High school students and youth group leaders from across the nation headed to Grand View University in Des Moines last month to take part in our 2016 summer youth event, Called 2 Serve.
According to Cathy Nichol, LCMC’s administrative assistant, a total of 300 people from 32 different LCMC congregations attended the four day event, which was designed to help strengthen the ministry of the local church by giving students a better understanding of what is possible in their own church and local community.
The event featured keynote speakers Culynn Curtis, Pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Maple Lake, MN, Alex Krumm, Director of Student Ministries at Grand View University in Des Moines, IA, Ken Jones, Professor of Theology and Religion at Grand View University, and Jody Skogen, Director of Youth and Family Ministries at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Marion, IA, who emceed the event.
Also speaking at the event were Kyle Fever, Pastor of Beyond Ministries and Director of Ingham Okoboji Lutheran Bible Camp, Jamie Strickler, Assistant Dean of Educational Ministry for North American Education at the Institute of Lutheran Theology, Wendy Berthelsen, Pastor of Hope Lutheran Church, and LCMC staff members Mark Vander Tuig, Steve Lien and Dan Clites.
Throughout the week, students also had the chance to explore topics such as love, truth, their "call", the life that Jesus promises and how to follow Jesus during high school by taking part in interactive breakout sessions and enjoyed music performed by the worship band at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Altoona, IA.
On Thursday, participants had the option to take part in one for four different service projects that were geared towards making a real difference in the local Des Moines community.
Approximately one third of participants opted to help pack meals for the hungry with non-profit organization Meals from the Heartland. After exceeding our goal of raising $10,000 in donations from LCMC congregations (enough to purchase enough supplies for 50,000 meal kits), volunteers were able to package a total of 80,784 meal kits in under three hours.
Another group of volunteers chose to visit Riverside Lutheran Bible Camp, where they laid a gravel path, mulched the facility's low ropes course, cleaned and weeded any landscaped areas, mulched a whole trail and stained a large fence.
A third group met up with the people at Hope Ministries, an organization who seeks to help meet the spiritual, physical and emotional needs of people who are homeless. Participants volunteered at some of the various sites that Hope Ministries operates, performing tasks such as cleaning and organizing items at a local thrift store.
A fourth group went out into the local community to perform random acts of kindness, such as cleaning up a local park, giving away cookies, cleaning up several areas on the Grand View University campus, and handing out bottled water to people with scripture verses attached.
While there were plenty of opportunities for learning and serving at Called 2 Serve, the event also offered everyone a chance to get connected with others through small group discussions, games and mixers led by Chip Reynolds, Pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Braunfels, TX,
Participants also enjoyed an ice cream social featuring Peanut Butter Belly Buster, Cake Batter, Knee Deep in Chocolate and Cookies & Cream flavors from Over the Top, followed by a live concert by christian rock group Remedy Drive.
Overall, the event was well-received by those who attended. Here are just a few of the comments our staff has received from participants' evaluation forms:
- "This was by far one of the best weeks I have ever had and I thank you all for it. God Bless."
- "Longer! I loved it and I wish it was longer! Breakout sessions more interactive and how it's applicable to life."
- "I loved how service project was incorporated with the event. This was an excellent event. I am looking forward to the next one."
- "Thank you for your hard work! God moved in some awesome ways!"
- "We had a wonderful time at the National Youth Gathering. Having attended two NYG in another denomination, I appreciated that there was no political agenda or ideological propaganda spewed forth at our kids. It was nice to be centered in the Word, what Jesus has done for us, and the privilege to share that message as those Called2Serve."
- "Our group of [people] were barely more than Sunday friends from multiple high schools and wound up growing personally and collectively in Christ. They're bonded with big ideas for God now! Two, who've attended church their entire lives and been confirmed, shared with me that it was the very first time they were truly feeling a personal connection to Jesus, prayer, and seeing how Christian support works. I'm so grateful! These ladies arrived home and were so on fire that our pastor is devoting an entire Sunday service/sermon in August for them to share the Called 2 Serve Bible message, music, and a takeaway activity to hopefully inform and inspire our congregation to sharing their gifts, loving one another and being called to service!"
- "God moved in many ways: - Students started sharing their stories of faith with one another in small groups during family time - Students started thinking about going into vocational ministry maybe for the first time - Student spent her first extended time away from home, successfully! - Student became more of her aware of her actions and asked for forgiveness from leaders. - Student left the week with an understanding that serving is more than something we do it’s about who we are as Christians - Student felt the presence of the Holy Spirit during the Thursday night worship gathering - Student felt her calling to be someone who is there for her friends during difficult times. That is just SOME of the cool things God did during the youth event!"
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