Twenty five youth and adults from the Milbank area traveled to Washington, D.C. to take part in Together 2016. They joined more than 500,000 people at the National Mall to worship and be commissioned as a unified church for Jesus, their country, and the world on July 16.
“The goal was to get a million people together on the National Mall,” explained local organizer, Tammy Wollschlager. “But more important, the goal was to take the experience home to be ambassadors for Christ in our own communities.”
The Milbank group partnered with Rise Ministries of Sheldon, Iowa. The two groups met in Sioux Falls and loaded five charter buses. On the 24 hour trip, students started to make connections. Charlie Sanders, the center for the Sioux Falls Storm football team, sat with the Milbank students. In addition to playing football for the Storm, Sanders works full-time with a youth ministry movement called Collision in Sioux Falls. The group arrived in Washington on July 13.
They visited Arlington National Cemetery and witnessed the Changing of the Guards. They also toured the Capitol and walked through South Dakota Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s office in the Rayburn House of Republicans. Each evening the group gathered in the hotel for praise and worship time with the staff from Rise Ministries and Lifelight.
One morning was spent working on the National Park Beautification Project. The Milbank group painted park benches and fences at Logan Circle, a historical park. “The biggest obstacle was getting the homeless people off the benches so we could paint them,” said Wollschlager.
At the park, Wes Bowsher met a homeless man who had shoes that were falling apart. Wes took off his shoes and gave them to the man. “I felt bad for him,” Wes explained. “I didn’t even think about it. He needed them more than I did, and I had another pair back in my hotel room.”
A homeless man, Isaac, was sitting on a park bench – one that needed to be painted. After discovering they shared the same name, Isaac Fischer sat down and had a conversation with him. “I don’t think that is something Isaac Fischer would typically do,” said Wollschlager. “So these kids really stepped outside the box.”
A similar experience happened to Wollschlager. “We were working in the park and I met a lady from Selby, South Dakota. She was originally from South Dakota, but said she has lived near the park for 20 years. She was so grateful we were working on that park.”
The group’s second project of the day was packing backpacks of food for World Vision Syrian refugees at Christian Fellowship Church in Ashburn, VA. “I estimate we packed about 1,500 backpacks in a little over an hour.” A total of 3,000 backpacks were filled by 600 people over the course of the project.
To finish the day, the group attended a baseball game at Navy Yard Ballpark, where the Washington Nationals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates. “We had a fun night with the kids and great seats. The Together 2016 event was also highlighted during the game, so it was fun to be a part of that.”
Over the course of the week, 12,000 volunteer groups from California, South Dakota, Michigan, Colorado, and South Korea served in Washington. They contributed 9,000 volunteer hours.
The culmination of the week was the Together 2016 event on Saturday, July 16. The day was filled with renowned speakers and artists from Tim Tebow, Francis Chan and Louie Giglio to Lecrae and Hillsong United. The group spent the first three hours of the event providing security and crowd control. When all was said and done, the five buses from the local area provided about 1,500 hours of volunteer service.
Unfortunately, the Together event was cut short. “It was scheduled to go until 9 or 10 p.m., but ended at 5 p.m. because of the extreme heat. People were receiving medical care for heat exhaustion and several were transported to area hospitals.” The complete lineup of speakers and musicians all took the stage, but offered a condensed version.
Students who took part in the trip were: Isaac Fischer, Tanner Kettwig, Chase Pinkert, Gage Sayler, Brandon Adolph, Wes Bowsher, Caden Wollschlager, Jose Chen, Nathan Schwenn, Kerissa DeBoer, Macie Redmond, Madi Schulte, Taylar Bock, Sydney Zenk, Sadie Holland, Mikayla Street, and Morgan Schmitt. Adult chaperones included: Tammy Wollschlager, Terra Kettwig, Deb Bowsher, Brendan Schwenn, Emily Adolph, Josh and Kelsey Van Hill, and Evonne Culver.
The local group will give a presentation of their mission trip on Sunday, August 21, at 2 p.m. at Valley Baptist Church in Milbank. Everyone is invited to attend.