2017 Zim Camp Participants Chosen

Nine of 11 Zim Camp youth met at the UM Center recently. From left, in back row, are Ben Raygor, John Vanderhoff, Hannah Kostelnik, and Andrew Gross; middle row, Vivian Somes, Ericka Wronek and Sara Dix; and, front, Kiersten Kennedy and Abigail Fry.



Eleven high school youth from Western PA churches have been selected for this summer’s Zim Camp, an opportunity to experience life and ministry in Zimbabwe for about two weeks.

Zim Camp is part of the Conference partnership with the United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe and is designed for youth ages 15-18.  The group will travel to Zimbabwe June 20 and return July 5, 2017. They will spend time enjoying fellowship, getting to know youth in Zimbabwe and working together on some of the district-to-district projects launched as part of  the Zimbabwe Partnership.

Chosen to participate in Zim Camp 2017 were:

  • Kylie Blaszkowski of Latrobe UMC, who has served as a page at Annual Conference, participated in SPARK and youth activities in her church, plays on her school volleyball team, volunteers at the local hospice, and is a junior firefighter.
  • Cassidy Burke of First UMC in St. Mary’s, who volunteers in a soup kitchen, is actively involved in the youth group, attends Snow Camp at the Circle C Ranch in NY, participated in many camps, and in her school band and community Christmas concerts.  
  • Sara Dix of Union City First UMC, who said she feels as if she is being called to be in Zimbabwe. Hannah is a cheerleader for her school's boys basketball team, a junior firefighter in training for interior firefighting in the community, and volunteered at a Camp Halo, a Christian camp that serves foster children, those experiencing homelessness, or living with disabilities.
  • Abigail Fry of Latrobe UMC, who wants to be part of ZimCamp to grow in her relationship with God. She is part of the leadership team for her church youth group.
  • Andrew J Gross of Union City First UMC, who is the youth chair for his church council, attended his district conference this year and participated in SPARK the past four years. Active in his school, he is on the prom committee, was on the middle school student council and is a part of Sparks, a program to "get kids off the streets after school and keep them out of trouble."
  • Kiersten Kennedy of Latrobe UMC is active in her youth group and the leadership group. She has been an Annual Conference page several times and last year part of the Conference Youth Ministry Team and was a non-voting delegate at jurisdictional conference. She went to Costa Rica with my church a few years ago, and enjoyed learning about the culture and sharing the love of Christ through many different ministries in communities there. 
  • Hannah Kostelnik of Whitaker UMC is a three-sport athlete at her school, playing varsity softball and serving as captain of both the varsity vollleyball and swim teams. She is also a member of the Future is Mine club, the Creating Value Club and president of the Students Against Destructive Decisions club. She works at a movie theater and helps with special needs children at sensory-friendly showings. This will be Hanna's second ZimCamp trip. She said there is still "so much more I can learn about the culture of Zimbabwe and i would l also love to experience another Zimbabwe Church service. The first experience  made me appreciate all the things in life, people and, in the world around me."
  • Benjamin Raygor of Somerset Grace UMC has a passion to experience different culture and love to travel. He wants to witness worship and the church from a Zimbabwean perspective and hopes to apply what he learns to improve worship and the church back home. Ben runs the soundboard and handles other technical aspects to ensure a smooth worship service at his church. He is part of the church’s youth group, plays piano with the praise band and occasionally accompanies children’s plays and special music.
  • Vivian Somes of Community UMC, Harrison City sings with her church's youth praise team, helps  with children’s ministries and often sings special music for traditional services. She is a member of the Conference Youth Ministry Team has been on several mission trips. She is very passionate about missions and has always wanted to go to Africa. At school, Vivian is a cheerleader, a member of the Community Action Program, Warriors4Christ, Student Union, Spanish Club, and Chorus. She babysits and as a Girl Scout, she earned her silver award.
  • John Vanderhoff of Trinity UMC in McMurray said he has grown in his faith through participation in many Youth with a Mission trips. He wants to learn about other cultures. An accomplished musician, he plays worship music at his church and sings in the choir and plays in the bell choir, as well as participating in the high school band, orchestra and singing groups. John has served as a page and played with the youth worship band at Annual Conference. He's also part of his church youth group. 
  • Erica Wronek of Union City First UMC said she is "more than excited" to see the people of Zimbabwe live and worship God and learn how they experience in daily life. "I’m really excited to be be given a chance to get out my comfort zone," she said. "This is a once in a lifetime thing... I love working on building relationships and doing things that would be helping people." She participates in Drop-in, an after-school program at the church where she goes to do  homework and hangout with kids. She is active in her youth group L80 and has been to SPARK. She has attended events such as CREATION, Uth 4 Missions and participated in 30-hour Famines. She has worked at Camp Halo and been a Girl Scout.
Traveling with the youth will be Zimbabwe Partnership Coordinator Sandra Matoushaya, a native of Zimbabwe; the Rev. Chris Kindle, Conference director of discipleship and spiritual formation; the Rev. Kelley Schanely, pastor of First UMC in Washington, PA, and a past participant in the Zimbabwe Immersion Program; and the Rev. Keith Kaufold, pastor of Millvale UMC, Swissvale and Eighth Ave. Community Ministries.