Go Do Good – Do It

by Angie Klooster

SERVE 2019 was one of the most influential weeks of my life. Seeing the broken state some people live in is one thing but having the opportunity to help them and change their way of life is entirely different. We made a difference, even if all we did was weed a few rows of a community garden or paint the walls of a non-profit organization. And making a difference made a difference in me.

I was cautious to go on this trip. It was very out of my comfort zone. Then, when I found out no one from my church was in my SERVE small group, I was even more discouraged. However, as soon as I met my small group and spent one day with them, I knew I was here for a reason. The people I worked with and got to know were some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, and I quickly realized God sent me on SERVE to do good.

God sent me to a small church in Muskegon, Michigan both to help people and to grow, myself. I learned more about myself in those seven days than I have in my entire life. I learned to not take things for granted. I learned that God works miracles in the strangest of ways. I learned to get out of my comfort zone and talk to people. And I learned to make friends, even if it’s just for a week and I might never see them again.

With each service project – every time we handed out yogurt at the church or cleaned a lot – we made a difference, and I was so encouraged. It might not have been much, but it was something, and it was hopefully enough to encourage others to follow our footsteps, too.

One little nudge can make a change in someone’s life, like the way my life changed at Muskegon SERVE. If the people of Muskegon saw us planting a garden and growing food, it shows them that it’s possible. If the kids at Muskegon Heights High School saw that people were willing to help them, it shows them they can help people, too.

Muskegon SERVE was just one week, but the people I worked with have been doing this for years. They have dedicated their lives to helping their community and are very passionate about what they do. They work so hard with so little. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to see, and talk to, and help these people. It’s changed who I am, and I hope everyone gets a chance to have a similar experience. If you ever get the opportunity to go do good, do it. It will be beyond worth it.  

[This is an excerpt from the Fall 2019 Magazine. To read more stories CLICK HERE]

SERVE and My Life Story

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

SERVE and My Life Story

by Thomas Kielstra

Discovering what my faith was as a teenager was not exactly easy. Feeling the various pushes from different Christian institutions to focus on different aspects of faith was challenging, but making my faith mine was very important to me.

In 2011 at the age of 14, I went to Muskegon SERVE in Muskegon, Michigan with a church that wasn’t mine. At the week of SERVE, I saw that the Reformed Church put a much larger emphasis on a personal relationship with God and personal relationships with others than I previously experienced. As a result, I began to analyse faith—specifically my faith—in a different way. I began investing in my own church’s youth group, and started to make connections within my church.

I went on to go to Woodstock SERVE in Woodstock, Ontario in 2012 and then back to Muskegon SERVE in 2013 with my own church in addition to four mission trips to Detroit, Michigan and one to Nicaragua with my high school.

In Grade 12, I wanted to do something more to help out with the SERVE. Having made a personal connection with Brian Kingshott, the youth director at Calvin Christian Reformed Church, which hosts Muskegon SERVE, I contacted him and asked if he would consider taking on an intern. I offered to help out with whatever needed to be done behind the scenes. He responded quickly saying that he would be interested, and he started connecting with Youth Unlimited to come up with a process to make this possible.

So in July of 2014, I went to Muskegon as an intern. I helped out with icebreaker games and activities and I was responsible for doing games before dinner and worship, but my favourite part about the internship was the personal connections I made with the participants and youth leaders. This is when I discovered how valuable friendship is to my personal faith journey. This is when my relationship with God truly became a friendship—not just something I believed.

I then went off to university, where I fell in love with my studies, and my faith took a back seat. By February, I still had not found a church that I called my own and my relationship with God became distant. This is when Brian reached out to me about coming back for another year, to help out with SERVE again. I hesitantly agreed.

Then, during my summer semester, I was invited to Royal City Evangelical Missionary Church’s youth group. Their focus is on relationship—Relationships with the youth and relationships with God.

As I attended Royal City, my relationship with God built over the summer as my relationships with my friends at Royal City grew. When I went back to Muskegon, again as an intern, in the summer of 2015, my relationship with God was much stronger than it had ever been. Now I am a Junior Youth Leader at Royal City. I have learned more about how to show the love of God and what my faith really is.

All in all, SERVE has taught me two things: first, I have a passion for serving others and second, having honest relationships with others and showing others that I will always be there for them is one of the best ways I am able to show God’s love to others.

Don’t Eat the Last Twinky

The following post is from How to Plan a Mission Trip. To view the original post, click here.

