MADISON, Ind. – Twelve churches and more than 90 youth gathered June 16-22 to make a difference in their community for Madison Mission Week. The event is in its second year and began with one young person, Macky Hecox, who thought there was something missing when her youth group worked in Cleveland, Tenn., for a service project.

Hecox, along with her friend Cara Walker, identified the concern as immediately leaving a community after finishing a mission project. The bonds of friendship between the youth and the homeowners faded with each mile during the return trip home. Who would maintain the connection they worked so hard to create during the week? Why don’t churches do mission work in their local community?

Hecox, a member of North United Methodist Church in Madison, approached her youth group leader, Kim Mahoney, with these questions. Mahoney’s passion is for the youth, to make sure they have experiences that will provide a foundation for their continual faith in Jesus Christ. Although she is a very compassionate person, her concern was not with the homeowners. It’s always with the kids. Hecox continued to insist something could be done, something that valued the people who were being helped, and helpers that would not abandon them once the project was complete. Mahoney talked to a few other people, including Walker’s father Ron, pastor of the Faith Alliance Church in Madison. More conversations followed and more leaders from more churches participated and Madison Mission Week was born.

Bishop Mike Coyner drove to Madison, June 18, to learn about the MMW project and to hear Hecox’s story. She sees it as an opportunity to point to Jesus and remind anyone who will listen that Christ is active and visible in Madison. She shared with Coyner how the project started, how she and Cara Walker and other volunteers caught a glimpse of Jesus and ran to follow him.

Mahoney shared it only costs each youth $40 to participate in the weeklong event, including meals, fellowship events and a T-shirt.

Our Bishop was introduced to the leaders of our community, was given a tour of the high school cafeteria where the workers have transformed the space to a dormitory, and traveled into the country where one of the worksites was located.

Just about every denomination had an active role in making MMW possible. More connections are being made. We ended the week Friday with a free concert and cookout for the people of the city of Madison.

We will continue to tell the story of Jesus in Madison and some conversations are in the works to provide more information about how the project works and is organized so others can try something similar in their own community.

Pastors are often thought of as the ones to come up with vision and direction. While that is a component of the office, I hope when I grow up, I can learn to listen to God like Macky Hecox. How about you?

Matthew Stultz is the pastor of North United Methodist Church of Madison, Ind.

Bishop Mike Coyner receives a Madison Mission Week T-shirt from project leader Macky Hecox.