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Summer trips bring out new perspective in youth

July 31, 2007, 5:15 3510 Author: By Stephanie Rendon McCollum High School www.theranger.org After one of their many missions to Ukraine, Kasey Dittmeier and her family returned with baby sister.

Kasey Dittmeier, 17, and her family adopted Katyana Dittmeier, 9, while on a missionary trip to Ukraine five years ago. Dittmeier travels to different countries to do missionary work every summer, building houses, working in orphanages and visiting prisoners.

When most teens return from mission trips they bring back a new perspective on life and maybe some trinkets from countries far away.

But after one of their many missions to Ukraine, Kasey Dittmeier and her family returned with something more significant - a baby sister.

When Dittmeier was 12 years old her parents discovered Katyana in one of the orphanages where they spent time taking care of the children and teaching the orphanage staff to interact with the kids.

Katyana was a newborn when her mother left her to die in a puddle of mud, Dittmeier said.

Two men - one in a white suit, the other in soiled clothes - stood on the side of the road looking at the baby. The man with the suit would not dirty himself by helping the child.

So the other man scooped up the baby and took her to the hospital where she was put on life support, but doctors eventually removed the support.

"The doctors didn't think she would make it," Dittmeier, now 17, said of her little sister. "But she did because she's brave and strong. You can see that in her personality.

"Watching her grow has been amazing," she added.

Dittmeier has been on three monthlong trips to Ukraine through Hope Now Ministries, an organization that also works in South Africa. There, Dittmeier has worked in the orphanages and built houses.

Part of Dittmeier's work in Ukraine involved teaching the orphanage staff how to simply interact with the children by singing lullabies or playfully feeding.

"They used to get one hour of attention a day," she said of the children. "So for 23 hours they just stayed in a crib."

In addition to a little sister, Dittmeier said her experience abroad helping others has helped her own personal growth.

"You would be surprised, because you go to help other people, but it really helps you a lot," she said.

Although the mission trips are faith-based, Dittmeier said the goal is simply to help.

"It's not just about sharing the gospel through words, it's about sharing through actions," she said. "You can just be a nice person and go help out. You don't have to know all the answers or right things to say."

Fresh from a trip to Ukraine with the Louisiana Tech University Wesley Foundation, Heather Hebert said, "The goal of these trips is to be God's hands and feet."

The group of 18 stayed near Cherkassy, working at Kompas Park for the first two weeks preparing an old school for the orphans to use for summer camps.

They painted, cleaned up and did yardwork. Then they traveled to Uman where they participated in a church service and visited the prisons.

In the final two weeks, Hebert said they repaired an old hotel to use as a children's home and church.

"It has blessed our team to have the opportunity to speak life into each other and the people of Ukraine," Hebert said.

Like Hebert, Dittmeier said mission work is spiritually fulfilling, but working in Third World countries can be difficult.

"The first time I went I was crushed," she said. "It's a brutal awakening to see that everything is not like America."

Still Dittmeier would encourage any teenager considering mission work to just do it.

"We're the new generation," she said. "If we help out, we're going to help the world."

© 2007 The Ranger

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