More than a mission trip: Emmanuel UCC youth travel to Knoxville

July 7 through 11, a group from Emmanuel United Church of Christ went to Knoxville, Tennessee. The group, consisting of 8 adults and 26 kids in grades 4–12, went for an unusual reason: a mission trip.

“We’ve got more kids [in our church] than we used to,” said pastor Eric Rummel. “We wanted to have more activities for them.” 

Rummel didn’t want to do a “packaged” trip. He and the other organizers wanted to serve at another church where they could connect more meaningfully with the congregation.

Several months ago, Rummel began searching online for just such a church. He explained, “if prayer doesn’t work, then you go to Google!” He found a small United Church of Christ congregation in Knoxville that had several maintenance projects, but not enough youth to do all of the work.

From the initial contact with a pastor at that church, Rummel and others planned a trip that included work on several projects. The church had a playground area that “looked like it hadn’t been touched in 50 years.” By the time the group from Emmanuel was finished, the playground looked brand new, said Rummel. The group also did cleaning and general maintenance on the church’s pews.

There was also some sight-seeing time structured into the trip. The group made a stop at Cumberland Falls State Park in Kentucky, took a day trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and traveled on an old-fashioned riverboat.

While in Knoxville, the Emmanuel group ate and slept at their host church. The group took turns showering at a nearby Lutheran church—which had one only one shower. Rummel had contacted a Lutheran group doing a campus outreach at the University of Tennessee, and so the Emmanuel youth also helped with a project refurbishing an older home.

Everyday of the trip the group engaged in morning and evening group devotional time to keep them spiritually and theologically grounded. During that time, the group discussed insights into how each of them had “seen God working” throughout the day.

“Mission trips can be a transformational experience for everyone involved,” said Rummel, while rebuking the traditional idea that they only affect the recipients.

By the end of the trip, Rummel said, both the kids and adults saw that they had made a difference for the members of the Knoxville UCC church. From one Sunday to the next, the members of the church saw the changes that had been made inside and outside their building.

“Sometimes you get stuck in a rut going to church every Sunday,” said Rummel, “but those people felt like they were coming to a new church.”

The Emmanuel group hopes that the changes they made to the surfaces of the church will help internally energize the people there. Rummel and others hope to plan a similar trip for next summer. He is also looking forward to having the youth from the Knoxville UCC church come visit Bluffton in a few years.


Council approves creation of village building department

A third and final reading of two ordinances establishing a village building department and authorizing a request to the Ohio Board of Building Standards to certify the village for the enforcement of Ohio Building Codes was approved by Bluffton town council at Monday’s regularly scheduled meeting.

Also, two additional ordinances were given a first reading. The first ordinance proposes that the village adopt a solid waste management plan. Council voted to approve the ordinance as an emergency measure. A second ordinance proposes that the village grant a franchise to Ohio Power Company as the provider of electric energy. Council also voted to approve the ordinance as an emergency measure as the village’s current franchise expired in April and, according to mayor Fred Rodabaugh, the village has work for them to do.

Separately, village administrator Jamie Mehaffie reported that the bid opening for the South Main/North Dixie Highway projects has been postponed until Thursday, July 22 at 11 a.m.

Mehaffie also reported on the request from Bluffton Hospital to temporarily allow short-term use of Garau Street for loading and unloading. Council voted to allow the request for the period of time until completion of the project. The hospital’s main entrance will be used for deliveries.

Council discussed creation of a stand-alone water conservancy district. Allen County is currently part of the Maumee Conservancy District, which encompasses 15 counties. The proposed stand-alone conservancy district would only include 6 counties. The benefit of the stand-alone district is that it would allow more local influence and local control.

Mosquito spraying to begin this week in the village

Mosquito spraying in the village began this Wednesday evening, July 7, and will continue through the summer and early fall months.

Spraying will begin each Wednesday evening at dark. In the case of inclement weather, spraying will be Thursday at dark.

Residents wishing to not have their property sprayed may call the village offices at 419-358-2066.

Keeping downtown beautiful

For the fourth consecutive year, Stratton's Greenhouse, of Bluffton, donated 24 potted petunia plants to downtown Bluffton.

"America in Bloom is what inspired it. It's a program that promotes adding flowers to downtown areas," said Steve Stratton. "There are different classifications for small towns like ours and bigger areas also."

Stratton said the first year they added the potted containers to downtown was the year of the flood in Bluffton and that the flowers seemed to improve the mood of those in and around town." 

"It was a depressing time around town," said Stratton. "The flowers seemed to help."

Stratton employees and volunteers maintain the flowers along Main Street. They water the plants when needed in the early morning and replace broken or vandalized containers.

"We have a few extras on hand," said Stratton. "People sit on them or put garbage in them and we do our best to keep them clean."

"The village is very grateful to Stratton's," said village administrator Jamie Mehaffie. "The flowers add a lot to the overall look of Main Street."

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