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GIVING BACK: Church group raises money for mission trips

December 15, 2017
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Hayden Plank is 16 years old, but he's also a world traveler and highly empathetic person who wants to help others. A member of the Adirondack Community Church youth group, he and about 20 other students will be attending one of two mission trips next summer.

In July, the ACC youth group will send kids on mission trips to both Wilmington, Delaware, and Cambodia.

The youth group is currently raising money for the trips, which will cost about $30,000. On Sunday, Dec. 10, for example, they held a benefit dinner at the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort during the Holiday Village Stroll.

Article Photos

Hayden Plank, 16, is a member of the Adirondack Community Church youth group in Lake Placid. Next summer, he will travel to Cambodia for the second time to help native students practice their English-speaking skills.
(News photo β€” Griffin Kelly)

The Delaware trip focuses on home repairs and helping the elderly and disabled while the Cambodia trip emphasizes education and the fight against human trafficking.

Kaysie Kyler, one of the youth group directors, along with her husband, Lee, said these mission trips are important to kids because it helps them understand the world beyond their hometowns.

"Some say it's the best week of their lives," Kaysie said. "Others say they've grown closer to God. It helps kids realize their privilege and what they can offer to make a difference."


For the trip to Delaware, youth group members will repair and renovate homes for the elderly and the disabled. Toward the beginning of the year, those who need help will sign up for certain renovations.

"It's kind of like a wish list of what people want done to their houses," Lee said, "whether that means painting, light carpentry or drywall repairs."

The youth group has done other projects like this before in Rochester and Owego, New York, and Scranton, Pennsylvania.

One renovation project Lee remembers is the mission trip to a Native American reservation in Navajo Mountain, Utah. There, the group installed new roofs on homes.

"They were out in the desert in the middle of nowhere," he said. "The sun is beating down, and they're installing metal roofs that reflect heat. It was definitely one of the more in depth trips."


For their service in Cambodia, youth group members help young men and women practice their English-speaking skills at what Kaysie called "English Camps."

Lee said the youth group members are paired with five to seven Cambodian students and are given a training manual, but the manual is mainly disregarded. Lee said he would rather make practical conversation than follow a text.

"Often times the book is useless," he said. "I'll just put in on the table and ask things like 'what type of music do you listen to?'"

He said the books aren't necessary because most of the students they work with have a decent understanding of English.

"We're not teaching them anything they don't already know," Lee said. "It's mainly just practice. Not often are they face to face with fluent English speakers."

The main reason the youth group participates in the English Camps is to keep young Cambodians out of prostitution, Lee and Kaysie said.

"If you can speak English in Cambodia, you're more likely to get a better job and not fall into the human trafficking ring," Kaysie said.

As part of their trip, the youth group visits the red light district.

The analogy they like to use when explaining the red light district is "it's like going to the edge of a cliff and seeing what happens when people fall off." Lee said without proper schooling and encouragement many young adults will "fall off the cliff."

The brothels in Cambodia almost feel like a nightmarish eatery, according to Lee; someone stands outside with pamphlets describing how much particular sex acts cost.

"It's like going into a restaurant and looking at a menu," he said, "only it's sad because this time humans are on the menu."

Many of the customers Lee witnessed partaking in the brothels were westerners and Americans.

Plank, who went on the group's last trip to Cambodia, said it's an extremely eye opening experience. And it's not just the red light district that shocks people. When the youth group was in Siem Reap, Plank said their living situation was all right. The hotel was comfortable and the surrounding neighborhoods and religious temples were beautiful, but communities on the outskirts of town were crammed with small homes and large families, and the streets were often flooded.

"If you take a second and look around," he said, "you'll see how scary it all is."

On the last trip, Lee saw a western woman about to walk into the red light district with her young son. The boy looked only eight years old. Lee asked the woman if she knew what neighborhood she was about to walk into.

"She said they were going that way to stop by the markets and go shopping," Lee said, "but you can't ignore it, though. Even if you're just there to shop, it's right in your face."

The mission trips aren't solely for members of the ACC. While most live in Lake Placid and attend the ACC, Lee said some of the members come from other communities in the Tri-Lakes region such as Tupper Lake, Saranac Lake and Keene.

Pastor Derek Hanson, who started working at the ACC in September, said he appreciates that some of the youth group member don't belong to that particular congregation in Lake Placid.

"It's good to see how are participation expands beyond the church," he said.

A former youth group member himself, Hansen once spent time in Masaya, Nicaragua building schools as well as relationships with fellow group members and locals. The Nicaraguans taught him how to be joyful, and he hopes the youth groups going to Delaware and Cambodia have a similar experience.

"I hope the kids will understand what it means to serve God," Hansen said.

Lee called these mission trips a two way street.

"Nothing we give them is more valuable than what they give us," he said.

He cited how the trips usually involve going to places where people don't have the comforts most Americans do, and that puts life in a new perspective for the youth group members.

"A lot of these places don't have good septic systems, or clean water or constant electricity," Lee said, "meanwhile were back here in Price Chopper complaining about if we lose Wi-Fi. It makes you take a step back and say, 'I can go without.'"

Kids join the youth group because they actually want to give back and be empathetic human beings, according to Lee. The traveling to different places and making new friends are a great bonus, but he believes the youth community genuinely wants to help; today's young adults aren't the lazy, self-absorbed millennials they're sometimes seen as.

"I believe in the modern teenager," Lee said. "It's not just all Xboxes and iPhones to them."

People or businesses interested in donating to the mission trips should contact Lee Kyler at 518-523-3753 or 585-281-2785 (cell) or by email at



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