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None of the 13 young people from Heritage Christian Reformed Church in Byron Center, Mich., knew where they were headed when they left for a service trip this summer.

“We kept guessing where we were going. [The leaders] kept it a secret the whole time,” said Julie Schrotenboer, 16.

Ross Tanner, 18, said the intrigue kindled curiosity. “It was sort of frustrating that they wouldn’t tell us anything, but it was a lot more fun that we didn’t know,” he said.

When they arrived in Oakville, Iowa, a small river town that flooded a year ago, the residents greeted the Heritage youths with open arms.

Garbed in masks and hard hats, the teens pumped water from a basement and gutted the home’s damaged interior.

At night they bunked in a United Methodist Church basement with a Baptist youth work crew from Pennsylvania.

Oakville residents provided food for the workers. “It was wonderful how the town fed us and supported us. It brought many people closer to others,” observed Aaron Mingerink, 18.

 Hearing experiences of flooded-out residents captivated Brianna Mulder, 17. “We learned personal stories firsthand,” she said.

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