Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Winnipeg SERVE - Final reflections from Mentors and Pastor Ron

I'm sitting at the home of Jacob and Jonathan H as they watch Harry Potter's 7th movie.  We are going to see the final movie tonight, and the boys wanted to watch the second last one to refresh their memories.  

So, while they are busy, I figured I'd post the final SERVE entry.  I have to say that the other entries are very good  (being biased of course), but I think if you take the time to read through this entry, you might find it the best one of all.  

Best because you are going to get the chance to read how this SERVE experience changed/effected/impacted the mentors.  I had them all write out their thoughts on the way home  (we had 3 days after all) and below are the results of that time.   There is some really neat stuff in those paragraphs.  

I've commented about the mentor at the end of each section. You can skip over that if you'd like, but don't have to.  : ) 

So, read on and enjoy........


How Serve affected me

I will talk with feeling just as Ron asked.

I am crying, crying, crying.  Bahooo, bahooo.  Serve is over.  I can’t take it…sniff sniff.  Okay so it’s not true. Well, it’s one of those half truths.  Serve is over and I’m not crying.   

There were a few tears shed, however, as we said our goodbyes at Covenant church Thursday.  The tears were not restricted to mentors and participants.  Tears were a realization for at least one leader as to how deeply she was affected.  By her own admittance she doesn’t do this.  Public tears that is.

My tears were done in private and not at the end of the week. If it wasn’t the goodbyes that affected me then what was it?

The Ottawa troupe arrived in Winnipeg Wednesday July 12th.  Shellie and Vince’s new house was a lovely venue for the young people to swim and hang out and at the same time for old friends to catch up on old times.  In this case the friends were Ron and Shellie.  This of course is another half truth.  Only half of the friends were old. (That would be you Ron.)

Shellie spoke of her vision for the individuals that she works with.  Integration has been the growing trend in society and yet in our church community it remains an ongoing challenge.  Shellie spoke of the different gifts in the body.  She questioned how we as a church body are doing in recognising the various gifts.  As one with breakthrough vision shares, upon initial hearing of that vision, one listening could easily go on the defensive and receive the thoughts as criticism.

Wednesday and Thursday night there was great pleasure in long conversations on Shellie’s deck before the Serve agenda began.  It was holiday time where time seems to expand. Little did I know the conversations would replay themselves in my head the rest of the week.

Serve did start.  Saturday the mentors, participants and leaders began their Serve sleepover bubble.  I was presented keys to a car and directions to a lovely home near the Red River.  While I enjoyed the comfort of a bed and showers, those at Serve enjoyed the growth of companionship and friendship.  If you spend enough days together it starts to feel like family. 

Whenever I did arrive for worship time and supper I was welcomed with warm fellowship and open arms.  This year’s serve group was so comfortable in their own skin as a group that inviting others into their circle was a natural expression of the love and affirmation they felt within their group.  As a visitor from the comforts of my host home I found it difficult to leave the church.  As I moved from the comfort of the group to the realization “okay, already it’s time to go” there was an awkwardness growing in me.

Back at the house I had time to reflect.  What was going on?  Back home in Ontario when first considering whether or not to come I had hesitations.  What would I do during the week?  Should I fly back and forth?  Too expensive.  I could read and run.  Getting involved was not on my list.  I was invited to help out.  But without the vision I was indeed blind.  In my reflections I had to admit to myself that I suffered from “a separation thinking.”  That is, I had not previously developed a relationship with anyone with special needs.  Because I hadn’t, I remained uncomfortable with participating.  Well, there’s the truth of it…   Remember those tears?  Well as I’m writing they are catching me off guard again.  (Ron’s comment here, “So that’s why you were tearing up.”  Neat! : )  Sure I could edit this out but there you are, with the truth of it all. With that let’s jump ahead to where change for me began.

Friday afternoon was a time for the mentors to get to know each other.  During that time Kyle and I had an opportunity to do our own exploring of downtown Winnipeg.  The touring was secondary, however, to the real memories of the day.  Kyle and I had a blast.  We went to see a movie, and we explored the MTS stadium.  Just driving around looking for the mentors on their “Amazing Race” was fun.  Snapping a photo of Megan and Amber was a highlight. This time together was a set up for the rest of the week.  I was now involved.  I enjoyed seeing Kyle throughout the week simply because now I knew him. 

