Authentic Community

By Jacob VanDam

Before attending Gallatin Valley SERVE, I didn’t have a framework for what would take place at SERVE or how Christ’s would connect me with two influential communities. Once I arrived, strangers from across the country quickly became family. One of the main topics was community, which I initially thought was just simply “making friends”. But it wasn’t just that; it was having a spiritual bond with the whole community and everyone there.


A few weeks after SERVE, my family received the news that my dad has stage four colon cancer. This was a blow to the huge spiritual high I was on through the week in Montana. I continued devotions every night, hoping God had my dad in his hands, but every night it kept feeling like the things said at SERVE were just thoughts and ideas that were never actually going to happen, and that bothered me.


Soon after, I got a text from one of my best friends I met at SERVE. They were bringing everyone from Montana back here to Minnesota. This mini weekend retreat helped me realize the ways I could make a difference in my own community. You never know what it’s like until you actually witness it done in your own community.


These two SERVE trips have affected my life like no other. These experiences have helped me see the hope in my dad’s battle with cancer and other family tragedies I have witnessed. My dad going with me on these two trips, as weak as he has been with chemotherapy and other operations, helps me see how many easy obstacles I have turned into hardships in the past years.


My dad has battled cancer and fought with it for seven months now as I’m writing this. He’s conquered a twelve-hour surgery on his birthday and is an inspiration to any battle I go through in my life. What SERVE has done for me through this, is allowed me to see the authentic community right here in our small town. We have received so many cards and prayers, and it’s my goal to give others the same support I got.


I love talking to people and being there for anyone who needs me. I don’t ever want anyone to be alone for any battle they are going through in their life, and I learned this through SERVE. Without the two trips, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I wouldn’t have been able to take my dad’s diagnosis the way I did and translate it to the way I live my life right now.


About the Author:
Jacob was a student participant at Gallatin Valley SERVE 2017.