Pray Like it Depends on God

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

I’ve heard the saying, “You work like it depends on you and you pray like it depends on God.” I’m not sure about the theology of that statement, but it sure does reflect the past nine months of activity for Youth Unlimited.

The Youth Unlimited staff and our 28 SERVE teams are in full preparation mode for SERVE 2017. 1,500 students and leaders will converge at 28 host churches to serve their communities on behalf of God and that local church. Throughout their week, students will worship, study scripture, see a broken world in need of Christ and love the people in those communities. In the process, they will discover the Holy Spirit is also wanting to connect with them, often times changing the course of their lives forever!

When SERVE is done right, it is a win/win/win scenario for students, connecting them to Christ, the Church and communities. In this issue of the Youth Unlimited magazine, you will read stories of God’s blessing on each of those. You will also get a behind the scenes view of the preparation being put in by our SERVE teams in order to better create a space for those connections to be made.

Though I am already looking forward to sharing the amazing stories that develop through SERVE 2017, would you join me and the Youth Unlimited team in praying for the participants, churches and communities involved this summer? Would you pray for the participants to remain safe and in good health, for local churches to build lasting bridges to their communities, for spiritual growth and maturity of everyone involved and, most importantly, for Jesus Christ to be glorified through SERVE 2017?

We know SERVE can be an integral part of a student’s faith formation, and we look forward to the countless opportunities ahead for students to find God at their SERVE experiences. This is why we take our work so seriously, and, more importantly, this is why we depend on God.

Grateful to partner in ministry with you,

Jeff Kruithof

Meeting Jesus

The following is a testimony of a youth leader who experienced SERVE in Toronto last summer.

This was the first SERVE experience this group of youth group kids ever had and it was such an amazing experience! We brought a bunch of country kids to the big city, and while none of them are planning on moving any time soon, they embraced the experience and learned so much from it!

I loved the many ways that we learned about homelessness and that homelessness is not just a result of laziness.

The best part was our nightly worship. I’ve been on a handful of trips like this, and the worship can be pretty awkward, which it was the first couple of nights, but then it just all clicked and I truly believe we met with Jesus every night during those times of worship.

Just recently one of my youth group girls was talking about the letter she wrote herself and how it made her cry when she received it in the mail. I asked her what she had written to herself. She said that she’s always believed she was a Christian, but Toronto SERVE was the first time she encountered Jesus.

Thank you to Toronto SERVE for providing opportunities and experiences for us all to met with Jesus that week!

Forever Changed

The following is a testimony of a student who experienced SERVE in Gallatin Valley, Montana in 2016, which forever changed her life.

Gallatin Valley SERVE 2016 showed me what it’s like to be a true Christian. Through my experience at SERVE, I was able to deepen my relationship with Christ by giving Him complete control of my life during the message that took place at the day at the lake.

My life is now forever changed. Christ is taking me places I could never go on my own. SERVE helped me realize God’s calling for my life. I am now planning on attending a Christian college in pursuit of a degree in youth ministry. I am also going on a six week mission trip to Southeast Asia this summer.

Thank you so much for forever changing my life! God bless!

Coffee and Life

It’s the Month of May, Sip, Sip, Hooray!
Have you ordered your SERVE 2017 Authentic Community blend coffee yet? Share some community with others when you SERVE this specialty blend from our friends at Good Neighbour Coffee. A portion of all proceeds will give students the opportunity to experience Authentic Community at a SERVE mission trip in a way that will change their lives forever, encouraging them to impact this world for Christ. Click here to order your 1 lb bag today!

Read below to learn more about Good Neighbour Coffee and the amazing things they have been doing there!

We had no idea that the farmers who, today, grow the coffee beans that we now roast were the very people who were our Honduran friends 9 years ago.

In 2008, my wife and our four children lived in Catacamas, Honduras for four months. Having served as a youth pastor for 20 years in North America, I was granted a sabbatical. We decided to live in a Spanish speaking country for no other reason than to live and learn! I have led more than my share of mission trips and spoke on several SERVE trips, but now I wanted to simply go with my family and nestle deep within another culture.