On Monday night another participant also got past my guard.  There were mailboxes for the serve team to write warm fuzzies for each other.  I wrote some notes as well.  Amy was so excited.  Immediately she reciprocated and bubbled up to me with her response.  Not only did I continue to get mail from her, soon she engaged Rosy’s help to create a mailbox for me.  It was something small.  Perhaps.  It was an act that drew me in.  Once I was in I had to come to terms with my initial hesitation for not wanting to become involved.  This hesitation had now dissolved.

I am grateful to Ron, Calvin CRC, and Shellie for a vision that started 4 years ago in Ottawa and continues on in Winnipeg through this SERVE.  I am grateful to have a better appreciation for the body of Christ.  Next year I am getting involved in the Ottawa Youth Unlimited Special Needs SERVE week.  Who knows where it’ll go from there.  God is good.

Ron's Comment:  
Annette.  It was truly a joy to have you along on this trip.  I really appreciated the talks we had, your honesty, and our budding friendship.  : ) 

You are a woman of prayer, and you can also lie with a straight face....what's with that!?  : )

You were great with our youth and it was nice to see those that wanted to sit in the front seat and play those great games with us.  I think we have an additional 500 pictures because of you, and most of them are of trees.  You'll be getting them soon enough!  

Thanks too for your honest words.  It was wonderful to watch you struggle while on SERVE and read how this experience has changed you.  I look forward to your involvement in some way in Ottawa for SERVE 2012.  Enjoy the rest of your summer with your family.  


So, I’ve talked non-stop since I have come home from Winnipeg about Winnipeg and everyone there, even including you Ron.  : ) (I hope it was all good Amber!  : ) )   However I find it hard to put all of it into words, there is just too much to talk about!
I enjoyed worship a lot; it was just so amazing to see everyone involved even in what seemed the slightest way, and how moving it was.
I really enjoyed Shellie’s talks each night, I especially liked the talk in which we put our names on the cross and got rid of our chains, the object lesson really made it personal and real for me.
I don’t know if I have ever laughed as much as I did this past week. It was really great though! Even though I didn’t know half the time what I was laughing about, I found that even if I was really tired I couldn’t stop laughing or smiling.
Another thing that I really enjoyed was the friendships, I enjoyed seeing some people that I met last year and it felt like we were never apart, a lot of those friendships got stronger. I also loved getting to know all the new people to SERVE, and how fast I was able to bond with them!
I also really enjoyed our small groups time. It was fun going through the material with them, and hearing what they all had to say on the different types of peace we were talking about and watching them make the connections as talked.
SERVE 2011 was AWESOME, I would go back in a second if I could! And I CANNOT wait till the next opportunity!

Ron's Comment:
Amber, it was great to see you again.  Even though it's only once a year, we pick up where we leave off.  You were amazing once again on SERVE.  Thanks for taking the time to invest in the lives of others, and in that, learn lots about yourself.  

Take care of Fayth and someday I may forgive you for stealing this family away from us.  : )   Nice to know she has a friend already where she's moving to.  

I hope we will see you in Ottawa next year 2012.....You're soooooo much fun to bug.  : )  Blessings in your studies this coming year.  


My reflections on SERVE 2011

So, umm, Ron asked for my reflections about this year’s SERVE, so here they are.  I had a great time, the Amazing race on Friday was really fun and frustrating, Jacob and I had a hard time finding the second clue but once we call and find found where it was, it was smooth sailing from there. If only we didn’t take that 5 minute penalty we would have won.  From there we went to the beach which by the way was spectacular, the sand was soft and the water was refreshing. We ate there and then went for a much needed shower.

Saturday was a blur of excitement as the participants started to arrive. I was a little nervous about meeting my participant for the first time, but after talking to him and getting to know him I started to relaxed and just have fun. After getting to know my participant we had small group where we had to draw picture of what we had done that day. There were games outside but I got to sit in the shade with my participant and watch well everyone either play Frisbee Golf or Bocce ball. Supper was great we had subs and everyone had a chance to meet others that weren’t in there group. 

Sunday can only be sum up in two words: Sore and Fun. My back was sore I was having trouble walking and sitting was just as bad, I could not get comfortable, then Mrs. Brinkman came along and prayed over me and it was like nothing was wrong. Thank you again by the way, and thank God. After lunch we went to a park and I got to ride in the convertible on the way there which was nice. There they had motorcycles and everyone got a ride around the park. It was great to see everyone having fun and enjoying the rides.

