Updated: Jul 1, 2021
This past week we had the privilege of hosting youth groups from New Covenant and Gateway Bible Church. Both of these groups have been coming on Empowering Youth 2 Serve trips for many years, and it was wonderful to see some old and new faces. This was the first week that EY2S hosted a group at Camp 4 Heroes. Between leaders, students, and staff it was almost 50 people. This naturally presented the team with a lot of challenges, but with grace, creativity, and a lot of prayers, we were so blessed to watch the Lord working this week. Connor Garrison, one of the interns for this summer, had previously come with Gateway as a student. And Lydia Dowdell (me), our site-lead, and Joel Dowdell, one of our other leaders started their journey with EY2S through New Covenant. All around the team was excited for the youth groups to arrive and for serving to begin.
Our service projects this week centered around Camp 4 Heroes, an oasis for veterans and first responders to come experience peace and meet the Lord. The youth groups split up and built ax-throwing boxes, did significant amounts of weed pulling and landscaping, and cleaned the shed, garage, and farmhouse. They were dedicated to their service and the effect of it will continue to bless many people.
Our community outreach looked a little bit different this week since we are serving in a new city. On Monday, the students split up into various teams and prepared to host a pop-up Vacation Bible School in a local park on Thursday morning. Tuesday and Wednesday half of the group brought flyers advertising the VBS and bagged lunches to different housing areas in the community. The other half of the team partnered with local police officers and firefighters to pick up trash throughout the community. Both days brought some rain, but nothing could dampen the teams’ smiles. Then Thursday morning, the team hosted an exciting VBS, complete with music, games, skits, crafts, and snacks. It was a small turnout with approximately six or seven different kids from the community coming and playing over the two-hour period. Everyone had a great time.
It was a special privilege to watch the youth groups grow in their relationship with the Lord. The group showed a lot of intentionality and transparency. They opened up about struggles and came around one another in the community. They grew in their encouragement for each other. Many times the evenings ended late because discussion for the Bible study had gone so long.
This week carried its own unique burdens. Two years ago when New Covenant came to EY2S, they brought with them Tessa Nelson, a young teenage girl with a passion for Jesus. In January, Tessa passed away suddenly. Since her passing, this past week was the first time that New Covenant returned to Empowering Youth 2 Serve. We don’t want to ignore that pain and grief. And as her older brother Blaine told the group during the first Bible study, “Tessa was too amazing of a person for us not to talk about her.” And so we did. In small ways and big ways, Tessa’s impact was felt this week. Friday evening the entire group met down at the chapel for one last time of worship. We signed the walls of the chapel with scripture, we wrote farewell messages to Tessa, we grieved, and Jesus continued to bring healing.
We praise Jesus for all that He accomplished this past week, both in and through all of us. It was a complete blessing to work with these amazing groups, watch them celebrate and grieve, and through everything be drawn closer to Christ.