Friday, July 16, 2010

SERVE - Day 7 - Friday - Recovery and Reflections

Hello all. 

This entry will be only text, sorry, but might just be worth the read if you are up to it.  : )

It's Friday @ noon.  I've just finished some administrative stuff for SERVE2010 and now wanted to take some time to reflect on the week. 

I've got that hangover feeling after an awesome party  : )  but it was a VERY GOOD party for sure, and I remember everything.   :  )   

I just wanted to take a few minutes and reflect a bit on this Special Needs SERVE.  Why do we do it?  It's unique for sure.  It's unlike any other Youth Unlimited SERVE sites that will be happening this summer.  All those sites will have youth coming and working on sites and hearing a speaker and getting to know other youth their age from different places. 

Some of that happens in our SERVE too, but what's unique is that our Mentors come to SERVE participants, not build things in service.  Our mentors come and are on call 24/7.  Others come to SERVE and have down time, and time to interact with other YP.  Our mentors don't really get the chance to know each other well because their main goal is to get to know their participant, to serve them, and to be there for them.  

I like this uniqueness, and I'm super proud of the great job they did on this SERVE.  Words don't even begin give what they do justice, but hopefully the pictures of the last week help.  I've enjoyed watching our mentors interact with their friends.  Watching some who are just natural at this sort of thing.  Others aren't and for them it was a big challenge and time of growth.  All good stuff.

Each evening in our mentor meeting we had touching stories to tell, and some really funny ones too.  All memories that will last a lifetime. 

I also know that the parents of our participants really appreciate what goes on here.  It's a time for them to be able to leave their son(s)/daughter(s) in a safe place for a week and get some down time.  Thanks for the notes of thanks. 

So, why do we do SERVE?  When I ask the mentors this question at the beginning of the week, I get mixed responses like:

"I think this would be fun"

"I heard it was a blast last year and wanted to be part of it"

"I work with Special Needs people and wanted to do something different in that context"

"I've never worked with Special Needs people, but wanted the challenge because I felt God calling me to this."

Every Mentor realizes soon enough that this is not easy work, but VERY rewarding.  Kind of like the walk of faith, don't you think?  : )

Why does the planning team do this SERVE site?  In my conversations with them I've heard things like: 

"I've got a degree in Special Education, but haven't been able to use it.  Now I am!"

"The love that comes to me from our participants is MUCH more than the love I give out in doing this SERVE site."

"I just can't stay away.  Even though it's a tonne of work, once you are in the middle of the week, seeing all the things that go on, well, you really just want to do this all the time  (well, maybe not all the time)  : ) The rewards are beyond words."

"I've gotten to know others on the planning team so well.  I wouldn't have had that experience if I didn't volunteer for things like this, and it has been such a rewarding time.  I know that community in church is important, and this reinforces that in spades."

I know that for some it's because their sibling was a special needs person and they want everyone to know that special needs people affect our lives in unique, special, and powerful ways and this is one way to get that message out.

I (Pastor Ron) do this because I want to equip and empower people to know that the Kingdom of God includes EVERYONE.  In God's sight, these participants are special, unique, and created in HIS image.  You see so much of God in them, that you can't help but know that this is so true. 

However, I also know that many people are uncomfortable with the crew that we minister with.  That saddens me.  I know that this is not necessarily my area of comfort all the time, but as Shellie has mentioned to me, "I've seen growth in you too, Ron."   That's what it's all about.  Challenge, some pain, lots of fun, and rewards beyond measure.  I know that our planning team and mentors are tired, but they wouldn't change this experience for anything in the world.  

I also know that our participants get so much out of this week.  They make new friends, get the opportunity to serve in the community, instead of being served all the time, and show all of us unconditional love, care, and grace.  Issues of justice and reciprocity all perculate to the surface on a SERVE week like this.   

That makes it all worth while for me, for sure.  The one struggle that I have is that at times it feels like we are on an uphill battle in getting exposure for such a great ministry initiative.  Sure, we do have many volunteers helping out, but it would be great to have more attendance during our worship times. 