Monday was the first day of work and I joined the group going to Winnipeg BIZ. It was hot but fun; it was interesting to see and walk in downtown Winnipeg. We were asked to walk and pick up garbage with one of their workers; I had fun talking with Amy and getting to know Leah. After we got back the to the head office we were rewarded with slushies for the hard work. The train ride was hot but I spent time talking with Ron, Leah and Amy.  We had dragon flies come in to the train (because it was going so slow) and that was cool.  They scared some, and others thought that it was really neat. We got freezes during our small group time at our stopover, and then it was time to get back on that hot train.  On the way back I sat with Pastor Ken and Jaydon and got to know them a bit more.  Worship was good, as always, and supper was great.

Tuesday was the hottest day of the week, I believe.  I joined a group that went to the Indian Family Center and helped plant plants.  I took lots of picture for Ron and had tons of fun with the group. We had to pull the weeds before we could plant anything in the planters but in the end everything looked really great. Someone stop by half way through and we got freezes. I love freezes on a hot day. John kept touching me on my leg with his freeze and I would jump and say that was cold and he would just laugh. I got to know John and Jovita a bit better and had a great time laughing with everyone.  Since it was too hot outside we went glow in the dark bowling.  We played 5 pin and everyone had a great time, we all cheered for each other no matter the shot.  After crafts we decide to play hide and seek, I had a blast hiding and trying to find everyone.

Wednesday I got to drive to the work siteJ. We went to Winnipeg Harvest and got the honour of sorting the potatoes. It’s a smelly job but someone has to do it. We had a lot of fun throwing the bad ones in the black bin and trying to carry the 50 pound boxes of good potatoes to the skid. I got to take lots of fun pictures again and on the way back we stopped for slushies. During the banquet there was a talent show and everyone did really great.  There was so many talented people at SERVE this year. After worship we decide to have a dance instead of watching a movie which was a really great idea. I got hold of Ron’s camera and took more than 200 pictures, I believe, which meant I didn’t have to danceJ. We went outside to cool off and played some games. When all the participants went to bed and we had finished the mentors meeting we went back outside and played glow stick tag and took pictures of the glow stick spelling out the words Shalom and Peace.

Thursday was pack it all up day, time to go home, say goodbye, hope to see you next year, no matter which way you say it, it’s overL until next year when it starts all over again.  I got to fly home with Jovita which was a lot of fun, the plane was delayed by only 20 minutes so we got to read a bit more. The flight was uneventful which is a good thing.

This year was a blast and I enjoy every minute of SERVE,  even the ones where my back hurt so much that I could hardly walk.  Without a participant I had more of a chance to get to know everyone else better.  I tried to eat with someone different each meal and interact with everyone. I Feel that I got to know something about everyone this year and I’m glad that I got that opportunity.

Thanks to the host team that did an awesome job without them none of it would have be possible.

Ron's Comment:
Joanna, I am continually amazed that you take vacation time to come out to these SERVEs each year.  Truly one dedicated person.  Thanks a tonne for being in Winnipeg and adjusting the way you did.  I think the different roles you played this year were a God thing.  I hope we can utilize those skills in our next Ottawa serve in 2012.....get back to me on that will ya. : )   
You love and compassion for all those around you is truly wonderful to watch, as is your shy demeanor when put in the spotlight.  : )  May God continue to bless you in this coming year, and it is my hope we will see you again next year.   


Well, it’s been a long week that went by fast. Serve has been a great experience just like it was last year and I miss everyone already. This serve has taught me something about patience, which I don’t have much of. I learned that not everyone can move at my pace, and I need to slow down for some people and speed up for others. This week, my participant was Kyle. With Kyle, I often had to slow down and reword sentences to get him to understand, and at the same time I had to ask him to enunciate his words properly.

The things I really enjoyed this week were Shellie’s talks. The participant’s really liked the amazing race theme, and being able to solve road blocks up at the front. I think the mentors may not have liked doing the road blocks as much as the participant’s did, (like holding Listerine in your mouth for extended periods of time, it burns!) but enjoyed watching the participant’s have fun doing them.

I had lots of fun at serve this year, and hope to do it again next year. To sum up my week, I feel more like I did when I got here than I do now. (someone needs to interpret that for me  : ) ) 

Ron's Comment:
Ben.  Thanks for coming along on SERVE.  I see a maturity growing within you each year that you do these SERVE's.  Keep seeking God in all things and I hope we'll see you next year at SERVE.  BTW, it was fun doing that two word story telling with you.  We should do that again sometime.  : ) 


Being the only new mentor at Serve this year made the experience different for me than everyone else. I loved how close everyone got so quickly! It was amazing to see how everyone remembered each other and could just get right into the SERVE mood. By the end of the first day, everyone was laughing together like old friends – well I guess they mostly were – but it was still really cool to see.

