A Canby church does something a little different when it decides on mission projects this summer

Canby New Life Foursquare sent a mission trip to a new place this year – its own town of Canby.

During “Love Your City” this past week, youth and adults alike from New Life focused on different aspects of the Canby community, looking for ways to serve and support the people of the city.

Around 15 to 25 volunteers showed up on a given day. The church youth were the returning core of the team, but each day saw a mix of youth and adults from their church community.

“It’s very important to be able to look at the people around you and to know that everyone’s in need. It’s okay to ask the question ‘Can I help you?’” children’s pastor C.J. Knutson said. “And through that we can birth a new community that looks at each other in a different light.” The week opened last Monday with a focus on serving the church, so the youth did some projects around New Life. They also focused on the broader church, going down to Canby United Methodist Church and doing some landscaping in preparation for their upcoming block party.

“We don’t just want to be stuck with what we’re doing, but also see what other churches are doing and help with what they’re doing and what their mission is,” Knutson said.

Tuesday’s focus was helping the elderly, so the team visited Countryside Living and Thelma’s place to sing songs, have tea parties, and just keep the residents company.

On Wednesday, the team went to various businesses around town including Full Bloom Concepts and the Canby Herald to clean up, remove obstructions and sometimes bring the workers coffee.

On Thursday, team members went to their physical neighbors to help with those around-the-house jobs that tend to get put off indefinitely. Some, from Woodburn, helped a woman get projects done that had been neglected as she cared for her ailing son.

Thursday, they worked with The Canby Center, cleaning up and moving things around.

“The Canby Center helps take care of our families, so we want to take care of The Canby Center,” Knutson said.

On the last day, Friday, the team threw a block party at the Canby Regency. Part of the goal was to find 8-11 year olds who may want to attend their free upcoming Camp Agape.

Camp Agape will be Aug. 26-29 at Canby Grove. The high school students from New Life who staff the camp raise all the needed funds so kids can go for free.

New Life pastor Ron Swor said the project was part of this year’s theme at New Life – “Living Sideways.”

“The inspiration came from a conviction that I really did not take the time to see my neighbors, at least not in the way Jesus saw His neighbors,” Swor said, adding that the goal is to learn to be less inward focused and more focused on the people and needs around you, and learning to ask the question, “Who is my neighbor?”

Knutson said the inspiration for the project has been “years in the making.” The church has been sending groups to Mexico for a couple of years but, “Sometimes when you do that you neglect your own backyard,” he said. “We just wanted to open our eyes to who are our neighbors and who are people in our community who really need our support.”

Over the last couple of years, the church members began sending their missions trips closer and closer to home. First they sent trips to serve the homeless and an at-risk youth camp in Spokane, Wash. Then, they sent trips to Portland.

“Instead of getting further away from ourselves, we actually got closer into our community,” Knutson said. He described it like Google Maps – slowly zooming in closer and closer, until finally they hit their own hometown.

There have been difficulties, some springing from the simple fact that they’ve never done this before. Knutson said it’s also difficult to recognize the struggles of your own hometown.

“It almost reflects a little bit on yourself,” Knutson said, “If there are needs you don’t know about.”

He also said it was good for the youth to learn to communicate and jump in to help.

“Actions do speak louder than words in this case, and they’re learning how to work and to serve, but also how to communicate” he said.

The church is “just trying to do what we can to support those who we see every single day.”

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