Generations Work Together at UM ARMY

January 3, 2022 | Read Time: 3 mins

By: Mrs. Kenda McVeigh

One of the beautiful things about missions is people of all generations can work together for the common purpose of sharing the love of Christ with people young and old, and of all cultures and languages. UM ARMY is one of those missions’ experiences where generations share in the work of God to help others.

UM ARMY brings adults and high school students together to repair homes, paint, and build wheelchair ramps for the elderly or others who have a need. Every summer, our youth and adults take a week out of their schedules to work together at UM ARMY. This summer at the Night of Worship service celebrating these young people, Mark Swayze dug into the biblical basis for generations to share God’s work with each other.

He explained, “In praising the mighty works of God, David writes in Psalm 145, One generation commends Your works to another… As youth leaders, we know that what stirs the heart of a student is when an adult commends the works of God to them. And as an adult, you might have felt overwhelmed when a generation of young people commended the works of God to you. That’s the back and forth that’s supposed to occur in the church – it’s generations sharing the works of God with one another.”

Several young people talked about how the work they did built bridges between generations – not only with the adults who helped, but also with the clients on the trip. One high school graduate told his story about working on the home of an older lady. “UM ARMY is all about the people. We served an elderly woman who was so loving and kind. She told us she prayed every night that no one would fall off the ladder when we painted her house. By the end of the week, I felt like her grandson. I want to keep a connection with her family – it’s a great thing.”

Rev. Mark Sorensen also shares a story about how he was impacted by a UM ARMY group commending his calling as a youth pastor. “Early in my ministry as a youth pastor in Marshall, Texas, a group from UM ARMY came to my church – we were the host church. As the youth pastor, it fell on me to make sure they had everything they needed. They asked me to lead the closing devotion at the end of the week.

For that last devotion, we created this cross with about 150 candles inside it for the service. During worship, the students came down and lit the candles. When these candles began to melt together, I gave this message ‘you know when you melt us all down, we are one in the body of Christ -we all have our unique giftings, but we are one people.’

Before the group got back in the van to go home, the leader came over to me and said, ‘look, we were talking last night, and we were supposed to take this cross back with us. We know you have this calling, and it is so clear to us, so we want you to have this cross, we’ve all signed it and we just want to leave this with you.’ I was overwhelmed by their gift.”

Mark continues, “Twenty-five years later I still have that cross in my office, and every time I walk into my office it’s symbolic for me of this call. It started in Marshall, Texas and then it made the trek to Tyler, went from Tyler with me to Shreveport. While in Shreveport, I get this call from Dr. Ed Robb asking me to come to The Woodlands, and I was so scared, but I said “yes.” As I prepared to go, the doubt started creeping in, and as I took this cross off the wall to pack up my things for the move, I flipped it over and it took my breath away. On the back of the cross, it said ‘With Love, The Woodlands United Methodist Church UM ARMY.’ It’s like that cross just led me home.”

While the youth never knew where God might call Mark to serve, they were open to God’s leading as they encouraged him on his journey. And now, as Mark leads The Woodlands Methodist Church, those young people from 25 years ago play an integral part in his story.

Just as Mark Swayze pointed out in his message, when youth and adults commend the works of God to each other, they allow God’s mighty acts to become visible to each other and to the world around them.