I have asked Brent Weick, CBWC’s Director of Youth, to provide stories, statistics, and prayer requests arising from SERVE 2015, which took place in High River, AB. I am grateful for his leadership of this unique initiative combining community service and spiritual growth, and which goes from strength to strength with every passing year.
God be praised
(Ed. note: Last week, Jeremy wrote about the New Pastor’s Orientation and the work that goes into the creation of the modules and presentations. I neglected to add in that list that we have a section on ordination and it’s process. My apologies. Shelby Gregg)
What is SERVE?
SERVE is quickly becoming one of the largest North American youth missions, combining the experience of ministering in a local urban/suburban context with a conference component in the evenings. Operating for nearly 20 years now, SERVE’s vision has remained simple: for youth to be inspired to do missions in their own backyard – in our case, Western Canada. Although there is great merit to cross cultural overseas missions trips, SERVE offers students and leaders an opportunity to experience a missions trip with low investment financially and time-wise with potential for huge returns on the investment. It serves local youth leaders because they do not have to take care of many of the major logistics like food, housing, speakers, bands or entertainment; instead they can focus on spending meaningful time building and equipping their students.
Where was it this year?
High River, Alberta, was chosen for several reasons. The most obvious reason was the devastation the area experienced two years ago in the flood. There remains great need in the area. We went to homes that still had sludge and silt covering the property.
Meals and evening sessions were held at High River Full Gospel Church. This is the church that High River Baptist is renting while their church is being built (due to finish in Spring of 2016). The students, all 333 of them, slept at Highwood High School. This was a feat unto itself, as students and leaders needed to coordinate shower times and sleep patterns. And unlike Duncan in 2014, no broken windows!
Projects, Stories, and Highlights:
SERVE was the perfect size of group for the many tasks at hand in High River. Due to the devastation of the floods two years ago, the NGOs (non-profit organizations) that responded to community needs were not always able to assist certain individuals. So we were able to fill in that gap and help those who fell through the cracks: the vulnerable, the sick and the elderly.
We visited one home where there was only a mother, who suffers with MS, and her 21 year-old son, who also has several illnesses. The SERVE team took two days to clean up the back yard and weed her prized garden in the front as well as paint the fence. Both of them attended our final rally on Friday to celebrate with the city.
Other jobs involved fixing stair railings for seniors and literally bucket loads of painting. We painted so much that the local Home Hardware store put up a sign saying they had run out of paint! Other groups did rock landscaping and cleaning of silt and sediment off the ground to reveal the concrete walkways underneath. Some of our groups were able to do light construction projects such as repairing fences, framing basements, as well as building decks and repairing brick walkways and retaining walls.
Another highlight, and something we have never done at SERVE before, was prayer walking. The whole city of High River was covered by students walking around and doing prayer walks. You can see in the third video (REEL #3) photos of this happening. Some students even wrote encouraging messages and bible verses on sidewalks with chalk. Many groups wrote back saying they loved this activity and hoped it reoccurs at future instances of SERVE.
All videos from SERVE can be found on our YouTube Page, theCBWCyouth (without spaces)
EVENING SESSIONS: What was the theme this year?
The theme this year was HOPE – simple but fitting considering the fact that the city was devastated a little over two years ago with flooding. We got the sense that many people from the city have become jaded, hurt, tired, and feel forgotten. The fact that they saw close to 400 HOPE t-shirts all over the city made a huge impression on them. We were in the local newspaper and local businesses recognized us right away as “those kids who are fixing stuff around town.” The local Home Hardware store even gave contractor pricing to our groups who were purchasing supplies (lumber, paint, etc.) for projects around town.
Our evening sessions were amazing. Fraser Campbell’s worship leading was phenomenal in terms of his humble way of leading. He views this as his ministry, bringing many of his band members and ministering to them as well by leading them in devotionals every day before rehearsals. We also enjoyed a special guest performer named Peter Pot, an internationally accomplished beat box master. When he started beat boxing, the audience was so stunned by his talent they were dumbfounded. He shared a powerful testimony of his broken childhood in foster care and how he has experienced Christ in a deep and meaningful way.
Our speaker, Matt Wilks, tied it all together on the theme of HOPE:
Day 1 Hope appears after the fall
Day 2 Hope appears in pain and struggle
Day 3 Hope flows from a life of surrender
Day 4 Compassion is the byproduct of hope
Day 5 Hope allows us to bring true joy to the world
On Day 3 when Matt spoke on surrendering our lives, that evening we had students all over the sanctuary praying and confessing sin for an hour after the session with their leaders. It was truly powerful. I had a chance to pray with several students and leaders myself; and this was only Day 2! God was working! I had several students and leaders come up to me after that evening telling me they were going to get baptized when they got home! I had leaders write to me about how several students became Christians that night and committed their lives to Christ for the first time! If I were to estimate, I would say about 10 people made first-time decisions for Christ. The working of the Holy Spirit!
One of the highlights for us this year in our sessions was having communion on Thursday evening. After the message, the leaders dispersed with their groups. During this powerful time, some groups also chose to practice footwashing. Two students come up to me the next day, giving me teary hugs thankful for this opportunity because this was the first time they had experienced communion. Baptism and communion – signs of Jesus at work in His church!