Yes, it's summer, and people are on vacations, but not everyone is from the churches that support us.  I think, just like many other things that seem to be happening in other ministries, the feeling is that, "That's a nice ministry, but I don't have time to come and check it out.  I'm busy already.  I'm glad it goes on, but I have my own life to live."  If that were the attitude of our volunteers, there never would be a SERVE of this kind in Canada.  Could  I challenge you to think in the reverse?   Think about ways we can support our special needs folk that we know.  Showing up is a big part of that support.  But enough of my soap box. 

I also wanted to take a moment to thank our planning team.  They put alot of work into making this SERVE site work well.  

Our kitchen crew of Anne and Annet always does amazing work.  Thanks too to all those who donated food to help keep our costs down. 

Harold and Janine did a fantastic job on work sites, transportation logistics, and pampering.  Thanks for your work. 

Bea and Grace and Joanna made our small group time and activity time a wonderful time for the team.  The creativity is just amazing.  Thanks for your talents. 

Rey, your work in organizing the worship times and prayer partner initiatives was greatly appreciated.  Thanks.

Natasha and the praise team.  Aces.  As I've said, music is powerful stuff, and you lead us with God at the centre of it all.  Thanks.

Tamara, our long distance team member.  Thanks for all the work you have done with the participants.  I know this is your area of expertise and you did another great job.  BTW, I miss Casey...  : )

Before I forget, I need to mention our NIGHT HAWKS.  THANKS for coming in and staying up all night to make sure our team was safe.  I know that each of you got a chance to meet Alex, or other participants as they got up VERY early.  : )

So, I'm sad this SERVE is now over.  I don't think I could do another week of it right now, but I wish we could keep going for days and days.  : )  We are hopeful that  Winnipeg will host a site next year, and Ottawa will take a year off.  I already know that several mentors from my group want to go to Winnipeg.....who knows.......  : )   

It is my hope that we can have a Special Needs sites in Winnipeg  and Ottawa in 2012.  Much of that depends on the willingness of these, and new, volunteers, and mentors.  We'll see what God has in store. 

I wanted to end this entry with a time to honor our team.  I've placed their picture below, with some comments.  I hope you appreciate them as much as I have come to love and appreciate them.

Anne.  What can I say.  You have been AMAZING in the last 3 SERVES we have done.  Your love for cooking, love for people, and your desire to serve are things we could all learn from.  Thanks for stretching yourself and thanks for your friendship.  Blessings in the months to come.  May God walk closely with you, and may you feel his presence in ways you have never felt before. 

Annet.  I appreciate your "shoot from the hip" style.  Much like mine.  : )  Thanks for coming alongside Anne and helping in the kitchen.  You both make things look easy, though we who see what goes on know that this is far from true.  Blessings in your summer and may God richly reward you for your gifts of service. 

Bea.  I am always at a loss for words to express how amazed and honored I am to have you on this planning team.  The hours of work you put into thinking about what will be done during our small group time is immeasurable.  All those sleepless nights pay off, eh!  : )   You are a natural at this, and I hope God gives you many more years of interest in this sort of thing, because I can guarantee you I'll be knocking on your door again in two years....sorry Harold.  : ) 

Evert, though you aren't on the planning team, I know you love coming for the week and helping out.  You believe in what we do here, and I thank you for your support.  Too bad we are no longer the 3 amigo's though......ah, if it weren't for jealousy rearing it's ugly head, eh!  : ) 

Grace.  Thanks for all your help in the small group planning too.  Amazing stuff.  Get some well deserved rest. 

Harold.  I need another change to the schedule, no, actually, the driving schedule.  (tee, hee).  Thanks for all your work putting together these special agent tags.  They were sure a hit.  Thanks for coming along for the ride with Bea, and seeing how much fun, and how rewarding this can be.  Blessings in the rest of your summer. 

Janine.  Thanks for all your work in the area of pampering, showers, motorcycle rides, and work sites.  I didn't even bug you that much for picture taking this year did I.  : )   May God richly bless you, in ways you can't imagine, for your service here, and in our youth ministries.  You are a lifer  : ) 

Rey.  You Rock!  Thanks for all your work in worship planning and helping Shellie during worship times.  You are amazing.  Thanks for sleeping in the church and helping keep this place secure. 

