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.


by Kyle De Boer, Gallatin Valley SERVE Host Team Coordinator

“The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same” (Luke 3:11).

For a high school student from the Gallatin Valley, a Tuesday at Grandma’s house turned into a life altering encounter with a servant of Christ.

Johnathon had just finished his sophomore year of high school. Since his brother and mom were working, he had to keep an eye on his little sister who broke her arm a few days earlier, so they ventured down the road to Grandma’s house.

As they arrived mid-morning, a group of students and adults with Gallatin Valley SERVE were hard at work, repainting and repairing Grandma’s house. Johnathon and his sister began to get to know this group of strangers from across the United States. Lunch time came quickly, so Johnathon brought his outside to join this group from SERVE.

Tyler, a senior from South Dakota, connected with Johnathon as they ate their sandwiches under the hot noonday sun. Tyler was curious about life in rural Montana. Johnathon had questions about SERVE. The conversations continued as they picked up the paint brushes for an afternoon of work. The singlewide home began to take on a new look after a coat of paint and repairs to the fascia.

Before departing, Tyler asked Johnathon, “Do you want to join us on a hike tomorrow for our day away?”

SERVE Shoes- Gallatin Valley

Johnathon was hesitant, unsure of how to respond. During the pause, Tyler noticed the ripped and tattered Converse shoes that Johnathon wore.

“Do you have any other shoes than those?”

“No, this is my only pair.”

Tyler walked over to the 12 passenger van, pulled out a pair of gray and black Nikes and handed them to Johnathon. “Try these on.” Surprisingly, they fit perfectly!

“You can have them,” Tyler said, “These are my extra pair and I have sandals along.”

The message of the gospel was communicated clearly to Johnathon when Tyler gave him a pair of shoes.

Nearly one year later, those gray and black Nikes have just been replaced, but that act of gospel generosity is clearly etched in Johnathon’s mind and informs how he lives today!

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

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 Thread in the Tapestry

The following is an excerpt from our Spring 2016 magazine. To view the whole magazine, click here.

A Thread in the Tapestry

by Kyle De Boer

Joining forces for the third straight year, three Montana congregations are collaborating to host Gallatin Valley SERVE. We are an eclectic bunch with diverse gifts. Farmers and ranchers work side-by-side with educators and entrepreneurs. The unique community of volunteers for GV SERVE is the locale in which youth and adults offer their gifts for something greater than themselves. SERVE volunteers and participants are the needed characters in a much larger, gospel-centered story of love and transformation.

Youth are an integral part of Gallatin Valley SERVE. Consider a large tapestry—one larger than the size of a tall Dutch man! This aesthetically pleasing piece of art conveys a message as you soak in its magnitude. Step a little closer, and you begin to notice the detail of this magnificent work. Step even closer yet, and you notice how small strands of thread comprise this masterpiece. Students are some important strands of the thread that comprise GV SERVE.

Before GV SERVE came into existence, three “youth”, functioning as adult leaders, led a group on SERVE to Sioux Falls, SD. Ranging from 22 to 25 years old at the time, these three individuals returned to the Gallatin Valley with a conviction to host SERVE. Support for SERVE quickly expanded to include: area councils, high school students and many adults. Preparations were underway.

Since the inception, youth keep the pulse of GV SERVE beating, possibly even racing! On our day away, students want to summit a mountain. Their effort to conquer the high elevation is motivation for our adults to keep up! Students can step out of their comfort zone in order to engage the opportunities that are part of Montana. Conversation around the supper table can get quite loud in the Fellowship Hall as stories of relationships and service are swapped. Singing, clapping and dancing are expressed in evening worship, in both a church sanctuary and an alpine shoreline. Students from different churches in Montana join with peers from across North America to enter into a story that is much greater than themselves. All the while, adult volunteers and leaders have the privilege of learning from and growing with these important strands of thread.

I have the privilege of seeing both youth and adults integrate their gifts with Christ’s work in Montana. GV SERVE keeps the eyes of our Host Churches open to our community. With wide eyes, our congregations are able to engage the Gallatin Valley in continued and new ways because of the SERVE participants. However, the Gallatin Valley is only a small part of the large tapestry that God is weaving.

Youth are empowered at SERVE to live a transformed life of love and service at home. After seeing a new community and joining in Kingdom service during SERVE, adults and students have an opportunity to enter God’s redemptive story in their church, community and family. Some SERVE participants return home to provide support for a local non-profit. Some seek reconciliation with a parent or friend. Others allow the grace of Christ to shape their view of self.

Gallatin Valley SERVE has taught us that whether we are on SERVE or at home, we can continue to offer ourselves as thread, purposed and placed by the master weaver, Jesus Christ.

To connect with Gallatin Valley SERVE, click here to visit their Facebook page.