Princeton youth group helps Montana flood, fire victims

Photos submitted This is the group that went on the mission trip to Montana. In front row are Willy Krahnke. Rachel Bazuin, Mitchell DeHaan, Ali Droogsma, Brooke Jahnke, Abbi McCray, Rebecca Staneslow, Andrea Henry, Jennie Warner, Rachel Ruis, Jason Ruis. In back are Troy Payment, Hannah Martineau, Kimmy Quale, Karna Terpstra, Tony Droogsma, Allie Terpstra, Clayton Payment, Tony Van’t Hof, Cole Roberts.

Photos submitted
This is the group that went on the mission trip to Montana. In front row are Willy Krahnke. Rachel Bazuin, Mitchell DeHaan, Ali Droogsma, Brooke Jahnke, Abbi McCray, Rebecca Staneslow, Andrea Henry, Jennie Warner, Rachel Ruis, Jason Ruis. In back are Troy Payment, Hannah Martineau, Kimmy Quale, Karna Terpstra, Tony Droogsma, Allie Terpstra, Clayton Payment, Tony Van’t Hof, Cole Roberts.

Some residents of Roundup, Mont., still recovering from back-to-back natural disasters in the past two years, received some welcome help recently from a church group based in Princeton.
The Ignite youth group at Princeton’s Bethel Church in Princeton spent about a week this past month cleaning up debris, repairing fences and a shed, and performing erosion control. Roundup, a small town about 100 miles north of Billings, had received a one-two punch from Mother Nature. First, there was Roundup’s record flooding in 2011, and then a massive wildfire last year. Bethel youth pastor Jason Ruis, who spent most of his growing-up years three miles from Musselshell, Mont., planned the June 15-23 mission project.
Ruis, after returning from the mission trip, note how wildfire had destroyed so much vegetation in the Roundup area that it reduced erosion control and allowed water to rush down hillsides during heavy rains this spring at Roundup, causing more damage and mess, Ruis said.
The Ignite youth group has youth in grades 7-12 from both inside and outside Bethel in the Princeton-Milaca area, with two additional members coming from Pierz. Fourteen youth members and six leaders, including Ruis’ wife and the couple’s four children, went on the mission trip. They rode in two rented vans and the Ruis family’s vehicle.
This was the sixth year of mission work by Ignite. Its first mission was in Alamosa, Calif., the second at Grand Rapids, Mich., the third at Platte, S.D., and the fourth and fifth were in Princeton.
Ruis, who says being a youth pastor was once the farthest thing from his mind as an occupation, spoke enthusiastically last week about the intent of Ignite. (Before deciding to go into ministerial work, Ruis had a dock and boat lift business at Mille Lacs Lake.)
“The primary goal (of Ignite) is to take teenagers and deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ,” he said.
Ruis also says the Ignite mission trips stand apart from a lot of others in that he feels he works his teens harder.
“We don’t want to hold teenagers to a lower standard. … We set the bar higher and higher,” he said.
The teens typically put in eight-hour days, with a break for lunch, according to Ruis. He said that some get into the work so much they don’t want to extend their lunch break. The teens also formed relationships with the people they helped at Roundup, Ruis added.
Ruis chronicled his mission group’s daily work, giving each a title. He titled the one for June 17: Working at Carl and Nancy’s. Ruis explained how Carl and Nancy have a ranch of 660 acres west of Roundup, with 480 of the acres wooded.
“They were affected by the flood, but the fire last year made the flood look like a minor issue,” Ruis wrote. “When the fire swept through, … they lost all of it. Two-thirds of their property became completely unusable in a matter of minutes.”
There hadn’t been rain for a long time prior to the fire, so everything was dry, and then when the fire started, winds picked up to 100 mph and people were given 15 minutes to evacuate, Ruis said. Carl and Nancy wouldn’t go, Carl telling the cops who were trying to get them to leave that they could “kiss his hind end,” Ruis said. He explained that Carl and Nancy were determined, during the wildfire that was threatening their home, to stay and try to save their house by spraying water on it.
But then the electricity, powering their well pump, went out, so they went to their son’s house to get a generator and were able to save both of their houses, Ruis said.
Since then, water from rains has rushed down the hillsides, slamming debris against Andy’s fencing, and it has been frustrating for the couple to continually clean up debris. The Ignite group helped with cleanup.
Ruis said the teens also stacked piles of piles of tree branches on slopes, to stem the speed of the water rushing down after rains.
The Andy and Janice story
Andy and Janice Adams, of Roundup, had been making a living cutting firewood until the fire destroyed $170,000 worth of firewood they had piled on a hillside and machinery for cutting limbs off trees and splitting firewood, according to Ruis. Compounding that was that the couple had been prepaid $60,000 for firewood and they were obligated to repay it.
Andy Adams also wouldn’t leave his property during the wildfire, despite the efforts of four law enforcement agents trying to evacuate him, and he was able to save his house and most of his buildings, Ruis said.
The teens cleaned fences of debris and moved a shed wall back into place where mud had pushed the wall out at the Adams’ ranch.
Ruis quoted Andy Adams as saying that if it had not been for the mission group helping him, he and Janice Adams “were going to call it quits.” Andy Adams also relayed that everyone in the valley at Roundup was talking about how the teen group had been “working their butts off,” Ruis said.
Ruis also recalled a friend of Andy Adams stopping over and remarking that it was the first time he had seen Andy Adams smile in more than a year. Ruis also said he overhead Andy Adams tell a friend that after watching the youth group work that day, Andy Adams was going to “give the big guy another chance.”
“What a cool thing for our kids to see,” Ruis said. “This is why we are doing what we’re doing. It was also cool to watch Andy show all of the boys some of his gun collection. Andy was a Marine and has served in the battlefield.”
Ruis said he told the youth that they should take stock of the compliments from the residents at Roundup about their working so hard, since the praises came from people who knew hard work.
During the group’s last day in Montana, Ruis led the members to mountains west of Roundup and up into Hyalite Pass. There, he gave each teen individual time to meditate about their trip while completing a Bible lesson.
Andrea Henry, 16, of Princeton, who was one of mission group members, talked about the mission trip.  She said she enjoyed seeing the hills and mountains in Montana, and called Hyalite Pass “just gorgeous, so green and lush.”
She said she also appreciated the individual quiet time allowed at Hyalite Pass to meditate and reflect.
The youth group is typically “rambunctious,” and the quiet time was nice, she said.
Ruis had a plan for dealing with rambunctiousness, calling it a trick on how to travel with teens. It was: Begin the trip at 4 a.m. so the teens are sleeping the first four hours, and next feed them turkey at midday so they will sleep in the afternoon.
Ruis said it’s fun to go somewhere beyond the Princeton area for a mission project, but that it’s also important to notice local needs and help with them. That is what he has planned for the Ignite group next year.

up arrow