So the participants were arriving between 2:00 and 4:00 on Saturday. The whole time I was SUPER excited! I had no idea what to expect.  Everyone else did, and I was so excited to figure it out. Ironically Amy, my “buddy,” was the last to arrive. I didn’t know how to start, but she made it easy and soon we were running around and writing warm fuzzies together.

The amazing race theme was a blast. I loved running into worship every evening and jumping on the mat to get our daily tasks. Another fun amazing race related experience was the amazing race that the mentors took part in before the participants arrived. We ran around downtown Winnipeg and had to overcome obstacles.

The whole amazing race theme really does relate to our faith life and I loved it. In worship we talked about Peace. We were on a race to achieve peace. We learned how God’s peace is strong and the world’s peace is not. We also learned that God’s Peace shields us from the storms of the world and that He is home. We learned about breaking down barriers that the world encourages us to build. We got to break down walls of boxes to create an image for us. It was great!

I loved the worship at SERVE. The messages were so deep, yet easily understood so that everyone got something out of it. I loved how lots of people got involved. Participants were playing the bongo drums, guitar, singing, and at one point even dancing. It was so great to see them all involved like that.

Even though I had heard tons of things about previous serves in Ottawa from my friends, it did not prepare me for the amount of work involved. I knew that we needed to be with our participants 24/7, but I was still unprepared. At some points I got frustrated, but you just have to forget it and be happy and have fun. And I found that good for me. You just get over it and have fun, and everyone there made that really easy for me.

I had a great Serve experience and learned a lot and I am so glad that I had this opportunity. I hope that everyone was as blessed by this past week as I was, and I hope we all hold onto the lessons we learned. 

Ron's Comment:
Leah, even though you've never done a Special Needs SERVE before, you'd never know it.  Thanks for coming out and being part of the team.  I enjoyed the games time Annette and I played with you and the others.  I'll miss that shrill scream you have, which seemed to happen every minute or so.  : )  
I've seen you continue to mature as a woman of God and this SERVE it really was evident.  You handled things well, with compassion and kindness, and selflessly.  You should be very proud of yourself.  
Blessings as you spend time in Germany.  May it be an awesome experience for you. I hope you'll be back as a mentor again, and yes, in Ottawa if you can.  : )   See you in September eh!   


Having done SERVE twice before in Ottawa, I thought that my understanding of special needs persons was fairly good, but that understanding can always be improved on, so I chose to come to the Winnipeg SERVE site.

Before SERVE started, I had the goal of putting others before myself, because it is something that I struggle with in my own life, and I wanted that to change. During this past week I had many opportunities to do just that.

            When I found out that my participant was Kyle, who I had mentored last year, I had mixed feelings. I was glad that I was paired up with someone I knew very well already, but was also sort of disappointed that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be a mentor to someone I didn’t know well, or with someone more “challenging.” I was sort of hoping that I would be paired up with someone that would challenge my skills at putting others before myself, but now that I think of it, that is sort of what happened with Kyle anyways. There were actually many opportunities to put Kyle before me even though he is a very agreeable person and willing to do what people ask of him. I challenged myself by not asking him to do what I want, but to do what he wanted to do. Some examples would be asking him where he wanted to sit for dinner, or what activity he wanted to do during free time. I gave him the choice of what he wanted to do, instead of what I did last year, which was asking him to do something, and trying to persuade him to do what I wanted to do.

Due to Kyle being a high functioning person, and someone who I have known for quite some time, I knew that it wouldn’t be THAT difficult or stressful watching over him. He takes care of himself fairly well, so I had lots of opportunity to get to know other participants and help them when ever I could. One example of this would be with John, Rosy’s participant. Rosy had the challenge of mentoring someone of the opposite gender, so I would help her when it came to John getting ready in the morning, and showering. This made my week seem more like a service project rather than just hanging around with a friend.

            The theme of this year’s SERVE was, The Amazing Race. Every day there was a different theme that taught us more about peace. They were as follows: Peace is Misunderstood, Peace is a Trouble Maker, Peace is a Status, Peace is Home, Peace is a Unifier, and Peace is a process that bears fruit. The Amazing Race portion of the week was that we were on a race to achieve peace. We learned that peace can be found even in the darkest and most troubled times, in addition to the quiet and “peaceful” times. In the afternoon we would have small groups where we would talk about the day’s theme and do various activities, and then in the evening we would attend a worship service where Shellie would talk about the day’s theme as well. Shellie is an excellent speaker, and tells her messages in a way that is very easy to understand for the participants, while still being deep and meaningful for everyone listening. I really appreciate all the hard work she has put into her messages, and for making them very effective and applicable to our lives.

