Jamaica may bring images of sandy beaches and rolling waves to mind, but two peninsula youth groups are visiting the island to do more than sunbathe.
The Soldotna Church of God and Assembly of God youth groups are taking 27 teens on a mission trip to the Caribbean. While they are there the group will join with Churches of God in Jamaica.
Together, they will hold youth rallies, sports clinics and street ministries. They also are planning to visit many of the government-run orphanages.
"We ended up choosing Jamaica because of the need. There are so many children and young people who are less fortunate than our youth here," said Donald Smyth, youth pastor at Soldotna Church of God. "We wanted to give them a chance to get out of their everyday routine so they could see how others live."
Smyth chose 15 teens from his youth group for the opportunity to go abroad. Members of the group were allowed to fill out applications. Out of the 20 who applied, Smyth said he chose the ones for whom he can tell the ministry has made a difference in their life.
Nickey Andree, a member of the Soldotna Church of God youth group who is going on the trip, said she has wanted the opportunity to go on a mission trip for a long time.
"I think it would be really fun to witness to others and spread the gospel," she said.
Others going on the trip agree.
"I wanted to go to minister to them, and to show them God's will and Jesus," said Derek Poppin, a 13-year-old member of the Soldotna Assembly of God. "I believe it will help me grow and walk with God."
Poppin, Andree and others are working hard to raise enough money to pay for their trips to Jamaica. Each teen is responsible for their own fare, and so far every fund-raiser has been on an individual basis, said Smyth.
The group from the Soldotna Church of God has been selling cards with discounts to area businesses, and at the beginning of the month, youths from both groups received pledges and pulled their pastors on a bobsled from the intersection of Bridge Access and Kalifornsky Beach Road to the Soldotna bridge.
On June 30, the first collective fund-raising effort will take place in the form of a three-on-three basketball tournament at Soldotna Elementary School. The cost is $100 per team to enter, but every member of the first- and second-place teams wins gift certificates.
In addition, all participants without collegiate basketball experience will be entered in a drawing. The winner will have the opportunity to shoot a half-court shot for $10,000.
Teams of teens 14 and older must register prior to 9 a.m. June 30, and applications can be found at several area businesses.
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