PARKERSBURG-When religious groups decide to go on mission trips their intended destinations normally end up being somewhere in South America, Africa, China or another state in the U.S., but seldom is Canada the destination.
"Now that I think about it, I suppose it is unusual," says Joel McMullan, Fairlawn Baptist Church youth pastor. "I suppose that people assume because Canada shares several similarities with the United States ... religion would be one of them."
"Religion has never been a big deal in Canada," McMullan said. "It is not that the church is viewed as a bad thing; it is just many people do not see the need for religion in their lives."
This is not a particularly new development in Canada.
Canadian census studies conducted in the 1960s and 1970s showed that the non-Christian community far outweighed the Christian community, leading to a massively secular population.
So why go to Canada?
"Our church formed a relationship with a family that we met while they were in the states," McMullen said. "We formed a bond with Jason McGiven and his family during their time here in the states."
The youth group hopes to talk to some of the unreached people in the country with their first visit being received particularly well.
"Though I don't want to stereotype anyone, Canadians certainly are some of the nicest people in the world and welcome the group with open arms," McMullan said.
The group of eight plus McMullan will travel seven to eight hours by van, leaving Sunday and arriving in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, where they will meet up with the McGiven family and the Hamilton Fellowship Baptist group.
During the group's time in the country, they will participate in several events, including a gardening project called Guerrilla Gardening.
The project involves the selection of a particular patch of land overgrown with weeds and trash and transforming it into a living breathing garden with new soil and plants.
The group will stay in Hamilton until July 26 when they will make their way back home.
"The trip is a fairly easy one for us to make," McMullan said.
"It is not monetarily taxing, doesn't require extended hours sitting on a plane and with our prior relations in the country it is a good fit for the group."
"Our whole purpose for going to Canada is not to convert anyone to our way of thinking, McMullan said, "but to foster friendly communication between strangers that would normally not speak and allow them a place to come together and talk and enjoy the fellowship."