HARTSVILLE, S.C.

Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of stories about congregations responding to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s call to "Grow Christ’s Church Deep and Wide." The call to grow in evangelism, discipleship, servanthood and diversity was adopted by the 2008 General Assembly and renewed by the 2010 General Assembly. — Jerry L. Van Marter

Devotions and drywall, prayers and 10-penny nails, fellowship and framing hammers. Not your ordinary list of building tools, but then again WoodsWork is no ordinary construction team.

WoodsWork is the youth program at the 2,300-member Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church of Severna Park, Md. For the last 26 years, members of WoodsWork have spent part of their summers building homes for Habitat For Humanity as part of a nine-day, youth-planned, youth-led mission trip.

For this year's mission trip, the 125-member WoodsWork group, along with 40 advisors, made the 465-mile journey from Severna Park to Hartsville, S.C., to build four houses for the Darlington County Habitat For Humanity. By the time the youth group departed, four houses had been framed, including structures, roofs, windows, siding, shingles and electric rough-in.

The WoodsWork group was followed by a second group of about 50 college students called Driftwood, whose mission is to install soffit, fascia and drywall.

"It is unbelievable the head start this gives you on housing in the area," said Mark Haenchen, executive director of Darlington County Habitat for Humanity.

Haenchen said all of the homes are weathered in and are waterproofed. What remains are the plumbing, heating and air conditioning — tasks that require licensed professionals — and sheet rocking.

Allie Cahill, the youth co-chair of this year’s Woods Memorial mission trip, said a great deal of planning takes place well before the trip. She said the WoodsWork committee meets in September to look at all the Habitat programs within about 400 miles of Severna Park. E-mails are sent out, and a destination is chosen.

"Very few can support a group this big," she said.

In addition to constructing four houses, the youth also cook their own meals, clean up after themselves and spend time with friends in fellowship once back at their home base.

A large group of people standing below the entrance of a newly built, unpainted house, standing together for a photo.

The youth group at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church in Severna Park, MD, has been constructing Habitat for Humanity houses as summer youth mission trips for more than 25 years.

Before leaving Maryland, each student must participate in a car wash to raise money for the trip. Each youth is required to raise at least $350 in donations and pledges.

During this Christ-centered experience, the young people learn to build their faith and relationships with God and community.

The group's first project was in Upper New York in 1985 and involved 12 youth who helped to clean up and paint two small churches.

"This is my chance to become something bigger than myself," said one WoodsWork youth.

Bob Sloan is a freelance writer in South Carolina and a frequent contributor to Presbyterian News Service.