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story.lead_photo.caption So they can remain close to home during the COVID-19 pandemic, pastors and youth from First Baptist Church in downtown Jefferson City are doing their missionary work at Community Christian Church, helping to restore and prepare a yard area for planting. From left, Xander Schmid, Cody Pickett, Doug Blaha Jr. and Zeke Duren, all 14, dig out clumps of grass and smooth out the dirt as they prepare for planting on the backside of the Ellis Boulevard church. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

For health and safety concerns, First Baptist Church youth are doing their summer missionary work here at home.

Every year, youth who attend the Jefferson City church travel outside the state for about a week to assist communities and individuals with disaster relief, said Melissa Hatfield, pastor of youth and missions at the church.

"We were going to do two mission trips this summer," Hatfield said. "But, because of COVID-19, we couldn't travel."

Last year, the youth traveled to Florida to assist with hurricane cleanup.

Youth who go on the mission trips also participate in youth choir, she said.

"So they sing every day. They sing at nursing homes and veterans homes and community places," Hatfield said.

But, again, the pandemic prevents those kinds of activities.

"Summer mission trip is our favorite thing," Hatfield said. "They love being together. They love traveling on the buses and being together."

The bus trips are bonding opportunities, said Andrew Pridemore, 14.

Pridemore spoke Tuesday morning as he and a group of less than a dozen boys did yard work along the back of Community Christian Church on Ellis Boulevard. The May 2019 tornado that struck Jefferson City heavily damaged the church.

Because youth missions couldn't travel this year, participants are doing their missionary work close to home in places like Community Christian Church, which is still under repair.

Pridemore participated in the mission to Florida last year. He said the boys working Tuesday were simply helping their neighbors.

Work was a little different in Florida.

"We went to someone's house that was wrecked — there was trash all over it," he said. "We couldn't even get to the back of it."

It was fun last year, he said, but it's also important to help people who haven't been able to meet in their church for more than a year because of the tornado.

The boys on Tuesday were improving drainage around the back of the church, Cody Pickett, 14, said.

It's "pretty hard" work, he said.

He admitted it was a little disappointing the youth group could not travel.

"But you can only do what you can control," he said. "And you leave the rest up to God."

The youth groups will continue doing mission work at other sites all week.

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