Service Ops show students where God is working in Denver
By Jared Janzen
Youth groups at Named 2015 spent Friday morning and afternoon serving 21 agencies throughout Denver. Their goal was to learn how God is at work in the city, and after a hard day’s work, they not only blessed others but discovered what service looks like.
“We want to open our eyes, find where God is already at work and then go there and join him in that work in bringing new life, light and order to chaos,” Matt Ford, planning team member, told youth groups as they prepared to serve. Ford also told students he hoped this would help them recognize ways God is at work in their home communities and join God as his representative.
Organizing the departure of 766 students and youth leaders into the greater Denver area went surprisingly smoothly. Planning team members attributed this largely to help from a dozen interns and admissions staff from Fresno Pacific University and Tabor College, the two U.S. Mennonite Brethren-owned institutions, who had spent the previous afternoon preparing hundreds of sack lunches and then distributed them to each group Friday morning.
A number of the agencies were located in Denver’s poorest neighborhoods, areas where the air and water are polluted by nearby refineries or in so-called “food deserts” where the only stores available to buy groceries are places like 7/11 and Family Dollar. Some of these neighborhoods are being threatened with gentrification, where properties are purchased and new housing built, thereby raising property values but displacing low-income families who can no longer afford to live there.
EarthLinks Community Garden is located in one of these neighborhoods. Those who benefit from the garden are homeless or low-income families who grow fruits and vegetables and make and sell earth-friendly products like soaps and bee boxes. EarthLinks was forced to move to a new location last summer when their previous property was purchased for development. Youth from Mission (Texas) MB Church worked at landscaping the new property.
“This is something we’re doing for God,” said a student who dug up weeds. “We put aside our own wants and needs to serve him full-heartedly.”
The long list of Service Ops projects also included planting trees in a park, working with Habitat for Humanity, working with organizations that help homeless people or young adults with neurological conditions, spending time at nursing homes and senior living communities and helping at a food bank.
Youth who served at Food Bank of the Rockies even set a new record of 1,800 meals packed in one day, smashing the old record by about 600 meals. The 82 volunteers, representing Buhler (Kan.) MB Church, Koerner Heights Church of Newton, Kan., and Hesston (Kan.) MB Church, also helped the food bank with a number of other projects in addition to packing meals.
Arrangements for Service Ops were made through the Denver branch of DOOR (Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection), which connects volunteers with partnering agencies for service periods of a day, a month or a full year. Cindy Cervantes, associate director of DOOR Denver, said that the agencies she heard back from Saturday afternoon were reporting positive things about the youth groups’ work ethic.
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