The Name Of Love

By Gil Clelland

Love has a name.

We were out on an educational walk in our city’s core learning about poverty. Six SERVE students and I were engaged in a good conversation, trying to understand how people can end up on the streets and what we can do to respond. And then we saw him.

He sat there alone. People walked by. Perhaps they did not notice him. Perhaps they did not want to notice him. Grey, weathered clothing blended into the grey, weathered sidewalk. An empty hat opened expectantly to offerings from passers-by. A cardboard sign – “Any help will do.”

I knelt down to speak to him. The youth gathered with me. He looked at us all, and his hauntingly empty eyes met mine. “New to the city?” I asked.

“Just passin’ through…off to Toronto…soon, I hope”

“My name is Gil. Good to meet you,” I said, and I offered my hand.

“Yeah…” No hand returned.

I withdrew my hand and sat down. The youth knelt in close. We talked for a bit. Small talk was tough. I tried. Dave, a 14-year-old youth from a small farming community tried to share a bit. This man did not respond much. Sometimes, trust is hard to build for someone who has seen so much. After a few minutes, we got up to leave. We excused ourselves and turned away.

“I’m Ken…” I turned back. His hand was out. I shook his hand, caught his eyes and a moment of connection occurred. Ken felt safe enough with us to share his name. He looked at each one of the young people. In order, he shook their hands. “Thanks for stopping to say hello.”

We walked on for some time after that in silence. We each knew that we had just experienced something sacred. Then I reflected about the homeless memorial in Toronto. Thousands of people are listed there. People who have died on the streets. By far, the most common name among those dead is John Doe. John Doe is the name the city gives to people when they don’t know their real name. In other words, many of those people named and listed as John Doe died alone. They didn’t even have their name. And that is the biggest problem with homelessness. People are home-less. They do not have all the things we think of when we think of home. Sometimes, not even their name.

Jesus commanded us to love our neighbours as ourselves. The question I ask is, “How can we love our neighbours if we don’t know their name?” It is only when we get to know people by their name, by their story, seeing them as truly human, that we can begin to love them.

At SERVE, we try to break those barriers. We try to get to know others by their name. At SERVE, we get to hear their stories. We share our stories. We sit for a while. It may be tough. Small talk may seem wooden and uninspired for a while, but we learn to keep trying.

Love begins with “hello.”

Gil is the speaker at London, ON SERVE as well as the pastor of Sanctuary London.

This is an excerpt from the Fall 2017 Magazine. To read more stories CLICK HERE.

Faces of YU: Elizabeth

Get to know Elizabeth Bosscher from Holland, MI

  1. What is your role at Youth Unlimited?

I am the Canadian SERVE Coordinator, which means I handle all the administrative details for our Canadian SERVE Sites. I am also the resident technology help and troubleshoot any technology issues we may have.


  1. Where are you from, and what brought you to Youth Unlimited?

I grew up in Mankato, Minnesota and just moved to Michigan this last August so my Husband could attend school in the area. I searched for a job for a few months after we moved here before I happened to meet one of Youth Unlimited’s board members who told me about the open position. I had an interview the next week and ended up feeling like this was the job God had been telling me to wait for.


  1. When you were a student, what was the most faith-formational experience you had?

I think the most faith formational part of being a student wasn’t one experience for me but instead it was a youth pastor who saw potential in me and was constantly encouraging me to get past my comfort zone and learn to take my faith on as my own. He showed me what it looks like to live passionately for Christ in everything you do, not just at church on Sunday.


  1. What were you most excited about for SERVE 2017?

I was so excited to visit SERVE Sites and see what this is all about. I knew SERVE in theory before this summer, but since I had never been on a SERVE trip I was excited to see it in action.


  1. If you were a student now, what would be your favorite thing about SERVE?

My favorite thing about SERVE would be that I would get to experience the community and friendships that come when you spend all week focused on serving Christ together. There is something about hard work for a good purpose that bonds people together and often results in a lot of fun and joy that you don’t always find in everyday life. It’s amazing what can happen when you put aside your selfish tendencies and focus on tangibly showing Christ to others.


  1. What’s your favorite youth group game to play?

I used to love “Bigger or Better”. We would start with a penny and go around town with our small groups and knock on people’s doors asking if they had anything bigger or better than the thing we currently had that they would be willing to trade with us. This game is how our youth group acquired most of our youth room couches.


  1. When you were a student, who was your greatest mentor and why?

Apart from the youth pastor I mentioned earlier, one of my greatest mentors was my cousin. She moved into my hometown for college when I was 10 and she became one of my best friends. She is so intentional about asking me how I’m really doing and she helps me process life. I have had the privilege of getting to watch her go through college, get her first real job, get married and have kids. I have learned a lot from watching her go through those milestones and she has passed her wisdom on to me when I have faced some of the same milestones.


  1. What’s your favorite late night snack?

Depending on the mood I am in I will either go for some chips and salsa or something chocolate.


  1. What type of service project do you love so much that you could do every day?

I have always been a fan of painting. I loved how such a simple act could make a house or a room or really anything feeling refreshed and taken care of.

  1. What is your favorite vacation spot?

I love exploring new cities and places! So, I guess that means my favorite is the place I have never been before.


This is an excerpt from the Fall 2017 Magazine. To read more stories click here:

Looking Forward to 2018

It’s hard to believe SERVE 2017 is behind us and the planning for SERVE 2018 is under way!

We are excited to unveil the theme for SERVE 2018, Love God – Love the World, in this issue of the Youth Unlimited Magazine. In Luke 4:18-19 it says, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Through our SERVE sites next summer, we long with great anticipation to see students discover Christ for the first time or in a fresh new way and then empower them to reflect his love in this broken world!

Jeff SERVE 2017

However, before we dive too far into SERVE 2018, we’ll take some time in this issue to reflect on a few of the moments of transformation that have already happened to students at SERVE. You’ll read about when the Holy Spirit moved in a student’s life at SERVE through the article SERVE Shoes and when the Holy Spirit visited a man living on the streets through a group of students in the article The Name of Love.

When you think about all the students who participate each summer, all the volunteers at each SERVE Site that plan the week and all the

adult leaders that take the students on a SERVE week, it is clear that God really does use SERVE to make a great impact on this world each summer.

Youth Unlimited is blessed to partner with you through SERVE to connect students with Christ, the Church and the Community.

Serving together,

Jeff Kruithof


This is an excerpt from the Fall 2017 magazine. To read more CLICK HERE.