Hey, that's me.  Thanks me for planning this SERVE.  All those details.  Me should smile more, eh!    I think ME is AMAZING BTW.  Keep up the GREAT work ME (tee, hee). 

Shellie.  What can I say about Shellie.   LOTS actually, but I'll keep it on the up and up.  Thanks for all your talks Shellie. You are an amazing object lesson person.  Thanks for the late night talks and staying up with me as I blogged.  May God bless your ministry back in Winnipeg, and I think I'll more than likely be seeing you in Winnipeg next, how much does it cost to rent a van...hmmmmm

Hey Tamara.  Thanks for coming to Ottawa again.  I know you were torn when you left us on Monday.  Your work did not go unnoticed.  God bless you as you raise your family.  I'll be calling you in two years D.V. to give us a hand again, if you are willing.   I'm just curious to see if you will be pregnant, or giving birth by that time....  (tee, hee). 

Amber.  As I've gotten to know you over this week, I've come to see a mature, caring, fun loving young adult.  Thanks a bunch for heeding God's call to come to this SERVE.  I know you had a blast, learned a tonne, and have some VERY funny stories to remember while here.  Blessings in your studies and in your summer. 

Andrea (a.k.a. Didi).  Thanks for coming to SERVE.  I know you came a day late, but you transitioned well, and you had a good time.  Thanks for being open to God's call for this week.  May you take this week and remember it forever. 

Ben, Paul said that we are "not to look down on those who are young."  Don't let anyone tell you you can't do something Ben.  You were AWESOME on SERVE.  Remember this week and all that you have learned from it.  You have matured a great deal in this past year.  Neat to see.   

Chris (topher).  Son.  Thanks for coming out again to SERVE.  Though I didn't talk with you much, I did see you in action and you once again did well.  Blessings on your summer's now off to the cottage and Pinery!!!! Yahoo!!!  Time for some family time. 

David.  You came and went  from SERVE, but I hope while you were here you grew, learned, gave, and loved.  Thanks for coming out and I hope we see you in Youth Group again this year.  You da Man!!

Esther, my favourite!  : )  Thanks for coming out.  You and Tyler struck up a great friendship.  It was great to watch.  I hope this week will forever be in your memory.  Remember that the Christian walk is not always easy, and yes, It's not always about you.  : ) 

Ethan.  You are an awesome man of God.  Keep up the great work of Service in His name. 

Fontana.  I trusted you with picture taking after all and you didn't disappoint.  Thanks for your help in that area.  When push comes to shove, you actually do very well.  Thanks for coming on SERVE.  It wouldn't be the same without you FOR SURE.   I hope your voice is coming back.  It sounded so SWEET when you were loosing it.  : )  Have a great summer and we'll see you in the fall again, Right? 

Hannah.  What can I say.  Talent beyond measure.  Gifted in Piano, loving, kind, sneaky, a nag at times, and knowing that life is not about YOU!  Thanks for coming on SERVE again.  I know Sara loved being your friend again this year.  Blessings in your summer. BTW, I'm not sorry I messed up your hair, many times, during the week. 

Jacob.  As I saw you progress during the week, I saw you getting more comfortable in your role as a mentor.  Neat to watch.  You and Alex did well together.  Thanks for taking up the challenge to be a mentor.  May God bless you in the rest of your summer.  See you in the fall man! 

Joanna.  Our veteran mentor.  Thanks for all your work this week.  I know it was very busy for you but you rose to the challenge.  I'm always amazed at what brings people back to SERVE.  Thanks for coming again.  You were a valued part of the team.  More than you may know.  May God bless you in the years to come. 

Joel.  How did I know that you are related to someone in our church?  Dutch Bingo is scary at times.   Thanks for coming Joel.  You did an amazing job.  Blessings in your summer and schooling next year.  Tell lots of people about your experience. 

Joy.  Thanks for coming again.  Amy enjoyed your friendship and caring.  Thanks for listening when others pulled you aside to help you during the week.   See you in the fall.  

Julianna.  Not a huge smiler, but a very nice person.  Thanks for coming out and giving of yourself.  I'm glad you had the opportunity.  Blessings in your summer and your track competitions.  I'm glad you got your wallet back.

