Thursday, July 19, 2012

SERVE Day 7 - Thursday - Time to say Good-Bye : (

Well, I'm sitting at home at my kitchen table, showered (I needed it)  and relaxed.  Time to close out our Ottawa 2012 SERVE experience with one final blog post.  This one will end with reflections from our Mentors, so don't forget to read them.  They are priceless.  

After going to bed at about 2 am, and waking at 7:45 am  (it wasn't easy, believe me), it was once again time for breakfast.  We had an amazing Wed, but that always means the next day it's time so say good-bye.  

Each morning groups of Mentors and Participants gather to wake up together and share life before we eat.  

Leah and Jovita are sharing stories about something, but I don't think Shawn is too interested.  

Speaking of Shawn, ummmm, you should know, mom and dad, that I've taught him a new thing while here at SERVE.  He can now start my van using my key.  Not sure if he'll want to do that with you, but just wanted to give you the heads up.  : )  

Kristen looked REALLY tired this morning.  She was up doing warm fuzzies most of the night.  

The rooms after 6 days of living.  I think the clothes are beginning to move on their own.  Definitely time to pack up and find the floor again.   

I don't think John got enough sleep last night, or Leah's conversation just isn't very exciting at the decide.....  : )  

Amy and Taurie (or is that Charlotte, I always get them mixed up)  reading warm fuzzies, and writing warm fuzzies.   

Sara and Lucy.  They had such fun together this week.  

Time for breakfast, and for Mom to ask for help from daughter......

Another camp breakfast song as our morning prayer.  

and then, it was time for FOOD!  Zach is ready and willing......

After breakfast it was time to pack up the rooms.  For some, this was no problem....for others......where does one begin????? eh Jonathan????  : ) 

The boy Mentors, though they were only three this year, were AMAZING.  Can't say enough about how they pitched in when needed for emergencies that the girls couldn't deal with.  Thanks for coming Jonathan, Justin and Chris.  You ROCK!  Their bedroom was a lively place in the evenings.  

A special thanks to Rey who came in every evening to help us batten down the hatches and allow us to have Mentor meetings while the boys went to sleep. 

The girls seem to be moving things along here.  

Jovita organizing her things.  

We started packing up the church during this time.  Thanks for helping Leah.  

Group prayer time with the praise team before singing.  

Time to ROCK WITH GOD!   
"Written in the word 
in the good good word........"  
(my NEW favourite song). 

Praise team was AMAZING, as usual.  

Fayth is an amazing piano player..... an amazing person as well BTW.  : ) 

The group always loves the songs during worship time.  

Action songs are the funnest.   

They just keep on coming.....  : )  

Niesje and Joy having a GREAT time getting their "praise" on. 

A larger view of what happens in worship.  

When Shawn goes up for worship, he always wants two people to go up with him.  We never know which two that's going to be, and today it was Joanna and Kristen.  

Shellie left early this morning for Winnipeg, as she's doing her SERVE in Winnipeg starting tomorrow.  So, she left the final teaching time to me.....I hope I did okay, but I'm no match for Shellie's gifting in this area.  

Today Sara helped us learn that salt, though small, has a big impact on many different things.  Just one tiny grain of salt can do many different things.  As we were going out into the world today, having completed our mission training, we are also to be like that grain of salt and be an impact in our world.   

We also gave out quilts to our first time participants, so this year Zach received one from Megan H.....

Carolyn from Megan D........

and Willi from Fayth.  

Willi decided to wear his quilt.....
Thanks to our quilting group here at Calvin for their labour of love.  

We then closed out our time together by thanking everyone, which I'll do at the end, and doing a little exercise with something that looked like a ping pong ball. It lit up when you placed your hands on two metal pieces and closed the circuit.  I had several of the group come up to help show that in community we all need each other to close that circuit, and we are all valued.  As we go out from SERVE today, we need to remember that God loves us, but we are also loved by many in this world.    

 Oh, and it just happened to be Annette's Bday today, so we sang her Happy Bday......

We ended our worship time together by forming a circle, holding hands and singing,  "My friends may you grow in grace..." together.  It was awesome.  

Parents were welcome to come to our closing worship time and mission time. Several did.  Here is Willi hugging Alex's dad.  

Mission Time.  

Shawn and Steven's mom listening in. 

More work to do in the workbooks.  

Another Mission Team...... 

Carissa getting ready to use the beads to make a necklace.  

String Beads....  : )  

 Each Participant also received a photo album with 24 pics of the week, as well as a calendar, hand made with a group photo.  Below are some of the final results of the work done today.    

Niesje seems to LOVE bubbles.....she took them out several times this's just another.....

2 buds!   

3 buds....... 

4 buds..... !!! 

Ailene, you are awesome, but a tad strange...  : ) 

Soon it was time for lunch...Pizza!!!!   

After lunch it was homeward bound.  But first, group pictures.......

