Sleeping on the hard ground was uncomfortable and their feet were cold, but youth from Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Boonsboro, Md., are wasting no time in signing up again for “Social Justice Night” in November.

For the past several years, the youth group has slept outside in cardboard boxes in the church parking lot on a cold autumn night to raise awareness about homelessness. Again this year, about 10 middle- to high-school students are expected to participate, said Laura Iager, who runs the youth group with Jennifer Poffenberger.

Iager, whose son participates, said a resident of the Frederick Rescue Mission will again come to the event to discuss how he became homeless and turned his life around.

Before constructing their cardboard and duct tape shelters for the night, the youth will have a supper similar to what a homeless person might receive at a food ministry. Supper and breakfast will consist of soup, applesauce, pretzels, juice, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and cereal.

Evening activities also have included reading Old and New Testament texts on poverty and discussing homelessness and the poor. A fire helps take the chill off. The youth can bring sleeping bags and warm clothes, but no technology or cellphones are allowed.

After last year’s event, the young people reported that sleeping in a cardboard box was “hard,” “cold” and their “toes felt frozen.” Other teens have said the experience gave them a new sense of respect for the homeless and that they shouldn’t take basic needs for granted.

“The night taught me that understanding people’s situations is important in helping them to be successful,” participant Zane Poffenberger said. “Helping people is an important part of what is expressed by our congregation and the justice night encouraged me to take opportunities to help those who experience homelessness and hunger.”

Social Justice Night is just one of the ways that Trinity reaches out to the community, said council member and parish nurse Susan Layos. The congregation also stocks food for Micah’s Backpacks, a ministry that provides bags filled with nutritious foods on Friday so students in need can have lunch on the weekend.

Wendy Healy
Healy is a freelance writer and member of Trinity Lutheran Church, N.Y. She served as communications director for Lutheran Disaster Response of New York following the 9/11 attacks.

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