When we returned from the sabbatical, roasting coffee was something we did as an experiment with neighbours and friends. Eventually, our family began sinking money into some better roasting equipment at about the same time my friends in Honduras began exporting coffee beans with the help of a group who we met while in Honduras called, “The Carpenteros and Friends.”

Meanwhile, my pastoral role in the church included some heavy experimentation in a mission that helped people love their neighbours called Neighbourhood Life. Three years later, I resigned from the institutional setting to begin a full time missionary position which seeks to transform lives and communities in Christ, focusing on our immediate neighbourhoods. This approach takes seriously a theology of place in which we are called to “bloom where we are planted”. At the heart of this model is the call to love our neighbours, with the certainty that God desires to draw our neighbours to himself and longs to see their lives transformed and the assurance that Christ “dwells among us.” I am now in my fourth year.

As the mission increased, so did the coffee roasting. People began asking where they could buy bags of Good Neighbour Coffee, and the number of visitors who stopped by the roasting shop also began to increase. Since I was well acquainted with fundraising for SERVE and various other parts of youth ministry, I approached the increasing sales as the ongoing fundraiser for Neighbourhood Life.

In fact, I also began harvesting stories from the authentic community developed in the various neighbourhoods in which I worked. Those stories were powerful and found their way onto the backs of the coffee bags. This was starting to get interesting. The direct trade coffee not only impacted the farmers in Honduras (currently we impact 55 farmers), and various families who work alongside them (around 250 families), but it impacted neighbourhoods where we live! Crazy, eh?

Well, with the benefit of our direct trade relationship, three of our friends/farmers flew from Honduras to Alberta and ended up at our Good Neighbour roasting shop’s open house this past October. They toured the small roasting facility that also stores the organic beans they so carefully harvested. They were the featured guests, who, through a translator, spoke over a half hour on the blessings the partnership had on their communities. As if that wasn’t enough, some of the other guests (neighbours and store owners) began to ask questions. The owners of a large grocery outlet heard enough and walked away while telling me to bring a case of all the products I roast, so he could sell this to our community.

Today, we have recognized the support of Rio Olancho coffee in Honduras and our Neighbourhood Life mission as the catalyst for creating authentic community. Call it a win, win, win situation! Not only have we increased our purchase of beans, but we are about to open our first, “Good Neighbour CoffeeHouse.”

To learn more about Good Neighbour Coffee, visit or

Don’t be Afraid of the Big Ideas

Do you ever feel too small for your big ideas? God loves to use people who don’t seem important enough to do his most important work. Consider these examples from the Bible:

Elijah- He spent some serious time in prayer and it changed the weather for THREE YEARS! You know the weather, that thing everyone acknowledges is totally out of our control… Elijah affected it through the power of prayer and he was just a guy like us.

17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” James 5:17-18

Moses- This guy got asked to do big things by God and had some serious doubts about his own ability.

10 But Moses said to the Lord, ‘Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.’”- Exodus 4:10.

But when he put his faith and trust in the Lord’s power working through him, he was able to lead the Israelites out of Egypt through the Red Sea which he separated to make a dry path. Wow, that is a big dream that God used “un-eloquent” Moses for.

Gideon- Gideon was from a small clan that was being ruled and terrorized by a bigger clan, the Midianites. He was scared and felt hopeless when an angel appeared to him and told him that if he went and stood up against the enemy the Lord would make sure he won! Crazy.

15 And he said to him, ‘Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.’ 16 And the Lord said to him, ‘But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.’” Judges 6:11-16

SERVE is a big dream sometimes. I mean, we are talking about taking close to 2,000 students and youth leaders and having them travel away from their home, sometimes even to a different country, and housing them in churches and schools so they can put in hard work all week on service projects that are often far from glamorous. What could go wrong? Well, a lot. A lot can go wrong and there have been plenty of problems throughout the years; but with God’s help and his power working through us, SERVE can be more impactful and life changing than we could ever imagine.

So, are you ready to dream big with us?



The Expanse of SERVE

It is amazing how a word conjures up images and memories for us. SERVE seems to do that. For churches who know this ministry, when they hear the name SERVE, they bring up stories of God showing up in the places and challenging the participants to be stretched for the Kingdom in powerful ways. Many students carry these faith forming experiences with them for a life time, often as a highlight moment.

