Associates Ken and Michelle Barrie have worked in youth ministry for more than 40 years, but one mission stands out: their Hearts of Hope Ministry and its summer service trips to Pembroke Township. What started back in 1999 as part of the youth ministry program at St. Patrick Church, continues to immerse teens in serving the poor and the marginalized.

Building birdhouses at Kids’ Camp

Located 25 miles from Kankakee, Pembroke is one of the poorest townships in the country. Yet, what teens on the mission have discovered is that its residents are faith-filled and joyful, and that feeling is contagious.

This month, Hearts of Hope made its 24th trip to Pembroke. Led by Michelle Barrie, with Ken Barrie restricted by a recent surgery, they were aided by three job site supervisors: Mark Hodak, Mike Kuntz and Jamie Boyd.

“It was different, but it continued,” Michelle Barrie says of the slightly altered three-day mission trip.

Their job sites were demanding and required teens to roll up their sleeves and dig in. In just four days, they accomplished a lot. One group returned to Run-A-Way Kids’ Camp, where Hearts of Hope has continued to support over the years. Teens set out to build a horse corral, by pounding in 50 iron stakes that were seven feet tall. The new corral connected to a horse shelter the group had built two years ago. They also repainted and rescreened one of the pavilions they previously had built for the camp.

Another team worked at the home of a parishioner of Sacred Heart Church in Hopkin’s Park, painting her deck, shed and fence, as well as repairing her roof.

Pounding in a post for the horse corral

“We have been at Yvonne’s on other missions,” Michelle says. “This year, Yvonne came out and painted with us on day two and even played music for us.”

Returning to the sites of former projects, helped the young people deepen their relationships with the residents of the area, Michelle Barrie says: “The youth make strong personal connections with all those they serve.”

Painting a shed

While prior years have included overnight stays, as well as prayer services with student and alumni talks, this year’s mission was slightly scaled back. Yet, it included an afternoon of reflection with Reggie and Brenda, owners of the Kids’ Camp, and a final dinner back at the Barrie home, with Ken.

“We still find Pembroke a place where we deepen our relationship with the Lord,” Ken Barrie says, “and it continues to develop our faith and perspectives on our journey.”