and experience.

“What they really want, though, are youth who are willing to work hard and take direction,” Skiba said.

She said the group has been asked to bring along hard hats, safety goggles, flashlights, tarps and Tyvek protective suits, and said they could find themselves doing painting, building or cleaning up.

The youth are paying their own travel expenses by raising funds through dinners, a garage sale, a bake sale and a car wash.

They’ve also been hired out to do yard work in Nikiski, Skiba said.

“They’re earning it. That’s been a good experience for them, too,” she said.

When asked if the mission group will be taking the Word of God to the people they help in New Orleans, Skiba said the United Methodist Church has three different types of missions, including evangelization.

“This is all about work,” she said.

Skiba will do some preaching while the group stays at the United Methodist Church in New Orleans.

“The worship and teaching will be among those who are there to work,” she said.

For more information on the mission trip, or on how to help pay travel expenses, people may call Skiba at 776-8732, e-mail her at or visit the church Web site at

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