Fayth.  Someone I didn't know well before SERVE, but am honored to have gotten to know during it.  She's my faithful Blog reader.  She's also a kind, deep, mature, fun loving person.  Thanks for coming and being part of the team.  You are AMAZING.  You did a GREAT job.  Have you gotten all that marker off your face yet.  If not, I can tell you how.....  (tee, hee). 

Kyle.  My nephew.  This automatically makes you an amazing guy.  : )   Thanks for coming once again to SERVE.  You are a great mentor.  I was glad you were able to work this into your schedule.  I look forward to taking you to the cottage now, and spending some time with you.  Blessings in your summer. 

Megan.  I didn't know you that well before SERVE, but as I've gotten to know you, you seem like a GREAT young woman of God.  You certainly know what you want, but are not demanding in that.  : )  Sorry about all that marker on your face....well, not really, but it sounded good, eh! 

Megan.  Another SERVE completed.  Thanks for helping take video and pictures.  Thanks for your quiet, yet fun loving character.  Thanks for putting up with me and all the antics.   You are an amazing young woman of God.  May God bless you for your willingness to SERVE.   Enjoy the rest of your summer. 

Michael.  So, how was SERVE for you?  You seemed to have a great time.  Thanks for coming out and showing more sides of yourself.  May God bless you in the rest of your summer. 

Michelle.  Thanks for coming out to SERVE and helping in leading in our small group times.  I hope you had a good SERVE experience. May God bless you in the rest of your summer and years ahead. 

Rachel.  Mature beyond her years.  Fun loving.  Someone I wish was in our youth group ALWAYS!  : )  Thanks for coming out to SERVE.  Thanks for giving of yourself. Thanks for your leadership.  May you not soon forget your SERVE experience, both the difficult times, and a couple of Hilarious moments, eh!  Blessings. 

Rosalynn.  Last, but not least for sure.  Thanks for helping with video and pictures Rosy.  Thanks for giving of your time.  I know you wouldn't miss this for the world.  I know, too, that  you've already begun planning for Winnipeg.  Care to let the rest of us in on those plans!!!!  : ) 

Alex.  Our early riser.  Our resident picture poser.  Thanks for all your warm hugs.  Thanks for helping keep our kitchen staff company in the mornings.   You are a great man Alex.  May God bless you. 

Alexa.  A first time SERVEr.  Thanks for coming out and giving of yourself Alexa.  I know you had lots of fun.  May God bless you. 

Amy.  Our veteran SERVEr.  Thanks for coming out once again and helping make this SERVE lots of fun.  I am always amazed at how much stuff you take with you, and that it ALL fits.  I'm afraid to be around when your suitcase is unzipped....I think it will explode.  Thanks for all the smiles Amy.  We hope to see you again. 

Charlotte.  Thanks for all the bead work you did for us.  Very much appreciated.  Thanks for coming on SERVE and blessing others. 

Greg.  You have a great smile Greg.  Thanks for giving of yourself during small group time and during our work site time.  May God bless you. 

John.  You are such a card.  One never knows what's coming next with you.  That made for a very fun SERVE week.  Thanks for coming.  I know it was a long trip. I know that God wanted you to come.  Your blog site is filled with stories of people helping you get here.  May God bless you back in California. 

Kayla.  Thanks for coming to SERVE.  You were very brave all through it.  Thanks for giving of yourself, even when you didn't always want to do something.  : )

Kyle.  An amazing guitarist.  Nice movie of you being a police officer too.  You'll get a copy of that sometime in the fall.  Thanks for blessings us during praise and worship.  Thanks for being you. 

Kyle.  Neat to see you expressing your musical talent on the drums during SERVE.  Thanks for coming out and working hard and loving us.  You are a great guy.  May God bless you in the years to come.  Who knows, maybe I'll see you next year in Winnipeg. 

Rebecca.  Another SERVE veteran.  You are a hard worker and great to be around.  I'm glad you were able to come to SERVE and share your gifts with us.  May God bless you in the years to come. 

