St. Paul youth to share burritos and faith

Youth leaders Rachel Wyman Dawson, far left, and Matt Dawson, third from right, pose with, left, Kari Wheeler, Anastasia Skonberg, Christian Leithead and Josh Wheeler. Some of the youth group members were not available for the picture. (Mike Rostad photo)

Some show their philanthropy by writing checks to charities and organizing fundraisers. The St. Paul Lutheran youth group shows theirs by cleaning beaches, repairing boardwalks and handing out burritos to those who‘d like a bite to eat.

Under the guidance of youth leaders, Matt and Rachel Wyman Dawson, the St. Paul kids will be giving burritos to hungry folks in the downtown area on Sunday, Oct. 7 after preparing the food at the church.

“There’s a common misconception that ‘church’ is only in a building,” Rachel said. Church is where God is at work, where His people show His love, mercy and concern for others, she said.

Leftover burritos will go to the Brother Francis Shelter.

Inspiration for this novel way of reaching out came from Bikes and Burritos, a First Baptist college ministry in Eugene, Ore., that St. Paul Lutheran Church has financially supported. On a weekly basis, volunteers in Eugene make burritos, load them into backpacks and ride their bikes in areas where the homeless roam. The burrito packages are stamped with stickers that refer to John 6:35, which says Jesus Christ is the “bread of life” and satisfies the soul’s hunger and thirst.

Following the advice of St. Francis of Assisi, the Oregon mission seeks to “preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.”

When the St. Paul youth group hands out burritos, they will not target a particular class of people, but generally, anyone who is hungry.

If asked about why they are performing this deed of charity, the kids will have an opportunity to “tell them that they represent St. Paul Lutheran Church and explain their faith in God,” Rachel said.

“We’re hopefully teaching the youth that they’re not only giving their money, but time, to God’s work,” she said. “In Kodiak there are always things we can do to show the love of God.”

Anticipating that the kids may come across people with whom they don’t normally interact, Rachel said it’s important for youth to speak to those they perceive as different. “Just because someone is different doesn’t mean that person is scary,” she said.

Rachel said programs such as Bikes and Burritos require a lot of time and dedication. “The kids have a lot of things going in life, but they always found time to serve,” she said.

St. Paul has been financially contributing to Bikes and Burritos as part of its mission program which focuses on local, national and international Christian humanitarian organizations. Support comes through 10 percent of the church offering and various fund raisers. When possible, kids also donate their time to these projects.

Last spring, the youth group and its pastor, Rev. Elden Simonson, went to Ouzinkie, where they repaired boardwalks, put the finishing touches on the community greenhouse and worked on the Baptist Mission house, preparing it for summer volunteers. Closer to home, they cleaned beaches, picked up litter near town and prepared an Oriental dinner to raise funds for victims of the 2011 tsunami in Japan.

This Christmas, the youths will partner with the Kodiak Bible Chapel to fill shoeboxes with gifts for Operation Christmas Child, which is sponsored by Samaritan’s Purse.

The Dawsons have been youth leaders at St. Paul for two years. Matt works as a National Marine Fisheries Service biologist and technician at the Fisheries Research Center on Near Island. Rachel is a physical therapist with Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center.

The couple met in Matt’s native Scotland while Rachel was studying divinity there.

They came to Kodiak in summer 2010 from Nebraska.

At the time, St. Paul intern pastor, Joe Johnson, was ready to leave Kodiak after a year of serving here. The Dawsons were delighted and surprised to learn Johnson had been a seminary school mate of Rachel’s friend and maid of honor at the Dawsons’ wedding.

Rachel, who had worked with youth groups at a Methodist church in Nebraska, took over direction of the St. Paul group while her husband was serving as a NMFS observer on fishing vessels. He joined her later as co-director.

The Dawsons said they appreciate the warm welcome they received when they came to Kodiak. When Matt’s parents visited from Scotland, the church family graciously hosted them and some parishioners invited them to their fish camps on the south side of Kodiak Island.

“It’s great to know the kids at St. Paul,” Matt said. “By serving the church and community we’re getting back immensely.”

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