A group of three adults and seven teenagers from Benwood Mt. Lebanon Church recently took a very special trip.
The group spent a week in Tupelo, Miss., at Touched By An Angel Camp -- a camp specifically for mentally or physically handicapped youth and adults. The group stepped out of their comfort zones to become the campers' buddies for the week.
"Many of the teens were out of their comfort zones," chaperone Caitlynn McKinney said. "A lot of them worried at the beginning, but they jumped right in and participated."
The teens spent one-on-one time with the campers talking about God and reading Bible verses. The group spent time fishing and playing water games with the campers as well.
One night, the campers got to have a prom night, where they got dressed up.
"Most of them weren't able to go to prom at their own schools, so that was a big deal for them," McKinney, 23, said.
According to McKinney, only 3 percent of handicapped individuals get the opportunity to attend church or have the Gospel shared with them.
"I think it's important for them to have a camp where they can go learn and talk about God," she said.
McKinney was excited that one of the campers had accepted Jesus Christ before she and her team arrived. She was also excited many of her teens treated the campers like best friends.
"Watching the teens that I took be such good buddies with the campers who were there and seeing how mature they were," McKinney said of her favorite part of the trip. "I love the fact that they jumped right in and just started hanging out with them the very first day. I loved seeing people react with each other in good and positive ways."
McKinney said during their nightly devotionals within the mission team, the teens "would talk about their campers like they were their best friends. Once you get to know them and hang out with them, you don't think about their disabilities anymore. If people would take the time or step out of their comfort zones, I think their eyes would be opened a little bit."
McKinney said it wasn't only the campers who were impacted during the trip, but her team was changed as well.
"The campers ended up helping us too," McKinney said. "We had one camper named Casey, who had Down Syndrome, and he made our trip. He was hilarious. He would grab all the guys and get them together to talk to them about God. They shared God with us just as much as we did with them."
McKinney said the hardest part of the trip was leaving, as she and the teens are missing the campers they met.
"All of our teens were already talking about going back next year before we even left," she said. "We're hoping to do it again next year and take an even bigger group down, and some people are wanting to do some maintenance work at the camp as well."
Those participating in the mission trip included chaperones McKinney, Rachelle Royer and Jessica Metz, as well as teens Blake Baker, Dylan McCullough, Gavin McCullough, Kaytlin Galloway, Conner Hapenny, Holly Hapenny and Ben Hapenny.