For years, I have invited long term missionaries to the trainings I do with short termers. One story in particular stood out… the missionary recounted how the remoteness of their field left little room for luxury. Each time they returned to the USA, they brought back a package of Twinkies for the freezer. On a family member’s birthday, they pulled one out… put a candle in it… and sang Happy Birthday.

One summer, a short term team came. The missionaries offered the typical “mi casa es su casa” to the team but were horrified a few days later when one of their children ran in blurting through tears “They ate the WHOLE Twinkies package!”

Undoubtedly, the short term missionary was hungry for a late night snack, walked to the fridge and said to a teammate “Dude, they have Twinkies in here! Want one?” One simple act of inconsideration obliterated a year’s stash of birthday hope.

Short term missions can easily deflate, discourage and undermine the work of a long term missionary. How do you make sure that your team does the opposite on your visit? Here are a few principles to follow.

1. Go as a servant rather than a consumer. Ask short term participants to discuss how they would want a guest to behave in their own home. Then ask them to apply these thoughts to their stay as a guest with the missionary.

2. Let the missionary set the pace. Sometimes a short term missionary attempts to help by being proactive and creates more work for the host. Show your willingness to help, but let the missionary tell you what to do, how much and when.

3. Remember, they may want something different. It may be that help with the dishes is far less important than the enjoyment of carrying on a full conversation in English. Missionaries have physical and emotional needs that result from their location and service. Be sensitive to these needs and try to meet them, even if they are not so obvious at first glance.

The Call for Help

For me, it’s still typically unexpected, the call for help. I don’t know why I am not quite used to it yet. After I’ve met a need or given assistance, when I am riding the high of the Holy Spirit convicting me of righteousness, I wonder why I don’t intentionally listen for it more.

Why wouldn’t I walk through my daily life, moment by moment, looking for ways to help others, watching for opportunities, and anticipating the moment when they ask?

I know my life is not my own. I was bought with a price and it’s no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me. (I Corinthians 6; Galatians 2) For years I’ve been reminded that Christ took on the form of a servant and I should as well (Philippians 2).

At any given moment I know my agenda and schedule must flex in submission to the Holy Spirit and his desire to work through me to care for others, but I consistently need to shrug off the human nature and the culture of my current planet in order to exhibit Christ in me. He would and he wants to answer the call for help through me.

I have to remind myself that my real homeland is where he rules and reigns and at any given moment Christ may have a different agenda or schedule than I do.

Along with my personal pursuit in this area, we have a corporate or Kingdom call for help. Maybe your youth group can be a part of flexing their summer schedule in order to care for others in:

  1. Roselawn, Indiana – (6/25-7/2). This Host Church has an astounding community outreach. When I was there last summer, I met so many new followers of Christ. Adults who said, “You would not have wanted to know me three years ago, but by God’s grace I am new…”.
  2. Ripon, California – (7/9-7/16). A couple congregations have multiplied their strengths and coordinate a vibrant connection to the streets through a church planter and a city mission, among other work sites.
  3. Austin, Texas – This Host Church is willing to take groups just about any time for Spring Break or for a summer trip. The congregation is a community of entrepreneurs, musicians, homeless persons, business people, etc. all coming together for God’s grace and hope and taking it into the streets and community.

The Host Churches in these communities are calling for your help. Would you take a group of students to assist them in reaching their community for Christ?

No Longer a Mission Trip – Just Life – The Other 51

The following is an excerpt from the student’s devotions in our 2015 theme material at Live It and Serve this summer.

It was Friday of my mission week. That week was the first week I had ever sat with a homeless man. I took my tray and sat with him at that soup kitchen. That moment changed my life. That was Monday night. For the rest of the week, I jumped right in. During the day, we served at a drop-in for children who did not know if there was a place for them to sleep at night. There were children as young as five years old living outside at night. My heart was broken. God had ripped my heart in half with the injustice that thrived in North America. Daily, I became better friends with these children. They had so much life in them. One young boy could almost dunk a basketball and he was much shorter than my six-foot frame. We re-told Bible stories, sang worship songs, and ate meals together. I loved the life I was living that week, but it was now Friday. We were going to leave the next day.

