Group 'setting an example' in mission to Wyoming

By Matt Russell

Tom Dobberke's self-doubt melted away in the Nebraska heat last summer as the porch he helped build took form.

Next Saturday, Dobberke, 17, will test himself again as he heads to a Wyoming Native American reservation with a group of teens from Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Rochester. He's getting ready for a new experience with the group he joined on a mission trip to the aging farm town of Imperial, Neb., last summer.

"It felt like God really put us there for a purpose," Dobberke said. "We formed really tight bonds with everyone and it was neat how we came together. It was like a utopia, almost. We were all working together, working for a purpose, working for God."


It's that kind of talk that has inspired Holy Cross Lutheran Church this past year after teens like Dobberke wrote essays in the church bulletin and spoke to the congregation about their experiences in Nebraska. Twenty-six teens and six adults will go on the church's summer mission trip this year. That compares to the seven teens and two adults who went last year.

"Just hearing about all the miracles that happened last year, I'm excited to see the things that will happen to me," said Emily Dieter, 15, of Rochester.

Dobberke wasn't the only one who overcame doubt while helping disabled and disadvantaged people with home projects in Imperial last year. Others in the Holy Cross group shared similar fears after they were split up and put into teams with people they didn't know doing work they had never done before. It was an experience in which they made new friends, but also grew inside, said Curt Boger, 43, of Oronoco, an adult leader on the trip.

"You wonder how much of the spiritual aspect they get out of something like that, but you read these (the essays teens wrote about the trip) and find out that they did," he said.

Like last year's trip to Nebraska, this year's week-long mission trip to Wyoming is organized by Group Workcamps, a Colorado-based Christian service organization. Boger expects the Holy Cross group will work on projects such as wheel chair ramps, roofing work and painting while they are at Wind River reservation.

The Rev. Steve Schauder of Holy Cross is impressed with the way his congregation has supported the mission trip by donating money and tools to help make it possible. "They just rally behind these kids," he said.

"The youth are not the church of tomorrow; they're the church of today," he added. "What they're doing is powerful mission work and they're setting an example for people who are older than them."

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