I hear stories like this often – students who are now young adults, parents who came along as leaders, pastors who shared in an experience with their younger members, all carry with them these nuggets of Kingdom stories.

God uses SERVE experiences to reach beyond the sending church and the hosting community. It touches the broader community through fundraisers, through shared experiences, through the essence of bearing one another’s load. These are powerful life building moments and we at Youth Unlimited are privileged to walk alongside these communities, sharing with you in those moments of what and where God is working in this world.

This really does feel like Authentic Community.

Marion SERVEant

We’ve been talking a lot about ants around the Youth Unlimited offices. They are amazing creatures, but there is one specific ant story that I love to share.

It was a summer evening, and I was participating in a Youth Unlimited mission trip in Marion, Indiana. Everyone was at a local water park enjoying a little downtime when I noticed a colony of ants in crisis. A puddle of water formed in the exact spot where a line of ants was traveling. In the middle of this ant catastrophe, I noticed one little ant kept swimming out to the middle of the puddle. It would push an ant to the water’s edge and then go back into the middle to save another….and another.

As we at Youth Unlimited prepare for another summer of SERVE mission trips, we have been digging into our theme of “Authentic Community”. The Bible has a lot to say about community and how we ought to treat each other. Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” During a SERVE trip we are often eager to “carry another’s burden”, but are we eager to dive into the puddles of life and help carry someone else’s burden when we’re not at SERVE?

The Youth Unlimited staff is already praying that God would prepare churches, communities and YOU to bring life and hope to those around you during SERVE. But don’t wait until this summer to be Jesus to your friends and neighbors –look for ways you can be a SERVEant all year long!

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.

Preparing Ourselves for Short Term Missions

Over the past year, various people from youth ministry backgrounds have offered their collective voices to the content of this Youth Ministry Network blog. We hope you have found it to be helpful and encouraging.

For April we will continue the conversation but have invited some new voices to the page.

The spring and summer months are often filled with teens and their leaders heading off to “far away” or “just down the street” places where youth and leaders alike are stretched physically and spiritually as they embark on journeys typically called “Short Term” mission trips.

Many challenges often accompany these trips so the idea was to invite writers in to share about how we as ministry leaders can prepare ourselves, and our youth, for such experiences. Preparation for mission trips is not just about fundraising and packing one’s bags before departing. It’s much more than that and you will read some insights into this over the weeks to come.

Within the denomination there is a collaborative energy taking place between organizations like Youth Unlimited, ServiceLink, World Renew and others, to embrace something called “The Seven Standards of Excellence for Short Term Missions” (SOE), which is a tool to help churches and organizations develop best practices as they seek to serve Jesus by serving others. During this month you will read about these seven standards, along with other observations and concepts.

So let me introduce you to those who will lead us in our Youth Ministry blog for April and the first week of May:

  • Rev. Amanda Bakale (World Renew): Amanda is a Youth and Young Adult Engager (she is also connected with YALT and is a regular tweeter).
  • Jerry Meadows (Youth Unlimited): Jerry is “The SERVE guy” and is very well connected with all things “short-term mission” related.
  • Carol Sybenga (ServiceLink Program Manager): Carol is a former youth ministry director and works for ServiceLink, which is the bi-national volunteer services program of the Christian Reformed Church.
  • Jolene deHeer ( Jolene is a Youth Unlimited speaker and author.

During their time with us over the next number of weeks, these wonderfully gifted contributors will share about various practical, theoretical and spiritual practices that can help us be prepared for our short-term mission trips.

Please join us for our look at “missions” preparation.

Click here to view original post.

Ron deVries works for Classis Alberta North as the Youth Ministry Consultant and have done so since 2007. He also serves as a Faith Formation Coach for the Denomination. Monique, his wonderfully supportive wife, and he have been married since 1985. They have 2 incredible children, Amanda and Shawn. Amanda married Matt and Shawn married Roxanne, so now they have and share 4 incredible children. They are also grandparents to the cutest puppy you will ever meet, Doozer.