A week without cell phones?

That's right. IPods are out, too.

Thirty-six brave teenagers packed their bags, snipped their wireless connections and kissed their moms good-bye Sunday. They headed on a church mission trip -- to the City of York.

Many youth groups plan out-of-state or out-of-country mission trips for the summer. This crew is camping inside a local church as they volunteer with urban ministries just miles from their homes.

"The purpose is to expose the suburbia kids, and, lord willing, help them develop a heart for what's going on in the city," the Rev. Dan Katz said. The youth groups at his church, Grace Fellowship in North Codorus Township, and Providence Presbyterian Church in Manchester Township teamed up for the project.

Nearly all of the participating students live in the suburbs of York and have little to no contact with the city, planners said.

"We're trying to bridge that gap," said Darryl MacPherson, a youth leader with Providence Presbyterian Church.

"I feel if you're not ministering in your own city, is it really fair to keep going outside? Your city is your community."

The youths and their 11 chaperones are living at York's Salvation Army through Saturday.

Starting today, they'll scatter around the city to help at a children's day camp, clean up Kiwanis Park, serve meals at the York Rescue Mission and do maintenance work at the Salvation Army property. The no-cell-phones rule is to keep them focused.

During daily devotions, adults and students will discuss urban outreach opportunities related to homelessness, poverty, literacy, unemployment and other needs in the city, MacPherson said.

"We don't have all the answers," he said. "We're going to support the ministries going on in the city."

A new congregation, City Church, hosted a kickoff for the youths Sunday evening at the YMCA of York and York County.

Before the send-off, eighth-grader Zoe Heasley, 13, of West Manchester Township said she was sure the weeklong experience would change her.

"I've never worked this close to people who are homeless or volunteered for this long," she said.

"We're going to try to make connections."

Ninth-grader Jon Stone, 14, of Dover Township wasn't sure what to expect from the mission trip, which is his first. That's what intrigued him.

"I came to see what would happen," he said.

The Rev. Aaron Anderson prayed for the young volunteers and told them God calls them to work for peace and prosperity in their city.

The Bible says, "your own sense of wholeness and completeness is connected to your neighbors," he said.

"Our actions have a ripple effect."

mburke@ydr.com; 771-2024


Grace Fellowship: www.grace-fellowship.net

Providence Presbyterian: www.yorkpca.org

City Church: blog.citychurchyork.com