            Overall, I thought that this year’s SERVE site was very enjoyable, and a great learning experience. I can’t wait until next year’s SERVE and to learn even more, and grow in my relationship with God! 

Dad's comment: 
Nice comments son.  Nice to see you are growing and maturing.  It is nice to have you along on these trips, and it will seem very weird when you stop coming with me on youth events.  I think you started when you were 5 ish?  : )  

Thanks for being part of this year's SERVE experience.  I know it was fun for you, and it was great to have you along. Who else would have run the Ipod controls during our trip to and from Winnipeg?  : )  


This has been my third year participating in the SERVE Special Needs program and every year the SERVE teams asks us, “Why did you choose to come to SERVE this year?”. Every year I have given the same answer: “It’s fun, it’s challenging, and I learn a lot”. But what exactly do I learn? I don’t know if I’ve ever been able to fully answer that question or if I’ve ever really known how to express what I’ve learned, but this year was different. What I learned this year and every other year has become clear to me.

            Every day I go around picking up pieces of the world. I put myself on a pedestal and place my own importance higher than the importance of others. SERVE brings me back to earth. The SERVE worship services were where I was most exposed to the authenticity of each of the participants. I loved to watch them participate in worship in their own ways. SERVE is where I let go of all the things the world has given me and truly get to be myself.

During one of the worship services, Shellie was talking about making choices and she had Kyle J. and Jacob come up to the stage to illustrate her point. She filled Kyle’s arms with different things and told him that he must choose between holding all the objects or giving Jacob a hug. I began to understand that I can not truly receive what God wants to give me when I am holding all the stuff that world gives me.

This SERVE, I got to serve and to help others rather than myself and in return I received joy and peace. It is my hope that I may continue to grow in the area of servanthood. I love SERVE because I am given the opportunity to serve and to be myself instead of who the world wants me to be. The world wants me to worry about myself and to live for my own purpose. However, serving is God’s plan for my life and that is the journey that I want to take. 

Ron's Comment: 
Rosy.  You have really grown in your maturity over this past year.  I witnessed some very neat and touching moments during your SERVE experience.  I smiled and was honored to be watching you serve and love and genuinely be yourself.  Even though I love to pester you, you need to know that I was very proud of you.  Thanks for your words of reflection.  They are very profound.  

Have a great time this summer with family and I'll see you again in September.  I'm hopeful you will be around for next year's SERVE.  It would be an honor to have you on the team once again.  

P.S.  I tried to pick a picture where you weren't glowing so much......how did I do....bahahahahahahah  : )   


This week has truly been a fun, rewarding and eye opening experience. It has definitely given me an opportunity for growth. Though this week was amazing, it did not come without its challenges. This is my third SERVE project that I have been part of but it is incredible how every year proves to be so different. Not only was this year’s SERVE in a different province but there were new participants, new obstacles, and many new memories made. 

This became clearer as the week progressed. I really enjoyed getting to know my participant better. I learned that she has a great sense of humour and I was able to see a few of her talents shine through during the week.  This week gave me an opportunity to get to know my fellow mentor, Fontana, a lot better and shared many great moments with her. And I am very thankful to have been partnered with her.   

This week has truly been a fun, rewarding and eye opening experience. It has definitely given me an opportunity for growth. Though this week was amazing, it did not come without its challenges. This is my third SERVE project that I have been part of but it is incredible how every year proves to be so different. Not only was this year’s SERVE in a different province but there were new participants, new obstacles, and many new memories made.

The theme for this week was “peace no matter what”. The theme was reflected in many of the activities this week. Our challenge this week was to be a living example of God’s peace even if it included picking up garbage in 30 plus weather.  The lessons were about taking peace to a deeper level and about experiences God’s peace rather than the world’s.

This week was about building relationships; with God and with others. It gave us an opportunity to form hopefully many new long term relationships as well as strengthen already formed relationships. The host team was very encouraging and helpful and I really enjoyed working with them this year.

This week really strengthened something that has always been a part of SERVE in previous years; SERVE is a two sided experience. It is true that we come to serve as mentors, but when you think about it we honestly can learn so much from the participants. I really enjoyed watching how open they are and how free they are to be themselves. This state of mind really makes one feel more comfortable and gives everyone a stronger sense of belonging.