Sara.  Yes, I'm a "pain in the neck,"  but hey, so are you !  : )   Thanks for showing us your talents during worship time.  It was fun watching you using the banners as an expression of your love for music.  You are a sweet person.  May God bless you in the years to come. 

Shawn.  Another veteran SERVEr.  Thanks for coming Shawn.  I always appreciate your presence here.   SERVE would not be the same without you here.  Thanks for all your hard work.  Your guitar playing was great.  I hope one day I can take a spin in "your car."  : ) 

Steve.  A quiet, yet confident young man.  You are gifted in many ways.  Continue to use those gifts to God's glory.  Thanks for coming on Serve.  I hope we will meet again some day. 

Steven.  Lots of fun.  Never a dull moment with you. You worked hard this week, and had lots of fun too.  Thanks for coming out.   Oh, and yes, "you're it!"  : )

Tyler.  A third timer as well on SERVE.  Thanks for all the talks we had together.  Thanks for showing us your talent on the guitar as well.  Thanks for allowing us the privilege of getting to know you better once again.   May God bless you, and may you always remember to "get er' done!" 
So, that brings me to the end of my blogging of this SERVE experience.  I trust you were able to experience a bit of what it was like.  I also hope that in two years you might feel the call of God to come and help us out here in Ottawa for a SERVE site unlike any other in Canada, or maybe start your own in your city.....I'd be more than happy to talk to any of you about both options.....
May God Bless you all, and remember, He cares for you RIGHT DOWN TO THE LAST DETAIL!!!!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

SERVE - Day 6 - Thursday - Homeward Bound

.It's 7:45 pm.  I'm at home sitting at my kitchen table with my laptop. Quite a different feeling that the last week writing to you.  My kids are outside on the trampoline, and reading, and I now will bring you the next to last entry of this SERVE week.  The final one will come tomorrow with some reflective thoughts.  For now, I'll give you the pictoral narrative of this last day, mainly because I'm starting to see double and need to go to bed.  : )  

I awoke at 7:45 am.  I went into the kitchen and what do I see.  The same wonderful site.  Happy faces getting our breakfast ready.  

Here is my good buddy Rey!  Still smilin' eh Rey.  He often hears this, but I just can't resist....."You can call me Rey, and you can call me Jay, but you doesn't have to call me Johnson...."  : ) 

Fontana is smiling and so is Rebecca.  They must have gotten a good night's sleep.  

You can't see it, but Ethan is VERY tired.  Hiding it behind that big grin of his.  They both are.  

Woe there Nellie!  Or should I say Shellie!  Looks like she's glued her eyelids open in order not to fall asleep.  If you only knew what she went through to crank out those wonderful presentations she does each worship time.......

Our final assignment for the week from Constable Rey.  

Hey, something looks different about Shellie in this picture.  Can you guess what it is?  

Our last great breakfast meal at SERVE

Now this guy is interesting.  If you went back to our Saturday entries, you'd find this guy perched beside a table with other things surrounding him.  Through the week everything moved, but he didn't move an inch......interesting.......

After breakfast it was time for the dreaded "packing up in order to get home" time.  

For some, this was a simple task.  Put your dirty laundry in with your clean laundry and zip up the suitcase.  Roll up the sleeping back that now seems 2 times bigger, and deflate that leaky air-mattress.  

For others, this proved to be a daunting task.  Some things really make me laugh at SERVE, even if maybe, just maybe they shouldn't.  Take Amy for example.  Notice the mountain of items she has to pack.  In past years she has taken up to 2 hours to pack everything away, and it just wouldn't fit.  Let's check in with her a bit latter to see her progress.  

Hannah and Sara are making good progress.  

My hero and favorite Mentor (sorry Esther....but suck it up and move over  (tee, hee).  Fayth is once again faithfully (no pun intended) reading my blog.  She at least reads it legitimately, unlike Esther who LOOKS like she's reading it, but is actually updating her status on Facebook!!!!!  Busted.....

Some in the group don't understand what packing up really means.  Micheal and Kyle are having a GREAT pillow fight...but not much packing is getting done.  

Megan is packing up.  This is her before picture.....

This is the after picture.  Not bad.  

