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Next Generation: Draper siblings live out their faith

January 01, 2011|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI | alnotarianni@aol.com
  • Spencer and Elizabeth Draper have both participated with Operation Barnabas, an organization that teaches ministry through programs and physical labor.
Courtesy of Draper family



Elizabeth Draper wasn't sure about heading out on a six-week trip across the country with a bunch of strangers in an old bus.

She was just 15-years-old and ambivalent about leaving the security of home, family and friends.

A year earlier, in 2007, applying to become part of Operation Barnabas had seemed like a good idea. One of OB's ministry teams had visited her church, and her family had hosted six of the team members at her home.

"They were all so friendly and hilarious. It was something I really wanted to be a part of," said Elizabeth, now 18, of Williamsport.

But when her father dropped her off at Dulles International Airport, she had second thoughts.

"As I sat there, what I was doing kind of hit me, and I just sat there bawling," said Elizabeth, who graduated from Saint James School.

Still, she got on the plane and set out for California for a week-long orientation. She and 89 other teens slept on the floor in the classrooms of a church. Each morning, they'd go to a local public school for a 30-second shower, she said.

Leaders trained the group to present ministry programs including puppet shows, pantomimes, skits and songs. The team practiced strategies for sharing the gospel message, then set off to minister through a combination of programs and physical labor.

"We had a grueling, tight schedule from 6 (a.m.) until midnight. Our bus had no AC. Everyone was sweating, and we had to cover the entire country," Elizabeth said. "We did a lot of singing and praying. It teaches perseverance, I think."

At each stop, churches had projects waiting  — anything from pulling weeds at an elderly lady's house, to painting. Iowa had just been flooded when the team stopped there, so the team spent a full day moving sandbags.

"That was really hard manual labor that day," Elizabeth said.

Nonetheless, she was impressed by the spiritual rewards of the trip.

"It was so powerful, ministering to churches and getting out into the community doing the programs and including the gospel," she said. "It kind of opened my eyes for missions, going out and talking to people I don't even know."

Elizabeth's brother, Spencer Draper, had completed an application for OB in 2008, then decided it wasn't for him. When he saw how the experience impacted his sister, he changed his mind.

In 2009, the summer after Spencer graduated from Saint James School, he joined an OB team that traveled to sites throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland. While he was still in orientation, Spencer, now 19, called home and said, "My world has been rocked."

The church today can be too ritualistic and has "low expectations, to some extent," Spencer said.

"People get too comfortable saying a prayer and that's it. We forget that it's a matter of living out your faith. It's one thing to say the Bible is true and another thing to act on it," he said.

Fired up from their domestic trips, Elizabeth and Spencer decided to go international with their ministries. They applied for OB's international program, OBI, and this past June, they set off for the Philippines. They ministered for a few days in Manila before hopping a small plane and a boat to the island of Boracay, where they stayed for two weeks. Parts of the island are tourist destinations, Elizabeth said, but other areas are villages of simple bamboo structures where natives live in poverty.

"It was very hot, and the children ran around in barely any clothes," she said.

Team members slept in bunk beds at a converted bar called the Jungle Barn. Showers were cold and toilets flushed only by dumping water into them. The team's days were spent presenting programs, doing manual labor, and hosting feeding sites for locals.

Their main labor project was helping missionaries build a ministry center. Without construction equipment other than a cement mixer, each day the group moved rocks and concrete in buckets via assembly line up to a second floor.

A highlight of the trip was presenting a program at Rizal High School, which has roughly 30,000 students and is known as the world's largest high school. Missionaries had tried for more than 20 years to present at the school, but until then, had never been allowed.

"It was really cool. It opened a door that (missionaries) had been praying about for years," Elizabeth said.

Elizabeth attends Hagerstown Community College. She plans to compete her degree in nursing at Towson University and to pursue a career in medical missions. This month, Spencer will begin studying for a degree in ministry at Eternity Bible College in California.

"It's all about vocation and being God's hands and feet wherever he's put you," Spencer said. "Once you experience those things, you don't want to go back. It just becomes a lifestyle, a better way to live."

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