We spent a week and a half volunteering at YWAM in Salem, Oregon. Youth With A Mission is a non-denominational Christian organization that encompasses a bunch of different ministries including lots of DTSs (Discipleship Training Schools) and mission trips.
*You can read more about why volunteer and who we volunteer with (including an overview of YWAM) here.
YWAM Salem is locatedd just southeast of Salem, Oregon, in a rural area that is just a few miles from town and shopping, but is peaceful and beautiful.
This would be our first ever time volunteering with YWAM as part of their Mission Builders team.
YWAM Salem has some RV sites just for their Mission Builder volunteers…
The sites here are set on a hill behind the campus, and have a great view/location, but it wasn’t necessarily a great place for our extra big rig. 😉
The campus does have a site down with the housing, but to get to it, the maintenance guys had to cut down half the forest for our tall 5er!!!
It didn’t take us nearly as long to get into the site as we thought it would, and we had a lovely place under the trees for our time at YWAM Salem.
Salem has plans for building an RV campground for their Mission Builders, in the future, in a field they have in front of the campus.
At YWAM Salem, each week starts out with Worship on Monday morning at 8am. Because this was our first Mission Builders assignment, we found it extra fascinating and intriguing that they start out every week like this. We loved it. And because this location hosts a Korean DTS (Discipleship Training School), the worship time was part in English, and part in Korean! The keyboardist was the interpreter, and sometimes there were people singing just in English, sometimes just in Korean, and sometimes both languages were being sung at the same time. It was pretty incredible. So was the atmosphere here. Everyone was so thankful, and caring, and cheerful – like they were continually reminded and amazed by what God has done for them. Isn’t that how we all should be all of the time….
The days at YWAM Salem, for a Mission Builder, look like this (remember that our only experience is as Mission Builders construction volunteers – your stay may be very different if you are volunteering with housekeeping, the kitchen, or in the office! – or if you are staying in base housing):
*Monday morning only – worship at 8am for an hour. Thursday mornings are prayer time at 8:30am (optional, but you are welcome to join if you want to).
*Go to work from about 8:30 until lunchtime.
*Lunch is provided in the cafeteria (not mandatory) at 12:30.
*The work day resumes at 1 (Wed offers a ‘tea break’ at 2:45 – a great time to get to know others you may not work with on the base).
*Dinner is at 5:30. I don’t know if Salem provides dinner every night of the week. My guys would come home for dinner, and didn’t go to the cafeteria for that meal.
*Evenings are on your own.
Because of the Korean DTS that was going on while we were there, the cafeteria often serves up Korean foods! The littles and I did not usually go to meals in the cafeteria (our personal choice tho we were invited – I, and the littles, just prefer to eat in the rv since we weren’t actually helping out there), but the one day that we did go to lunch with the staff and students, we were treated to a Korean noodle soup and veggie patties. Both were very good! The cafeteria there also always has a good salad bar.
Then the work began…
The truth about volunteering with any place the first time, is that neither side knows what they are getting. The organization doesn’t know if they will be getting someone that thinks they are a great builder but doesn’t know loads and codes, and the laborer doesn’t know quite what they will be asked to do. Mr. Fred was pretty experienced with this and gave a initial project that would be a good measure of how skilled my guys were.
Once he and Vaughn got to talking, and he saw how my guys worked and what they know, he and Vaughn went off to look at other projects while the boys demo’d and rebuilt the deck flooring and the handrail around it.
Western Oregon is so humid that most people use treated wood for everything. The boys knocked it out in about a day’s work.
And tried not to walk around on the ground as much as possible! It rained some more while we were there, and there was a lot of mud!
But the littles and I did sneak out some to walk around and check out the campus and grounds. We all loved the huge maple leaves that were falling, and littering the ground, and the girls picked bouquets of them.
Part of YWAM Salem’s ministry outreach is a summer-time climbing wall and rope course. They were closed while we were there, but thousands of people visit the base to take part in them during the summer season.