Each year I find that the worship services are a highlight of my week. I love how everyone has there own way of worship and it was neat to witness throughout the week. This is something that we can learn from. I really enjoyed listening to Shellie’s talks and the interactions that happened during the service. 

I found one of the biggest challenges this week was feeling that we as mentors were doing the right thing and ensuring that every participant got something out of the week. I think personally I was discouraged by this when my participant, when asked if she would come again replied, SERVE was not for her. As a mentor this is almost one of the worst things you would like to here and is honestly truly discouraging. But everyone is different and I really think that this week has taught me to just have faith and let God take control. And God is good. I found myself stopping every once in a while and just praying. From my experience I also think that even the smallest of actions can make a difference in one’s life.

This week was one filled of laughter and joy and lots of fellowship with others. It was really a blessing to be able to be a part of this experience and to be able to give of myself. I have been given many opportunities this week, whether that was sharing my faith or just being there with others. I hope, Lord willing, I will be able to partake in this experience once again next year.

Ron's Comments:
Megan.  Always a joy to have around.  Not shy.  : )  Not overbearing either.  Nice reflective comments.  I'm glad you learned so much this time.  Just remember that I like to bug those I like.  Sorry about taking all those eating pictures of you, but you have to admit, it was a great theme running through the blog, and you posed for them....  : ) 
You continue to grow in faith and it was a joy to see you having sooooo much fun with Fontana and Kim.  As you say, I hope to see you at SERVE again next year.  See you in September too.  : )  
Have a blessed time with family and friends through the rest of the summer.  


SERVE is over. Despite the fact that it feels as though the week went by really quickly, it also seems like I`ve been doing SERVE all summer. I`ll admit that at first, I was a bit anxious about going. I am the kind of person who tends to worry about things a lot. I was worried about losing some of the things I packed, worried about not doing a good enough job with my participant, and worried about being too busy with all of the events and tasks.

It wasn`t until I got to SERVE that the worrying started to subside. I decided to let go and leave everything for God to take care of. The theme for the week was Shalom – finding God`s unbreakable peace no matter the circumstances. We learned that God`s peace is not like the peace that we think of – things like the absence of war, or relaxing in a hammock with some lemonade and a book. God`s peace is knowing that no matter what we do, or what`s happening to us, we can be at rest because we know that He is taking care of us the whole time.

Knowing about this peace, the busy life of watching over someone 24/7 transforms into a great time spent with friends. Towards the end of the week, I was not thinking of it as any kind of work at all. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I became great friends with my participant, and found it very hard to say goodbye to each other at the end of it all.  God was good, and gave us His peace throughout the week.

I think I can truthfully say that there was never a moment throughout the week that I didn’t enjoy. Even when we would be working at different sites, I was joking around with friends, working together with others, and just having a good time in general. I could tell that everyone else felt this way as well. Everyone will go home with their own stories to tell and memories to keep.

Aside from the mentors and participants, I thought the host team did an excellent job. Every event was creative and well prepared, and every work site was productive and organized. The worship times in the evenings drew out crowds of non-SERVE people interested in what we were doing, and got everyone singing along with the songs and listening intently to the messages.

Overall, I can’t wait for next year’s SERVE. I don’t know if it will be a lot like this year’s. To be frank, I hope it isn’t. I would like to look forward to new experiences and new people. The SERVE project that we did was a great time and a huge learning experience for everyone involved, and I hope that they can continue on for a long time.

Ron's Comments:  
Always the thinker in the group.  Son #2.  : )  Thanks for taking the risk and coming out to Winnipeg.  I know you weren't disappointed.  Thanks for your quiet, yet biting, satire too.   You were an awesome mentor. Over the past years I have really come to enjoy your company.  Come on over anytime.  : )


My experience of SERVE 2011 was rewarding, but also challenging. I did enjoy the past two SERVEs, but there was something about this SERVE that made it really special for me. I think one of the reasons this SERVE went so well was because we were almost all experienced mentors. Therefore we knew what was coming and what we would be expected to do. However, even though we were experienced, there were still obstacles that had to be overcome. The theme of this week was Shalom: Peace No Matter What. We learned that you can have peace at all times, whether in a quiet place, or a loud one. Having peace 24-7 isn’t always easy. While we were picking up garbage in downtown Winnipeg, we got tired and very, VERY hot. It was hard to be positive and encouraging to others, let alone being peaceful. I think one of the challenges for me, throughout the whole week, was having peace in the harder, and tiring moments. 

