Spring service week builds on fall conference
by Myra Holmes
Youth from several Pacific District Conference congregations served together over spring break March 23-27. The service opportunity built on a one-day, regional youth conference that took place in November 2012 at College Community Church MB, Clovis, Calif., and furthers the relationship-building that began there.
The spring break service, like the conference, used the tagline “Together” to emphasize the cooperative nature of the event.
The effort grew out of ongoing conversations between youth pastors from seven PDC congregations: North Fresno (Calif.) Church; Mountain View Community Church, Fresno, Calif.; Bethany MB Church, Fresno; College Community Church MB, Clovis, Calif.; Reedley (Calif.) MB Church; Dinuba (Calif.) MB Church; and Kingsburg (Calif.) MB Church.
Matt Ford, youth pastor at North Fresno, says that bringing together multiple congregations—each with unique strengths and “flavor”—provides a picture of the kingdom of God.
“It was a great picture of unity in our denomination,” he says. “Our youth are leading the way in saying we’re part of a bigger story and we’re joining together to do what really matters.”
Organizers encouraged participants to celebrate both the uniqueness of the local congregations and the unity of the larger church family. “Our students really grabbed hold of that language,” Ford says.
The youth gathered March 23 for intentional training about the goals and challenges of short-term mission. Then the group established a base camp March 24-27 on private property near Mendota, Calif. From there, smaller teams served at three different locations each day.
Ford says the base camp, a field and water-ski lake “out in the middle of nowhere,” served the group well, and the property owners were very hospitable. Organizers brought in portable toilets and hand-washing units. A covered concrete area provided good space for large-group gatherings.
Participants gathered each evening for worship, led by a full worship band. Youth pastors Ken Wilkinson from Mountain View, Trent Voth from College Community and Brent Sawatsky from Dinuba spoke. Ford led a closing communion service.
For each of the three daytime projects, teams partnered with smaller, rural congregations in the area. Organizers got help from George Ordway, who works with Fresno ministry ESA Love INC, for help in setting up the projects.
Youth groups from Mountain View and Dinuba MB served in Tranquility, Calif. The team helped the church run a basketball tournament for local high school students and a carnival for the community.
Youth from North Fresno and Kingsburg MB worked with Mendota (Calif.) First Baptist Church, a congregation that wants to expand their children’s ministry. The team worked with youth and volunteers from the church to run a two-day Bible camp for about 40 kids from the church and community. They also tackled various projects around the church facility.
Youth from College Community and Bethany MB worked with a congregation in San Joaquin, Calif. This small congregation is located near a high school and wants to reach out to youth but currently has no youth program. So the team organized two days of youth group-like activities to connect with teens. About 40 youth from the high school attended.
Ford says that the November conference aimed to bring students together and build relationships, while the spring service project aimed to help students look beyond themselves and live out their faith.
He says that organizers were pleased with the students’ response to the project: “Our students got a picture of God’s larger mission in the world,” Ford says.
Organizers would like to do a similar project again, perhaps widening the circle of participating congregations. Just how and when will be determined as these youth pastors continue to meet and converse regularly.
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