The little girls’ favorite part of the base was the playground! It’s not very often that you find a real merry-go-round anymore, and they spent a ton of time on this one…
this pic must have been from our first day there! We had put away the mud boots when we left the coast thinking that we wouldn’t need them again until we went back to the coast. wrong. We pulled them back out fast, and wore them the remainder of our time in Oregon!
And yes, of course one of the kids fell while pushing the merry-go-round! Thank goodness they had inexpensive laundry that we could also use!
Back home the kids always loved it when we would go to gramma and grampa’s house and go out after dark on a summer night and go night crawler hunting with flashlights. Here in Oregon, they didn’t have to wait for after dark, it is so wet here that they would find huge worms all the time!
The base had the tools that the guys would need for the YWAM projects.
Our goal is to eventually do this pretty much full-time (between YWAM, Samaritan’s Purse, and some other organizations), and to bring the guys’ tool trailer along with us. He did wish he had a few of his own tools, but the base tools did the job too.
During our week and a half there, my builders demo’d and rebuilt the deck, did lots of handy-man projects like checking water pressure and building a new header and door frame to help give some privacy to 2 families sharing one base house. Joel and a new friend put in some time packing around the leaf blowers, and like Mr. Fred said, “I’m not sure how much they will get done, but they’ll sure have a good time doing it!”
They were pretty good at it, and had some big piles built up by the time they were done!
The big project for our time there was to tear off and rebuild the bridge railing leading up to the public business buildings and the outdoor courses.
They did both sides of the bridge. It took some muscles to get the job done as the big bolts and washers holding the old railing on had rusted together, and the guys had to just break the bolts off in the wood and then sawsall them off, then to be sure to place the new bolts so they didn’t overlap.
The base wanted the old wood for other uses, so the other kids pulled all the old screws, nails, and bolts out. Occasionally dad would have to come help them with a particularly stubborn fastener…
The littles got to help on this project some by cleaning up after the guys! Molly helped to haul off the old boards and put them in a neat pile for the staff to haul off. Her form may have been a little unconventional, but she got the job done!
Love me some get’er done/make do attitude.
This was a great base for our first time volunteering with YWAM! Vaughn and the boys really hit it off with Mr. Fred, and we hope that we were able to help them out with some projects that they may not have been able to get to themselves. We also learned (and are still learning) a lot about volunteering with YWAM.
Some facts about YWAM Salem (these are specific to the Salem base – if you would like info on volunteering with YWAM in general, you can find it on my volunteering post here)…
*The Salem base does have quiet hours – from 10 to 7:30 M-F, 11 to 9 Sat. & Sun.
*Everything is provided from public restrooms to inexpensive laundry, wifi, trash dumpster, and recycling bins.
*No pets, alcohol, or drugs.
*The first Thursday of every month is a ‘Night of Missions’ at 7 pm. The community is invited, and you are welcome to join if you’d like (we’d highly recommend going).
*Because YWAM bases are not selling anything (producing an income) there is a suggested donation of $5/rv site/night to help cover the actual costs associated with housing your rv (mainly electricity). For campus housing, suggested donation is $10/night/person, or $200/mo/adult.
*Salem is not a large campus, and they have limited volunteer opportunities. Please contact them to assess their current needs, and to see if this location would be a good fit for both parties, before planning a visit. At the time of our visit, the base needed more carpentry-skilled workers. For others, there is a one month commitment needed (tho they would also love it if skilled construction workers stayed for a month too! lol). This changes depending on base needs and seasons, so call for their current policy on volunteers.
If you are not interested in volunteering at YWAM Salem, or the timing just isn’t right, you can still visit the campus during the course season (March thru October) and try out their rope course and climbing walls! There are hourly rates, and half and whole day rates. You can find out more about their ropes course, check out their website page here and call to make sure of availability before you go.
We really enjoyed our time volunteering at YWAM Salem. If you would like to learn more about the location or it’s ministries, you can find the YWAM Salem website here.
For us, our visit was a great time of learning about the YWAM organization, meeting new people with a like vision/worldview, and getting to serve others. If you decide to visit, please warn Mr. Fred that we are planning on invading again – just not when it’s quite so rainy!!!