CANTON, Ohio - When about two dozen young people showed up at their church for a youth group mystery trip, many expected they were headed to an amusement park.
Instead, they ended up hungry, wet, cold and homeless.
It was part of a three-day project put together by the Rev. Clinton Lowin, pastor of the senior high youth group at The Chapel in North Canton.
The teens were required to work for food, clothing and shelter, and to interviewed a homeless person, ask a stranger for a quarter and collect cans.
They read Bible passages and worked at the YMCA, Open Door Chapel, American Rescue Workers and The Salvation Army.
Sixteen-year-old Nicole Hess and Farah Kittoe, 20, slept outside in the rain Friday night. On Saturday, they rummaged through trash for soda cans.
"This has changed me," said Kittoe, who attends Malone College. "I really realize how blessed I am to have a home, to have food, to have a family and friends."
Lowin's project was based on a poverty simulation project created in 1986 by the Rev. James Dorrell, a youth pastor in Oklahoma City. Lowin said he decided to use it with The Chapel youth after they served at a soup kitchen and he heard one of the teens talk about never having seen a homeless person.
Members of the group were allowed to bring along only three possessions -- cell phones excluded -- and three articles of clothing, with a pair of shoes counting as two. Some, but not all, were given $40.
Hess said she rarely eats mashed potatoes but gladly ate some at a soup kitchen after going 24 hours without a meal.
"At first I was like, 'Man, I don't want to do this,'" said Kara Hanny, 18, whose father is a pastor at the church. "But I've learned so much, and I realize this is just a little taste of what they go through every day."