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Local woman to serve as missionary across U.S.

Most summers, you can find 18-year-old Melina Birchem somewhere in Hackensack, sometimes helping at the children’s fishing contest, sometimes watching over her siblings in the park, but mostly waitressing at her parents’ restaurant, Viddles & Joe.

She loves the summer, hoping the days of flip-flops and sun will never end.

But this summer is different.

Still hoping to wear her flip-flops, Birchem will embark on a mission that will affect more than 60,000 young people across the country. Birchem has committed herself to serve as a missionary for nine months with NET Ministries.

NET, which stands for National Evangelization Teams, selects around 135 young adults from all over the world to serve on 13 teams. These teams lead retreats and do community service across the United States.

Birchem will depart in August for West St. Paul, home of NET Ministries, to undergo 10 days of music training and then five more weeks of intense training before she and the other 10 volunteers on her team head to their mission. These volunteers travel with their teams in 12-passenger vans during their nine-month nationwide journey.

Each team member is asked to raise $5,000 to support their work as missionaries. Birchem knows the amount can be daunting, but is up for the challenge.

She has been a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church since she was a child, and has served with her youth group for the last year.

“I am just bursting with joy to travel the country, not only growing in my faith, but also sharing my faith with so many other young people,” Birchem said. “I want to show youth that having God at the head of your life is not only freeing, but a beautiful experience, and will change your life forever, as it has changed mine.”

After NET, Birchem hopes to go to college and to follow the doors that God will open to her from her nine months of service with NET.

NET is still accepting applications for the 2013-14 year. Contact for more information on applying.

To help Birchem with her fundraising, contact for information on how to donate to her.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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