“It was a blessing to be able to come to New Jersey and share my faith with others while strengthening my own faith,” says Lily Storlie, a 2021 graduate of Lakeside Lutheran High School, Lake Mills, Wis.
Lily was one of 84 students from Lakeside to participate in an Operation Go mission trip this year. These students made up 15 mission teams that volunteered around the United States, helping with canvassing, sports and science camps, vacation Bible schools, food pantry collections, and other mission projects.
“Many Lakeside students grow up knowing only one small part of our church body,” notes Michael Helwig, who serves as a religion teacher at Lakeside and as coordinator of Operation Go. “On these trips they get to see WELS at large in mission settings. They get to see church work, Christian education, mission efforts, vacation Bible school ideas, and worship approaches from around the synod. That is a blessing. Also, the students get to form strong friendships with the host families, the pastors, and the church members. Another blessing is that Operation Go has solidified or even begun the idea of public ministry as a vocation. Students have decided to enroll at Martin Luther College or made a commitment to help with a new idea at their home church while away on a mission trip.”
Operation Go began with one homeroom taking a mission trip during spring break in 2014 and has grown quickly since then. Each September, interested students at Lakeside fill out a two-page application form where they rate their interests and abilities regarding the various kinds of trips that are made as well as their availability. Helwig reviews the applications and forms the mission teams, which then raise the money needed to travel to the congregations where the mission projects are taking place.
Lily was placed on Team Jersey. She and three other Lakeside students helped with vacation Bible school at Immanuel, Long Valley, N.J., in August.
“Due to members’ work schedules and travel times to Immanuel, we’re not able to have enough help to conduct a Monday through Friday vacation Bible school,” says Mark Voss, pastor at Immanuel. “Having help from the Operation Go team makes our VBS possible each year.”
Voss explains that Immanuel’s weeklong VBS provides Immanuel with the ability to share Jesus with many new families. “Without a VBS, we may not have as many prospect contacts as we do. Without the Operation Go program, there may not be a VBS at Immanuel each year,” says Voss. “Each team we’ve had has been well prepared, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and very easy to work with. They have been creative in lesson plans and worked well with both VBS students and Immanuel volunteers. This is all because they are reflecting the love Christ has first shown them.”
To learn more about Operation Go, watch this video from Lakeside Lutheran High School that details the program.
Pictured in the featured image is Team Temple, which collected 1,200 pounds of food while serving at Trinity, Temple, Texas, and WELS’ new mission in Waco, Texas.
Volume 108, Number 10
Issue: October 2021