At lunch, that Friday, our church family for the weekend hosted an outdoor picnic for the people in the neighbourhood. Picnic tables were set up in the church parking lot as the sun blazed down. Beverages in coolers full of ice and ham sandwiches were brought out from the kitchen. As with the rest of the week, we sat with our friends on the street. We did not serve them. That sets up a power play. If you serve someone, you are telling him/her you are higher up and have power. If you sit with someone, you are declaring that you are his/her friend. In sitting together, you can serve one another. The impoverished can serve the rich and the rich can serve the poor. We are one. I sat with three people I recognized from the week. We shared a few laughs about pro football teams. We talked about the church.

“They really love this community – do meals like this quite regularly…and they even sit with us!”

“Not every church does that,” another chimed in.

We finished up the meal, chatted a bit longer, and they got up to leave. Handshakes and hugs followed.

“I’ll be praying for you brother as you go home.” Thomas said as he walked away.

Pastor Steve was standing and watching. He and I had had a few talks during the week about why they do what they do. After my three friends left, I walked over to him.

“You see those three much?” I enquired.

“Two of them yes. Thomas disappears every now and then…” Steve started.


“He gets too close to us. It reminds him of too much of his past and he just disappears. Drugs sometimes. Another city sometimes. He’s back right now, and I think he likes you.”

I smiled and started to drift into reflection. I wanted this life so badly. I wanted to know Thomas, each of those five year olds, my friend with whom I studied Romans in the soup kitchen. God had broken my heart and wasn’t putting it back together. I wanted this life. Steve could sense something in my silence.

“So,” He caught my eyes. “How are you gonna bring this home?” Steve went on to say none of this mission week really mattered if it was just a week. If it just stayed a nice memory, it would remain like a fun holiday at best. But, if I took some of it home, to live out, maybe this would allow God to change me forever.

I did take it home. Within five months, I had to quit my job – I no longer fit. My heart wasn’t in it anymore. I began working on the streets. It is something I do to this day. I am a pastor of a small church in the downtown area of a North American city. My friends are people who live under bridges, in tents, and in houses with four car garages. I have learned a little about love along the way, a little about poverty and a lot about Jesus.

I liked the mission experience so much that I made it my life. My prayer is one day we will no longer call it a mission trip. We will just call it life.

My 51 – Menno, South Dakota Community

Three years ago I came to the small town of Menno, South Dakota to serve as pastor of Grace Lutheran Church (NALC/LCMC). It was the first time I had ever heard of this “thing” called Serve. Our town has a population of 608 and five (yes, count them: FIVE) churches. Our churches are Immanuel Lutheran Church (LCMS), Peace Christian Reformed Church, Salem Reformed Church (CCCC), Zion Reformed Church (RCUS) and Grace Lutheran Church, where I currently serve.

For a number of years now, youth from all five of these churches have attended Serve in various locations, from Platte, South Dakota to Newark, New Jersey to Houston, Texas and everywhere in between. I had the privilege of attending as a leader in 2013. Our group went to Houston, Texas, and one of the messages I heard there was that the youth were to take what they had learned from their experience with Serve and to put into action locally. In other words, Serve is not just one week in a place away from home. Serve is also about the other 51 weeks throughout the year.

Some of our other adult leaders who have been active with Serve took that call seriously, and with many brilliant minds TUG was born. TUG stands for Teens United in God. This August will be our third year of TUG. We begin on Friday evening and throughout all day Saturday. The kids do not get to sleep in on Saturday morning. They come early. We eat together. And then we go into our community of 608 people and we work. Last year we helped with cleaning up a rural cemetery and repainting the picnic shelter located there. Another group repainted the dugout shelters at our local softball field. Another group repainted a very large building located on our main street in town. And another group did clean-up and painting at our local park. The kids of Menno, South Dakota and surrounding towns were so diligent in their work, they finished early, so another group repainted a garage (albeit small) in an hour and a half!!


When the kids are finished with a long day of working, it does not stop there. We get together and we worship and sing. We are reminded of why we are doing what we are doing in the first place. God has called us to live out our lives pleasing to him, and because of the gracious gift he has given to us in Jesus Christ, serving our community is the least we can do.

In addition to the kids volunteering, we need many adults to help out. We had entire families helping us that day. This year, we have had people asking what projects the kids are doing for TUG. We now have other groups in town giving donations for TUG.

The local people are looking forward to seeing all the kids and adults out working in the community.

As a pastor of a small town, I cannot even begin to say how proud I am of this community. It is a community filled with faith in Jesus Christ. Yes, we do have residents who do not attend church, who do not believe that God is almighty and loves them so much he would give the greatest sacrifice of all. And it is because of that, that my hope and my prayer is that these kids and their families can be witnesses to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.