Before every SERVE trip, we are encouraged to be the participant’s friend more than their mentor. For some people, it’s a piece of cake, but for others, it takes awhile. This past week I was one of the people where it took awhile for my partner and I to warm up to each other. As the week went on, it didn’t necessarily get easier, but we finally began to understand each other and get used to each other’s habits. I began to relax and got to know a beautiful, funny, stubborn (J), smart girl. I began to feel peaceful.

Many strong friendships were made during the week, many fun memories, many lessons learned and many acts of service completed. Although there were many tears shed when we all piled into our 12-seater van, we still definitely do not regret the time that we’ve had together.

I am not exactly sure how I have changed on account of this trip, but I know I have changed, in some way. All in all, I’m very glad I travelled 3 days to Winnipeg despite the … interesting … restaurants we stopped at and the numbed backsides. It has been a fulfilling and an amazing experience.

Ron's Comment:  
Hannah.  The adventurous one of our group.  Always wanting to push that envelope of things we can do.  : )  Thanks for your playful spirit.  It is refreshing to see and don't ever let anyone snuff that out.  Thanks for coming out to one more SERVE.  You have also matured a great deal over the past year and it showed during this SERVE.  
I hope you'll be part of SERVE again next year, and even help us on the planning team.  You're ideas are always good and will help make next year's Ottawa SERVE that much better....if you decide to do Ottawa's that is.  : )  
Have a blessed time with family this summer and while you are on LIT, or is that ILT...I can never remember.  : ) 


Now the fun part starts…. Reflections on the week! This week was a very good experience for me. Last year’s SERVE was filled with an incredible amount of learning how to communicate with people with disabilities and how to relate to/treat everybody. Along with a refresher of that, this year was filled with new friendships. As we were told at the beginning of the week, it is a hard job to become someone’s friend in a matter of a few days, let alone a few hours! When I first heard that, it scared me. Last year I was partnered up with another mentor as well as a participant, so there was less pressure on me to have to be there 24-7 and to be their main friend to connect with. This year I was put on my own with an amazing girl! I was kind of worried about how things would work out at first, knowing the ‘pressure’, so to speak, was all on me, but it worked out amazingly! I learned how to make lots of small talk and how to make those into deeper conversations that eventually led to us having great conversations and times full of laughter.

Jovita and I really connected on Tuesday night. The message that Shellie shared was emotional for both of us, allowing us to be able to pray with each other, as well as cry. This brought us together in a way different than just our talking over the days before had. That was probably the most special part of the week for me. 
I don’t know if I’ve changed at all this week. I think the differences will be more noticed, by both others and myself, after being put back into normal life for awhile than by being around the people that I have been with the whole week, and then now again for three days of traveling. 

All in all, I have gotten to know lots of people more than I have previously because of circumstances, and I’ve enjoyed that. Also, meeting the lead team in Winnipeg was awesome, especially because we didn’t have any new mentors to meet.

I had an awesome week and look forward to the possibility of being able to do it again next year!

Ron's Comment:
Fayth.  You may be 15, but you are mature way beyond your years.  Truly a privilege being able to work with you and travel with you to Winnipeg.  You are an amazing person and we will miss you here in the Ottawa area.  May God bless you as you and your family move on to new adventures in Southern Ontario. 
I hope you will consider travelling with Amber and come back for next year's SERVE in Ottawa.  
Oh, and about that word game.....are you sure you have the word you want....sure you don't want to change it?.....PENALTY!!!!!!!  Bahahahahahaha


Wow, I can’t believe a week has passed already! This week has been one of the most enjoyable, yet one of the hardest weeks of my life.

 I have done special needs SERVE for three years now, and every year I learn something different. This year I was partnered with someone who was in my youth group that I didn’t know very well. At first I felt like I was paired with another mentor because I was seen as immature. I find quite a few people see me as an immature, loud, crazy girl. I try hard to show my serious side in public more, however I find it hard to open up to people. As I learned that I would be paired with another mentor, I felt like I let myself down. I was not angry, but disappointed. As the week progressed, I got to know Megan better! She is a great girl, and not shy in the slightest. I’m so glad that I was paired up with her. Without her, I’m not sure how the week would have gone. God makes everything happen for a reason, and I wish I would have remembered that before I got upset with myself.  On Saturday our participant arrived and I was feeling so excited. The week started off strong (although I only got two hours of sleep Saturday night).

