Taste and see: Mission work is no piece of cake, but the fundraising to get there can be

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Desserts line tables at the 2020 dessert auction at Mt. Comfort Church.

Photo provided

MT. COMFORT — $200 might seem like a lot for a chocolate cake.

Sandi Hudson has seen prices shoot up like that, though, in past dessert auctions at her church.

The bakers are seeking more than bragging rights, and the buyers are paying for more than dessert: They’re donating to an annual youth mission trip.

The chili supper and dessert auction is a tradition at Mt. Comfort Church. In February 2020, the last time the event took place, it drew about 200 people and raised $4,300.

This year’s supper is set for 5 p.m. Feb. 20 at the church’s Mt. Comfort campus, 3179 N. County Road 600W, Greenfield.

People of the church bring more than 20 crocks of chili and other soups, and they brings desserts to draw bids. Hudson plans to donate a crock of chili.

“I do the Rival Crock-pot chili recipe, with a few little touches I’ve added over the years,” she said. “I had a wonderful cook tell me ‘a little bit of vinegar, a little bit of sugar.’”

So her version of the recipe includes a tablespoon of white vinegar, a tablespoon of sugar, Mexene brand chili powder and Brooks chili hot beans.

While she’s happy to bring chili, she said she’s not as into making a dessert, so she’ll be looking to buy one via the dessert auction and raffle. Some desserts are open for bidding in a live auction, and some are set aside for a raffle in which people buy raffle tickets and deposit them by the dessert they’d most like to win.

Peanut clusters, sugar cream pie and cheesecake have been perennial favorites at the event through the years. Some gluten-free options are available too.

“It’s anything from Grandma’s famous homemade apple pie recipe to triple-layer carrot cake that’s to die for,” said Mary Ann Crisman, discipleship director at the church. She remembers winning one of church member Judy Eastwood’s admired cheesecakes three years ago, that year’s version topped with huge whole strawberries.

The desserts “go for ridiculous prices; (one) could pay $200 for a chocolate cake,” Hudson said. “Everybody loves to support the youth.”

Similarly, Crisman recalls the year a dozen chocolate-covered strawberries stood out among more traditional offerings.

“I think those went for $150,” she said.

The event helps youth go on the mission trip already sponsored, without having to scrape together the funds to go themselves.

While safety concerns amid COVID-19 led to many canceled mission trips in 2020, the seventh- through 12th-graders in the church’s Lighthouse Youth Ministry traveled in 2021 to South Carolina. They worked in smaller teams each day at various sites. They painted walls for a school a church was starting, organized merchandise at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and trimmed and did other groundskeeping work at a 110-acre farm that’s a home for boys who’ve been in and out of the foster care system.

In July, a youth-themed Sunday at church featured their reports on the trip in lieu of a sermon. They shared with the congregation both the gritty and the glorious moments from the trip: the spiders one girl noticed crawling up her leg as she cleared brush, the morning the group rose early to watch the sun rise over a beach, the emotional evening devotional time when they opened up to each other about their struggles and their faith.

“The missions trip has been incredibly impactful over the last few years,” said Noah Maple, a New Palestine High School junior and part of the church’s youth leadership team. “All of the kids that go on these trips, myself included, grow closer together and create everlasting friendships … Mission trips are a life-changing experience for both the volunteers and the people you are helping.”

Hudson remembers that Sunday when the youth shared. “It was so inspiring,” she said.

“It really touched the hearts of so many people just to see them be real,” Crisman said.

The youth will help out at the event, where there are raffle tickets to sell and desserts to parade through the audience for bidding. This summer, they’ll head to Kenosha, Wisconsin, to serve in various ways. Group Mission Trips, based in Colorado, networks with mission work groups to match them with ministries and organizations who can use help. Crisman said the group won’t know exact job assignments ahead of time, but previous groups traveling to the area have served adults and youth with developmental disabilities, helped with stocking at a food pantry, and performed groundskeeping work at a youth camp.

Crisman thinks seeing the way the trips grow the youth helps motivate people to keep baking and bidding each February. “People are always so, so generous. They know 100 percent of it benefits the kids and their mission trip.”

Maple said it’s encouraging when people show up at the event, even if they don’t bring food or plan to spend any money.

“Showing our group support means just as much as financial donations,” he said. “Most of us will be at the event to help raise money, and seeing a packed gym really raises our spirits, and it feels good to know how supported we are.”