Six graduates of the Waseca Class of 2012 let themselves be spirited away from their southern Minnesota town last week to a mystery location for a secret mission.
The surprise location turned out to be Hope Village in Minot, where the youths received their first assignment Monday to clean and sanitize a flooded house in Burlington.
"I am going to be sore tomorrow," said Erica Hall after a morning of power washing.
Jade Vick power washes a stairwell as Katie Schroeder cleans up in the background at a flooded Burlington residence Monday.
The Waseca delegation and their Hope Village supervisor stand outside the Jerry Neuhalfen home on Colton Avenue in Burlington. From left are Katie Schroeder, Erica Hall, Ward Ask, Kristy Singlestad, Marty Aberle, supevisor Luke Ropp, Sam Auringer, Kari Simmons, Jade Vick and Terry Huber.
"In a great way, though," added fellow graduate Kari Simmons. "It feels good to help out. We are here to grow closer to God to be his hands and feet."
The youth from Grace and St. John Lutheran churches wanted to engage in a summer mission one last time before setting off on their separate ways, which include the Navy, technical school and various colleges.
Their adult leaders set up the trip, keeping the location secret all the way to the destination.
"We took as many backroads as we could. We went through a lot of towns they never heard of before," said leader Marty Aberle.
The youth admitted to being a little nervous as they packed up sturdy shoes and safety goggles and traveled unknown gravel roads. They were directed to bring passports so thought for sure they were headed into Canada when their van arrived at the International Peace Garden. But it was just a diversion.
As the van headed west again, the youth were entertaining visions of Montana when their trip halted in Minot. Unaware of last summer's flooding, the youth were moved in seeing the damage.
"If we wouldn't have come here, I wouldn't have known that Minot was in crisis," Simmons said.
The group will be working in the area until Saturday.
"A lot of them have been on mission trips before so their heart is for missions. They are just driven by God just to serve," Aberle said of the graduates.
Simmons said their previous mission work largely involved children and poverty.
"This is more intense real life. This is a disaster," she said. "It definitely makes you thankful for what you have."
Just visualizing how nice the house in Burlington once was and how it would have looked under flood waters provides a sense of how devastating the disaster was, said graduate Terry Huber.
The volunteers immediately felt appreciated, too. During their first project, the homeowner brought them pizza.
They also have been impressed with the accommodations at Hope Village and with the work being done through the village to aid the flooded valley. Although the valley's plight may be new to them, they are glad that others have been aware and are helping.
"It's great that someone is taking notice," Hall said.