Adam Settle Serves

Adam Settle was born with a rare metabolic disease, Cobalamine-C dysfunction, that prevents him from effectively metabolizing protein, which may result in damage to neurological systems including eyesight and brain function.

Despite his underlying medical struggles, Adam approaches life with a can-do attitude, believing there is little he cannot accomplish. His spirit has touched the hearts of many in the community. He is considered by some to be a mascot for the Northern York High School, encouraging the players and students as a coach, physical trainer and security guard. As a freshman, he was featured as a guest player for the varsity football, basketball and volleyball teams.

Adam Serves | Youth Unlimited | Teen Summer Missions

Despite being legally blind, Adam loves to participate in ball sports, ride his bike and paint. Adam has developed a small following of patrons. Of his many abstract paintings, the most sought after are: Sandy – the Hurricane, Meadow with Flowers, Stained Glass, Sunset and Roosters.

Jerry Meadows of Youth Unlimited, spoke with Adam about his experience this past year at Serve, and the following conversation was recorded:

Why did you want to go on this Serve?

I’ve never been on a mission trip with a church team and everyone else in my family has. I have 7 brothers and sisters and they’ve been to Honduras, Cambodia, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, the UAE, etc. My family is on a mission for Christ and I wanted to go.

I have traveled a lot and even went to Cambodia on a family trip a few years ago but this was different. I got to go with my church and my peers.

What was your favorite worksite on Serve?

Two of them were pretty good. At one, we sorted eyeglasses, and eyeglasses mean a lot to me since I am legally blind. Those glasses were going to people who couldn’t buy them or people in another country that couldn’t get them. At another work site, we sorted donated food.

Honestly, for some of the days I did not feel good at all. I was very hot and that made me tired. The Host Church and team took really good care of me and made sure I rested enough and kept encouraging me to do what I could but not push myself.

What do you do in your free time?

Well, I never have free time (laughing). I’m always doing art. I’m doing full time art – full time business and full time school. I like to keep busy.

Do you enjoy any sports?

Football, basketball, volleyball, soccer – all of them. Some of them I play, but I help the trainer and encourage the players.

What kind of art or business do you do?

I had gotten several commissions to do art for individuals and some for companies or churches. A couple that I know from church are actually flying me to Florida to do a beach painting for them.

I started a business called, Adam Art.

Any last thoughts on Serve?

It was a great feeling to experience it with my friends and make new friends.

I had so much fun at Serve.

To Serve Again

A true Californian boy with blonde hair and blue eyes gleefully posed for the camera in a shirt that reads “Canada”, the rest of his features covered by a classic moustache disguise – this is the way most people at Serve know John Brouwer.

A playful character who is always willing to dance along to a Justin Bieber song, John’s heart is as big as the bright smile that lights up his face whenever he interacts with his friends.

His friends are the other special-needs campers attending Youth Unlimited’s Special Needs Serve, a weeklong overnight camp for teens and young adults with special needs. Some campers, like John, have Down syndrome, while others have learning impediments or more severe intellectual disabilities that can make life a challenge.

Begun in 2008, and hosted at Calvin Christian Reformed Church, Serve is run entirely by volunteers.

Currently, Serve welcomes 15 to 20 participants each year, providing them with a week of teaching and lessons about God, as well as one-on-one support from mentors, fun activities, volunteerism, friendship and good food.

Serve is never the same. There are always new mentors and participants. It is always changing, but the thing that stays the same is the friendships that are made, and it amazes me how quickly they are made,” said Joanna Janssen, a Direct Support Worker for Christian Horizons, who has been involved with Serve since its creation.

To retain participant interest and create unique memories, every day at Serve is different. Part of the day is devoted to teaching, while the other part is devoted to fun and friendship.

Small groups is a time for participants to learn and go deeper into the lesson and word of God, while in the evening, the speaker draws them together as a whole camp to impart a message.

Highlights of the week always include leisurely activities like bowling, motorcycle rides, Ray’s reptiles or mini put, and the volunteer work sites – such as Jericho Road, the Ottawa Mission or The Ottawa Food bank – where participants serve others.

To finish the week, there is fancy dinner where participants and mentors dress up, get pampered, dance, and perform together in a talent show that brings everyone to their feet.

Ron Hosmar, Commissioned Pastor of Youth and Congregational Life at Calvin, was inspired to create Serve by discovering a similar project in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Approaching a congregational member who had a sister with Down syndrome, Hosmar asked if she would be interested in trying the same type of project. After Hosmar, and a small group of interested volunteers, visited Grand Rapids, the Serve project was given a chance.

Over the past six years, Serve has continuously evolved, welcoming and saying farewell to various participants, mentors, speakers, volunteers, work sites and activities.

Not only do participants return again and again to enjoy the week, but every year familiar faces are seen among the mentors, with volunteering often running in the family.

“My sister was a mentor the year before my first year of being a mentor and she really enjoyed it,” said 17-year-old Ben Brinkman. “It seemed like a good experience, and I loved it, so I have continued to be a mentor.”

Serve’s commitment, camaraderie and love is apparent in the instant bonds created between mentor and participant and the old friendships that are quickly renewed.

Taurie March, an exuberant fan of the TV show Glee and much-loved participant, had these words for future campers, “I would tell them that you make new friends and it’s such a blast.”

“Our Mentors want to come back each year because they grow and come to love our participants so much,” Hosmar said.

“Everyone on the trip is remarkably present. People are able to truly see each other,” added Mark DeVos, Serve’s 2013 speaker. “This kind of attentive love has an untold impact on the youth and other servants during the trip.”

While the participants are the ones there to learn and volunteer, the mentors and camp staff can’t help but leave with valuable takeaways. As Brinkman said, “[Serve] has impacted me through [the participants] joy and unique point of view on things, giving me new perspectives, as well as the great experience and unforgettable memories.”

“Every person has unique value. I learn this from the participants,” said DeVos. “In many ways they are able to accept and love one another better than I am […] I respect them for their fearless ability to live out their uniqueness.”

“When they accomplish something for the first time the joy they show is contagious,” Janssen said, “They teach you something new every day, and they have a love for life that not everyone has.”

The benefits of Serve can be seen throughout the lives of everyone involved, whether volunteer, mentor, planning team, participant or the parents that are given a week’s respite from the sometimes demanding care of a child with special needs.

“Our participants learn to be more independent,” Hosmar said. “Their families appreciate a safe place for their children to be cared for and loved on for a week. They can then take some time to rest knowing their son or daughter is safe. “

Serve’s volunteer planning team is in full swing with preparations for 2014’s camp. It will be held at Calvin CRC in Ottawa from July 5 – 10. Though the site is full, if you know of anyone who might be interested as a mentor [aged 14 and up] or participant [aged 14 – 26] for next year, have them contact Pastor Ron. You can also review the past Serve happenings by looking up Pastor Ron’s blog and clicking on the July entries for any given past year. “Hopefully,” Hosmar said, “Serve continues to grow and be part of the fabric of our church and the lives of those families who we are blessing through this ministry.”

Parents of participants agree.

“I wanted to have John be in a project where he was fully included, not just an add-on,” said Grace Brouwer, John’s mother. “John knows he is serving Jesus, and others. He gains new relationships, even though from afar, and I can relax because I know he is in good hands.”