Serving others

Westfield teen Abby Bogdajewicz pursues passion in mission work

By Navar Watson

When Abby Bogdajewicz took a short-term mission trip to Chicago in July 2013, she discovered a passion for serving inner-city children. Inspired by her time there, Bogdajewicz joined an after-school program tutoring children at Brookside Community Church in Indianapolis. This summer, she continued her work by running an art program for the same children.

“You could almost tell her whole life she had a heart to serve,” her father, Paul, said. “When she does feel passionate about something, it’s very hard to sway her in a different direction.”

Every Monday for six weeks, about a dozen eighth- to 12th-grade volunteers, mainly from Northview Church in Carmel and Grace Community Church in Noblesville, rode to Brookside in Indianapolis. The day consisted of a meal, crafts and activities for some 15 inner-city children.

Bogdajewicz, who attends Grace, came up with a theme and coordinating craft for each week. Some of the crafts included tie-dying shirts, decorating cupcakes and making ribbon flip-flops.

“(The kids) absolutely loved it,” Bogdajewicz said. “None of them had done almost any of these activities before, and they thought it was just incredible.”

Aside from brainstorming craft ideas, Bogdajewicz also bought the supplies, keeping within the ministry’s budget. She helped set up dinner, lead the crafts and clean up at the end of the day.

Megan McGuire, after school program director for Brookside, was the adult in charge.

“I’ve worked with teens in ministry for 15 years,” said McGuire, who attends Northview. “This art program is probably the strongest teen-led program I’ve ever seen.”

The Brookside After School Program occurs throughout the school year from around 4 to 6 p.m. About 50 volunteers help some 50 children, tutoring them in homework and praising them in their successes.

At the end of last school year, McGuire offered the teenage volunteers a chance to lead an activity during the summer program, the Brookside Kids Club. Bogdajewicz took up the offer.

“These kids just really have a place in my heart,” she said. “I just love them so, so much.”

The After School Program started up again Aug. 11. Bogdajewicz, a junior at Westfield High School, plans to participate again this year.

McGuire said the “driving force” behind the After School Program is to encourage high school graduation and then “build (the children’s) faith along the way.”

Graduating from high school improves the possibility of “breaking the cycle of generational poverty,” she said. The volunteers, who act as mentors, ensure the inner-city children that they have a future.

“It’s showing the little ones the love of God and helping them realize … that there are teenagers who care about them and a God who loves them,” McGuire said. “They have a hope and a future.”

Bogdajewicz said her time helping children has prompted her to pursue a career in missions.

“Wherever God calls me to go is where I would love to go,” she said. “I love working in the urban side, and I love the international (side) as well.”

In early July, Bogdajewicz traveled to Haiti with Merge, Grace’s high school group. Along with 25 other students and eight adults, she served at an English learning school for Haitian children.

Associate Pastor of Merge Marc McClure said Grace encourages their students to get involved in missions. The goal is for students to realize they can make a difference in someone’s life, even at a young age, McClure said. He hopes that mentality of helping people “continues to be the case for a lifetime.”

Grace offers beginning, intermediate and advanced mission trips. Once students come back from a trip, Grace encourages them to continue their work with local outreach opportunities.

“If you just go on a trip [and don’t do anything later], then it’s not much more than going on vacation,” McClure said. “That’s more of tourism outreach than impactful outreach.”

In Bogdajewicz’s case, the passion never stopped. Paul said she might pursue a degree like business, with an emphasis in marketing, and go on to work at a church or missions program.

Regardless, Paul said he and his wife, Michele, are “very, very proud” of their daughter.

“You always hope your child becomes better than who you are,” Paul said. “She has greatly exceeded our expectations.”

Abby 2

Meet Abby Bogdajewicz

Age: 17

Hometown/Residence: Westfield

Family: Parents, Michele and Paul; sister, Carly, 14; and brother, Robby, 11.

Hobbies: Tennis, art, YoungLife and Merge

Future plans: College with a major in marketing and a minor in missions

What she enjoys most about volunteering: “I love the seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces as they accomplish something, whether it be a craft or learning multiplication; it is just so rewarding.”

Personal Quote: “But I’m sick and tired of life with no desire; I don’t want a flame, I want a fire.  I wanna be the one who stands up and says, ‘I’m gonna do something.’” – “Do Something” by Matthew West