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The Great Lakes Team serves at Midwest Mission


Each spring, United Methodists from Michigan and Wisconsin take a trip to Midwest Mission, creating community and serving God together.

Pastor, Baraboo (WI): First UMC

Last month, United Methodists and friends from Michigan and Wisconsin traveled to Midwest Mission in Pawnee, IL, for a week of service. This year, the group of 16 people represented seven different churches and two annual conferences—the Michigan Conference and the Wisconsin Conference.

Packing boxes for relief
Tracy Harle, from Platteville UMC in Wisconsin, and Sheila Berner, from Auburn UMC in Michigan, seal a box of toys that were from Christmas that are being redirected to the Ukraine. ~ photo courtesy Cathy Christman

The Great Lakes Team was formed in 2018, but it began as a local church team from Midland, MI. For over 12 years, Becky Jenkins has led or been part of a small group of church members that went to Midwest Mission, initially from Midland: First UMC, where Becky and I met when I joined the staff. In the spring of 2013, Becky and I joined the small group for the week to explore options for the church youth. I was reappointed to a new church that spring. I was not able to join the summer trip with the youth, but I stayed up on what was happening with the ministries of Midwest Mission.

With reappointments and church moves, Becky and I have stayed in touch over the years. She now attends Auburn UMC. She shared her love for Midwest Mission with her Auburn church family and has remained a leader over the years for this annual spring trip. In 2016, I was appointed to the Wisconsin Annual Conference.

Becky called me in the spring of 2018 and shared a need to fill some spots on the trip. Excited about this opportunity, I rallied some people, and The Great Lakes Team was born. We had a COVID-19 hiatus in 2020 but then resumed our team trips in the spring of 2022. Each year the trip participation has grown, and the spirit of teamwork has created a new community among us!

Tracy Harle, from Platteville (WI) UMC, said, “I came because I heard such great things about Midwest Mission from my pastor, Tammy. I felt so welcomed the moment I walked in the door and made such wonderful new church friends that I will cherish forever. I went home filled with God’s love. I can’t wait to go back next year!” Tracy was a first-time member of the team for the 2023 trip.

Save the date announcementApril Nahgahgwon from Auburn UMC and Oscoda Indian Mission UMC has been a member of this team for several years. She and Becky were our cooks for the week this year. April said, “I had a really great week. Good fun, good food, good fellowship. We had a wonderful group who became a team.”

Rev. Don and Sue Bogue, retired clergy and spouse from the Iowa Annual Conference, have made their retirement home in Northern Michigan and call Keswick UMC home. Don shared, “It was a great experience, and I really felt that I was doing some good in the world.”

Our work for this year included checking and assembling Personal Dignity Kits (PDKs) that were shipped out the following week to Ukraine. We also had teams working with redirected medical equipment, doing bike repair, assisting with sewing machine repair, and making desks for students.

Rajean Bender, from Baraboo (WI): First UMC, had been to Midwest Mission with her local church but decided to join The Great Lakes Team this year. Rajean said, “The experience of packing a PDK bag has made me realize how blessed I am by God. I worry that the towel I purchase doesn’t match my shower curtain, that the store is out of my toothpaste temporarily. But, they are happy with a mismatched hand towel and washcloth and whatever toiletries they receive.”

Does this spark your interest? All are welcome to follow our team on Facebook via our public Facebook page: MMDC – The Great Lakes Team. Our next spring trip is scheduled for April 14-20, 2024. We will start taking reservations in December 2023, so consider joining us.

Midwest Mission’s website—www.midwestmission.org—has excellent resources about volunteering and how people can meet urgent needs “around the world and around the corner.”

Last Updated on October 31, 2023

The Michigan Conference