Ah, checking in on Amy now.  It's been 45 minutes, and it doesn't look like she's even made a dent in her stuff.  : )  Miraculously she managed to fit it all in AND get done in about one hour......

Some down time as packing continues.  John is hitting Shawn's stomach, and Shawn is letting out long tones so it sounds staccato.   

I think Esther is having a bad day?  Maybe she already read my comment about Fayth  (tee, hee).  

The band of Brothers....a nice picture.  Rey is a natural with our participants.  They just love him.  Thanks for giving of your time Rey.  

After packing up it was time for worship.  I'm always amazed at how powerful music is for our participants.  It is a powerful medium for all of us, but particularly for our Participants.  They are so intense and into the music.  I just love watching it.  

Shawn and Rey jamming.  

Shellie's last talk.  Today it had to do with stinky feet......

....paper that kept getting smaller and smaller......

....Water and many glasses......

We ended this year as every other year.  We handed out quilts to our first time participants.  A true labour of love from our quilting group.  

This year Margaret handed them out.  She gave each participant a loving embrace as they received their quilt.  Touching.  

"I wanna be your hands....I wanna be your feet..."  Each year one of the songs from the praise team ends up becoming the favorite.  This year it was this song.  Peppy, fun, and action filled.  

We also had slower, more emotional songs.  

I ended our session with some thank-you's.  You'll notice Larry on my shirt.  Many others in the group noticed too.  

We then moved on to our final small group time.  Here is Bea explaining what to do.  This time the participants and mentors made a wonderful picture scape.  

We invite the parents to come for our worship and last small group time. Here is Sara with her mom.  Many participants can't contain their glee in seeing their parents again.  It's fun to watch.....and puts a lump in my throat as well.  

Here is a group hard a work.  I hope they don't forget about the time and work right through lunch.....  : )  

The "stuff" of everyone is slowly migrating out of the rooms, into the hallways, and soon into a vehicle.  

While the small group time was going on, several of us started cleaning up the church.  Here is Rey taking down the silhouette's. 

Annet made this fancy tower out of paper plates.  The hidden talents of our team continue to amaze me!  

It looks like I scared Andrea in the middle of her work...sorry about that.  

Here are two cousins showing us all how NOT to move a bookshelf down a hallway.  : )  

The finished craft.  I just think that is Cool!!!

One of the props that Shellie used was a VERY large stethoscope.   Shellie gave it to Mary-Jane as a gift.  She loved it.   

Ok, so here's the story about Megan having all this marker on her see.....well......I started it.   I had a marker I was using to sign everyone's craft, and then....well....I had this idea.  Why not put this permanent marker on every mentor's face......why not!  So I began.....things went well until they figured out they could gang up on me.   This was the end result of my tussle with Megan.......

This was the result of my being markered by many mentors.........

.....and this......

.....and this........I did deserve I will not whine about it...  : )  The really neat part was that I knew that the hand sanitizer at our church would take this permanent marker off, no problem.  The mentors didn't.  They were scrubbing and scrubbing with soap, getting red skin.  I had to chuckle.  

After all that hard work, and cleaning up, it was time for lunch.  Pizza.  A great way to end our SERVE experience.  Nothing was left after that, except to cry and say good-bye.  There were many tears, but many thanks as well.  

Once the participants were gone, the rest of us cleaned up the church in about 1 hour.  The mentors went their separate ways, and I brought Amber to the airport so she could get home too.  I did leave Ethan at the church to wait for his buddies to come get him at about 6 pm.  I think he scared the custodian and office manager...thinking he was another thief in the church. I forgot to tell them about him.....they were relieved after calling me and hearing from me that he was ok.  

So, another SERVE has come and gone.  It's gone FAST, but has been a BLAST.  I would be lying if I said I wasn't glad it was over, but I'd also be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy every minute of it.  I'll post one more reflective type entry tomorrow with comments about our mentors and participants.  Check it out if you want.  Right now, it's off to bed for about 14 hours of SLEEP!!!!!!   : )   

May all of have safe travels home...and may you have many who ask you about your experiences.  Until next year in Winnipeg.......and hopefully Ottawa / Winnipeg in 2012.......  : )  God bless and good night!!!!!