By Cailey Morgan, Assistant to the Church Planting Director
On July 5, over 20 CBWC youth groups descended on High River, Alberta, for a weeklong conference and mission event that brought hope to a community still recovering from the devastating flooding of June 2013. This year’s SERVE, run by CBWC’s Youth Director Brent Weick and his volunteer team, saw the largest registration ever: more than 250 students, 70 leaders and about 60 volunteers. In all, there were about 375 participants from all three CBWC regions blessing High River!
Several teams worked on yards, fences, decks and cleaning tasks for individuals, while others visited long-terms hospital patients, chopped firewood, painted a school, and fixed up the Boys and Girls’ club mini golf. Many of the SERVE projects were small, filling the gaps by helping people who had been overlooked in the early response to the flood damage.
A crew from Trinity Baptist in Vancouver offered themselves at a flower shop and greenhouse that has been closed since 2013 because its product had been ruined. Health issues further prevented the owners from reopening the shop, and from upkeeping the gardens on the shop property. The SERVE crew worked hard to clean up the shop and tame the landscaping. While the shop may not reopen, the owners are grateful that the work they were unable to do themselves has been taken care of to again make their property beautiful.
Another crew gardened and painted a fence at a home where family members were unable to do the work themselves because of illnesses. Both family members came to the final SERVE rally to celebrate with the youth. Others fixed railings for seniors and painted, repaired fences, removed sediment from the flood and built decks and retaining walls.
Following the daily work projects, youth celebrated God’s goodness with help of worship leader Fraser Campbell and band, and were encouraged each night by speaker Matt Wilks who shared on the theme of hope.
Prayer walks were a new element at SERVE this year. Many youth wrote encouraging messages and Bible verses in chalk on the sidewalks to bless the city. This was well received.
Behind the scenes, dozens of volunteers from High River Baptist, High River Full Gospel Church and CBWC churches across the West served the servers by providing meals, setting up and cleaning up the meeting facility, offering a leaders’ lounge complete with coffee, snacks and plenty of couches, and running the tech and audio visual elements of the evening sessions.
The impact of SERVE was dramatic. The theme of hope, emblazoned on 400 t-shirts, was reinforced by the positive difference each project made for the community. The community could see “those kids who are fixing stuff around town.” The local hardware store reduced prices and even supplied so much paint it ran out. Local news covered the event and spread the word about what SERVE was doing on behalf of the community.
As one volunteer shared, “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.”
Another High River Baptist volunteer shared that despite all the difficulty of serving such a large group of youth, it was a blessing to take part in SERVE 2015. “Our joy is doubled by serving God and increased even more by doing it together,” she says.
Brent and his team are still determining where the next SERVE will be held, so watch for more news in the coming months.
This article originally appears in CBWC’s monthly enewsletter Making Connections. Subscribe to Making Connections here.