Summer is a perfect time for ministry and the folks at Extreme Faith STL are quite busy this year. Along with their regular food pantry, homeless ministry, and student leadership program, they are gearing up for their summer mission teams!
Extreme Faith was established 15 years ago by Kevin Mennel, and in 2010, a partnership was formed with St. Trinity Lutheran Church in south St. Louis City. Though ministry has evolved over the years, it is evident that God is working in and through the many volunteers and youth who serve there. Through partnerships with organizations like Orphan Grain Train, Center for Women in Transition, CLA Charter School, Restore St. Louis, and Christian Friends of New Americans, as well as their homeless ministry trailers filled with basic essentials, they’ve been able to touch lives and meet tangible needs in a variety of ways! They’ve also invested in the local youth to encourage character growth and leadership development. Mennel says that they’ve watched student leaders grow in faith and confidence that now overflows into other areas of their lives. Some have even begun to hold Bible studies with their families and often ask, “How can I share my faith with my friends?”
And of course, we can’t forget their summer mission teams! This year, an intern through the Lutheran Young Adult Corp. is helping with the Student Leadership Program and organizing outreach activities for the many teams who will be serving with Extreme Faith over the next couple months. Each team (of an average of 20-30 people) will partake in service projects, based on skill sets and desired goals, and the needs of the community partners. Then, they will engage in what Mennel calls “Love Projects.” These are intentional relationship-building, get-out-of-your-comfort-zone experiences – such as doing home visits, conversing with/praying for people at the mall, and interacting with the homeless who visit the trailers for much needed items.
It is these “love projects” that expose volunteers to new ways of thinking about faith, service, and the value of relationships, and they often have the most impact on both volunteers and those being served. In fact, even the neighboring community has come to know and look forward to teams coming each year, often recalling their experience with a certain youth or group who profoundly impacted their lives. Teams have also, time and time again, reported God moments once returning home. One team was riding the train home from their time with Extreme Faith and saw a woman who appeared to be troubled. They courageously began a conversation with her, which led to praying with her and eventually taking her to get the assistance she greatly needed.
It is evident that God uses the ministry of Extreme Faith to challenge and encourage a more Gospel-centered, relational approach to ministry and Mennel has no doubt that this summer’s teams, and student leaders, will also be used for His glory!