SERVE | The Highlight Of Every Summer

by: Jenifer Buikema

For me, SERVE was the highlight of every summer. In my life I have been on four Youth Unlimited SERVE trips; Sioux Falls, Port Perry, Brighton, and Gallatin Valley. I have also helped host two trips at my home church in Holland, Michigan. I love to travel, so hopping in the 15-passenger van with my youth group and driving to Canada or across the country was always a great start to the week! Then, when you arrive, the host team is always super excited to welcome you and invite you into their community. Being welcomed that warmly really sets you up to have a great week.

The work days, day-away, worship, and small group times are completely transformative, and they go by way too quickly. Before you know it you are on your way back home. However, you never leave a SERVE trip empty handed. The incredible changes that my faith went through on every trip left me energized and my soul on fire for the Lord.

After a SERVE trip, all you want to do is continue serving your community back home. That joy of serving has had a huge impact on my life. Having just graduated from high school, I had to make some pretty big choices about college, the work force, and future plans in general. When considering colleges I tried to find a school that would foster my passion for ministry and mission work. That is what lead me to the Bridge Street House of Prayer.

The Next Season

This fall instead of attending a college or a university I will be living on the West Side of Grand Rapids. Through the Bridge Street House of Prayer, I will serve that community in any way I can. In the winter the other students and I will travel abroad for two months and step into a life of global missions. Being a missionary has been on my heart since a young age, and my experience with SERVE over the last four years has grown that passion into a reality. I am so thankful for all the small group leaders, worksite coordinators, kitchen staff, worship teams, pastors, and other SERVE participants that have worked together for my spiritual success. In the end, Jesus’s guidance and the encouragement of others were always what set my SERVE experiences apart as high points in my life.

To learn more about Bridge Street House of Prayer click here.

A Look Back at Brighton Serve 2015

The following is a reflection on Brighton Serve 2015 by Linda Jeronimus:
“As the Father has sent me, so I send  you.  Receive now the Holy Spirit.” John 20:21b
Our church responded “Here I am (we are) Lord.”
From prayer shawl makers, prayer partners, kitchen help, worksite volunteers, creative Gems, encouraging words, those who donated food and items needed to make our church home to 40 youth and leaders, to the sound and overhead booth experts, the clean up crews, the tech savvy, drivers, financial help, to the host team planners, what an amazing church response! Brighton Fellowship showed what Serve is all about! Our church family embraced the teams that came in and encouraged them to go out as we are called.
We sure did not do this alone. We thank Ajax Serve for letting us job shadow last summer. In February, a group of us attended Youth Unlimited’s Summit in Grand Rapids where ideas and encouragement were shared by all. (Thanks also to Alesha and Jerry for keeping us on track, you helped make our first year as a host team a very positive experience! Please know that you are an important part of our team!)
And now, we had a great week! Gord Park was our speaker for the week and our worship band was FMReset. Together they shared their gifts through words, thoughts and ideas, testimonies and music – inspiring!
During the days we worked at different homes in Brighton and Colborne through an organization called Community Care. Much of the work in Brighton was painting, yard work, some renovation work and light construction. We also had a chance to offer a free car wash with the Fire Department donating all the supplies needed. On Friday, we had a Food Bank Drive at No-Frills with many shoppers picking up groceries to fill up the van. The Food Bank sent us a thank you note for the large supply of food and money donated. Great job to the youth and leaders for helping feed the hungry!
One of our jobs was in the Frankford area, getting an old building ready to set up for a Community Partners for Success program. The building was nothing special to look at on Monday but by Friday there were fresh painted walls and a finished mural at the front entrance!
Another one of our jobs was the New Life Girls Home, a home for young women struggling with issues. A Serve team worked one day and were invited to come back and be treated to lunch the next!
We learned to be flexible. We had a really neat opportunity to be part of a community track event. We showered everyday at the local high school and for the first time the community was hosting a twilight track event with a steeplechase run.  Some of our youth and leaders wanted to participate so…..everything got shifted 20 minutes and we all put on our Serve t-shirts and cheered our youth and leaders. It reminded me of running the race set before us with a “cloud of witnesses”!
Lives were changed and the Lord breathed his Spirit into all who were here. Youth and leaders shared how the Lord changed their hearts and made them stretch in ways they could not imagine.
Below are just a couple excerpts of some of the notes we received:
From Heather – “What a wonderful service you have initiated to show God’s love in the community. I have been blessed by the wonderful people who have worked diligently to fix up my home. I am more grateful to them and all the people at your church who have contributed to this wonderful service to God and the communities you have helped.” Heather gave all the youth at her place little gifts, it felt like Christmas! She has no money and still gave gifts and a donation to us for next year.
From Alice – “To everyone, I had a wonderful time with all the young people also the leader Eric, it was a wonderful day. I got all my windows nice and clean.” (Alice has come to church every Sunday since.) One of the youth sent a beautiful letter to her prayer partner, an elderly lady and one of the youth also sent a beautiful letter to Alice. Both these women are sharing the letters with others to read!
We also received a thank you from John, a youth leader from Flint, Michigan who has no support from his church. Two of his youth committed their hearts to the Lord during Serve and John was overwhelmed. He told me I had to tell our church that he was truly encouraged by the love and support of our congregation and said, “This church is Spirit filled – it is so obvious.” He told us he was going back encouraged to continue to work with the youth and share the good news of Jesus!
I can go on and on, we were so blessed and we thank the Lord that others were blessed through us.
God has an amazing way of using our plans to change hearts. It was all in his plan from the beginning. We were overwhelmed.
Thanks to the Lord for all He has done!