New Partnership with CBM and Kamp Tumaini:
One huge highlight for us this year was instigating a new 3 year partnership with CBM and Guardians of Hope in Kenya. We took up two offerings over the course of the week and raised a total of $2150.00, which directly benefits the children’s camp for AIDS orphans and other diseases. We will be sending our own team from Western Canada to Kamp Tumaini in the summer of 2017. Here’s the link to the web site for more information on how to give and how to apply: http://serve.cbmin.org
SERVE participants, in their own words:
“I LOVED watching God move in your lives, calling us closer, convicting us and giving HOPE!! That was such an encouragement! I loved watching youth become better friends, working out disagreements, annoyances, and moving on…forgiving. I loved laughing with the youth. I loved hearing about their stories and struggles. I loved watching our leader serve communion and I especially LOVED seeing the youth pray for each other. I loved being on the bus with the youth.” – Gillian Fowler
“At SERVE 2015…the worship was by far my highlight. Fraser Campbell and his band did a great job. God revealed himself to me and showed me I was cared for by many people.” – Jamie Friesen
“My favourite thing at serve was helping out on the last day and blessing the neighbours of the people next door as well.” – Johannah Hixson
“My top three favourite moments from Serve 2015: 1) Being able to bless Marica (the elderly lady at the house we were working at) the last day of work by singing the Spanish verse of “Via Dolorosa,” watching her close her eyes and just listen, then talking to me and giving me advice. 2) The night we all took communion together and prayed for each other. It was the first time I realized how important communion was and what it really meant. Also, feeling the support and encouragement from God and the family we’ve all become. 3) All the times people laughed at my laugh because we were all extremely tired and all the great memories from working at houses. Also, strengthening the relationships with everyone who came to serve this year.” – Brenna Michelle
“To be all together this week put us together as a community. Before, we just saw each other on Sunday morning but now we have the same goal every day of serving Jesus and bringing Him glory, and that has brought us closer together.” – Kitchen volunteer from High River Baptist Church
“I really appreciated the focused theme this year. I spent most of the week teaching our students how hope sets us in motion as the body of Christ. I witnessed firsthand the weight of glory on a young soul. The hope we have in a coming kingdom transforms our lives in the here and now. As citizens of a kingdom that is coming, we live in such a way that gives the world a glimpse of what is being and soon to be fully revealed.” – Michael Lorusso, Youth Pastor at High River Baptist Church
“A highlight was watching my youth serve others, learn to do more than the minimum required, and realize that it is important to put others ahead of yourself.” – Tammy Klassen, Pastor of Family Ministries at Mill Bay Baptist Church
“The Holy Spirit was definitely moving amongst our youth…My youth are changed…some have made a stronger commitment to Christ, one accepted Christ this week … We all feel we are more blessed for serving then the those we served.” – John Stones, Youth Leader from Fort St. John)
By the numbers:
Youth Leadership Team at SERVE:
We had 8 of our 12 team members at SERVE this year, compared to the previous year where we had only 3. So this was a vast improvement.
Those of my team that participated this year:
1. Mike Lorusso (High River, AB)
2. Erin Dirsten (Ponoka, AB)
3. Tyler Graftaas (Calgary, AB)
4. Dean Haugan (Leduc, AB)
5. Peter Anderson (Vancouver, BC)
6. Jason Rahardjo (White Rock, BC)
7. Tammy Klassen (Mill Bay, BC)
8. Brent Weick (Vancouver, BC)
Local Arrangements Team (in High River):
Michael Lorusso (Chair/Youth Pastor)
Jason Johnson (Senior Pastor)
Jonathan & Dori Emsheimer (work projects)
Oliver Chichery (Wednesday Free Day, kitchen work, transportation)
Dave Miller (Leaders’ Lounge, kitchen work, cleanup)
Paul Stelter (facility and rental)
Crystal Tutt (Kitchen Lead)
Volunteers (too many to mention, but here are some):
Melissa Lorusso (evening janitorial, prep)
Susan Pike (lunches)
Janette & Dan Fehr (kitchen)
Steve Tutt (kitchen, First Aid)
Madeli & Fraco Cloete (kitchen, Leader’s Lounge)
Dan & Shelley Ritz (kitchen, Leader’s Lounge, tent rentals)
Aimee Stelter (accommodations, Highwood High School)
Maureen Miller (kitchen, registration, janitorial)
Ryan Wiebe (First Aid)
Angel Wiebe (treasurer, kitchen, registration, janitorial)
Aline Chichery (kitchen)
Phil Stade (sound)
Nick Fearon (sound)
Krystal Lavoie (PowerPoint, First Aid)
Doug Allan (janitorial)
Stephanie Forsen (kitchen work, cleanup)
Erin Dirsten (welcome booklet)
Courtney Kafka (Video/Visuals Assistant)
Grace Weick (Brent’s assistant, problem solving and putting out fires)
We had another two dozen volunteers that came out to help serve food, make sandwiches in the mornings, clean, clear garbage, set up the leaders lounge, etc. Since we held the food and evening sessions in High River Full Gospel Church, because High River Baptist church is still being built, some of the folks from the Full Gospel Church came around during the week to see what was going on and ended up staying and volunteering the rest of the week. Apparently there was a huge breaking down of walls between the High River churches due to this event.
Those who served in professional roles:
Heather Haggins (logo, poster, graphic arts)
Joseph Kafka (video editor)
Cailey Morgan (registration, communications, evening visuals)
Matt Wilks (speaker)
Fraser Campbell (worship leader)
Things to pray for:
- That God would continue to grant us His favour. Three months ago, our YLT prayed that God would grant us his favour on this ministry to youth and that our influence would grow in the coming years. As you can see, SERVE has grown immensely, quickly becoming one of the largest events of its kind in Western Canada. SERVE used to be a small event, usually under 200 participants. In the last two years we have doubled in size. With that increase come some blessings but also some growing pains.
- Location for coming years. It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to find locations that can handle our size in terms of food, accommodations, and venues for evening sessions. Please pray as our YLT explores the possibilities.
- More Resources: We heard constant feedback that the preference would be to keep SERVE a yearly event. For this to happen, more financial and personnel resources will need to be poured into this event and into Youth Ministry overall in our denomination.