 The theme of the week was Peace no matter what. Peace is often a misunderstood concept. When people think PEACE, they think of sitting by an ocean without a care in the world. Peace is seen as the opposite of war, as when there is no arguing going on. You hear things being described as peaceful all the time. While some of these are different versions of peace, this does not define it. Peace is not something that you can see, or hear, or touch. Peace is knowing that Jesus died for you. Knowing that no matter how badly you mess up God is there with open arms. This theme really touched many people this week. I was one of them. Shellie is a very gifted speaker, and made everything very easy to understand. Some of her points are going to stick with me for awhile! Every year I find it super cool watching the participants praise God. Some sing up front, and some just stay in their seats and belt out the words. Some of the Sunday school kids made some ribbons that everyone really enjoyed dancing with. So many of the participants loved to express themselves through music, there was a guitar, drums, and singing. As I watched everyone worship God, it made me wish I could express my love for the Lord better. I find that in today’s society, people worry too much about what others think about them. It is so hard to truly just be paying attention to God. You are always worrying that people are wondering why you are raising your hands, or why you are dancing.  I myself struggle with this.  It’s so hard to forget that other people are around you. I really wish I could be so free with worship that I don’t care who sees me and what they think. 
This week went by very quickly yet was so long. I think I laughed more in this week then I do normally in one month. The relationships I built are relationships that I’m going to try very hard to keep. I got to know some people I normally wouldn’t. I found out that people I thought were mature, had the most immature sense of humour! I also had some pretty great times with Megan, I found out she hates knowing I look older then her, and watch out…if she knew you better, she would beat you up!! ;) I’m so glad I got this opportunity, this week has most likely caused me to change in some way or another, but being myself, I can’t really see how I changed, though I am hoping that I changed for the better. I still am so amazed at all the unique people God has created. Every single person I met this week had something great to offer that was their own. We are the snowflakes of humanity. People really should get out of their bubbles and experience something like SERVE. The only prayers I have at the end of this week would be that someone’s life changed for the better because of this week, and that the concepts we learned this week won’t just fade as we settle back home, but stick with us the rest of our lives.  

Mine and Megan’s participant was a very nice girl! It was her first SERVE and she was super excited to start this week. She was ready and willing to serve others. At about the midpoint in the week, she was ready to go home. It was hard to get her pumped up sometimes; she would talk about home and about her own bed. It made me miss my own home that much more. Megan did so well this week, I found it inspiring to watch her and our participant interact; she is so great with people. We three girls had so many laughs, but it was hard to get serious, I’m not sure that our participant got that much out of the week.

Something our participant said on the second last day almost broke my heart; she said “I really don’t think SERVE is for me.” And when we asked her if she had fun she said, “here and there.” I honestly felt like I failed there. I know everyone has different interests and SERVE projects aren’t for everyone, but I feel like it is partly my job as a mentor to make sure the week is fun. Our participant was a very independent girl. She was used to doing fun things that were not always chaperoned, and because of that I think she felt somewhat intimidated by Megan and I. She only seemed to be having fun during the activities, so during the worksites and the downtime I tried very hard to make her laugh or to take her mind off of the thing we were doing. Because she knew the host team very well, she loved to go off and talk to them, often times leaving Megan and I sitting or standing off to the side. 

I was fine with being the third wheel every once in awhile, but I found it an obstacles in our growing relationship. However, the times I laughed with that girl brightened my day. She was so funny and some of the jokes she told me made me laugh so hard! One of my favourite jokes was when I was complaining about the heat, she asked me if I wanted some cheese with my whine. I don’t think I have ever laughed harder. She cared so much for all of the people there! I have never seen a girl with such a caring heart. She made me want to better myself, every time I saw her interacting with someone so kindly, it made me second guess how I interacted with people.

Ron's Comment: 

Fontana.  Don't sell yourself short.  Yes, you love to laugh and you are a hoot to be around, but we do know that there is much more to Fontana than just fun. 
Maybe we just need to coax that out of you more often, who knows.  You need to know that I think you are an amazing person that is genuine and caring.  Youth group would NOT be the same without you!  Thanks for coming out to Winnipeg with us.  It was fun wasn't it!  Sounds like you've learned some things about yourself that you could work on, and that is never a bad thing.  Enjoy your vacation in PEI and I'll see you in September, and hopefully at next year's SERVE. 

This brings me to the end of our reflection time.  I could say more but I think that enough has been said.  Thanks for lots of great memories and the honour of having gotten to know you all better over these past two weeks.  You are all AWESOME and AMAZING and there wouldn't be enough words to express how I feel about you all, so I'll leave it at this.  

May God bless you all.