And so it grows.......

and grows.........

 and gets weirder.   

Hmmm....Joanna being the centre of attention again....

Fontana, that's NOT very nice......

 I think Chris was getting bored....he's resorting to taking pictures of ME!  

Time to say good-bye......Kristen and Ailene had to leave early to catch the train.  Zach made sure he said good-bye.  

Ailene eating pizza, progressively.....ah....the photography talents of my son.....

Will that be one piece, or one piece....  : ) 

It was good pizza, eh John?  

Kristen and Joy V saying good-bye.  Lots of new friends were made this week......

Kyle had to leave early too.  He's saying good-bye to his mentor, Ailene.  A touching moment......

Willi comforting Kyle.  

Relaxing during lunch.  

My trailer ready to take the props back to Redeemer.  

Leah's smart car with her and Fontana's actually fit....well just fit.....

Group hug time.....

Jovita saying good-bye to Leah.  

Willi and Justin say fare thee well. 

Time to blow off some steam......What IS so funny you three..?  


Fontana and Shawn part ways.  

Amy and Fontana say adiƩu's ok.....

Megan and Carolyn talking over lunch.  

Rosy and Alex

John with mom, and Jovita with mom and dad.  Apparently these two families are related....I have no idea how, but that's what I heard today. 

Soon all our Participants were gone, and we finished cleaning up the church.  Before we read the reflections from our mentors, I just want to take the time to thank some people:

Anne and Annet:  our kitchen crew leaders.  Thanks for GREAT food and GREAT attitudes.  We are always spoiled when we do this SERVE. 

Harold and Janine:  Transportation and work sites and pampering.  You've got this stuff down to a science.  

Bea and Grace:  Mission time and craft time in the evening.  AMAZING, AMAZING, AMAZING....I love watching the wheels of creativity flow between the two of you.  I know it's a TONNE of work, but you do it SO VERY well.  Thanks to you both.   

Joanna:  In charge of Participants.....thanks for all your work so far.  You had a GREAT week and it was GREAT having you here.  Looking forward to working with you again next year.  

Joanna B: Assisting us with video and small group time. Thanks for being willing to help us out.  

Chris and Fontana:  Helped out with sound, video and picture taking.  Couldn't have done this without your help.  THANKS A TONNE!  

Hannah:  In charge of Praise Team....awesome're hired for next year again, if you are interested.  

Mary-Jane and Brenda:  Our nurses.  THANKS for coming in each day, and other times, to make sure our Participants remained healthy.  Thanks for going above and beyond Mary-Jane...and you too Graham.  

Parents of Participants:  responsible for allowing us to care for your child(ren) this week. Thanks for trusting us with that great responsibility. 

Did I forget anyone...I hope not, but it's possible..  : ) 

So, we finish with our mentors, without whom this whole endeavour would be impossible.  I can't say enough about how proud I am of what they do during our SERVE.  They are not here to gain anything for themselves, and it shows.  This is a labour of love for them, and they always show how much they love what they do as the week progresses.  Thanks for your selfless acts of kindness, and caring for our Participants.  I'll send you my warm fuzzies soon.....

We hope to host another SERVE next year, and we hope you will consider coming back.  As you know, we are so blessed by our Participants.  They give us so much more than we give to's wonderful to watch.  

We end this time with reflections from our Mentors.....enjoy reading about how this week affects them, and how we all learn that God is very creative in how He has made all of us.  

Fayth: Participant = Willi. 

This week has been probably one of the shortest weeks I've ever had at SERVE, yet also one of the longest! The days themselves were a bit slow, but when you look at the week as a whole, you realize how quickly it has passed! Lots of fun was had working with the worship team (Hannah, GREAT job leading... and everyone else, you guys are awesome!) Work sites were cool to go to and it was awesome to meet the people there.

This year I was paired up with Willi. Willi is a cool guy that is full of jokes and laughs. We had many good times, especially at work sites! We also had some times where we'd be butting heads a bit, but we always worked it out. Jo and Chris and Justin and Jonathan were a HUGE help with Willi! When we were unable to communicate, they stepped in and saved the day. In the end, we had a great week together and have come away as friends :) This has also been a year where I've made friends with a lot of people that I've never met before, and that has been awesome!
This is for sure a year that I will remember and I look forward to the possibility of coming back next year! 

Lucy:  Participant = Sara

This was my first time mentoring in SERVE. It has been a challenging and fun week. Sara is a very sweet girl and I loved getting to know her. I learned a lot about special needs people and I liked being with them 24/7. It was tricky figuring out Sara's diet and what she could and could not eat. 

The highlight of my week was seeing everybody up front for worship. It was incredible to see them praising God in their own ways. SERVE has been an incredible experience for me and I will never forget it.

Left - Kristen:  Participant = Shawn

This was my first time being a mentor at Special Needs SERVE. It was an incredible experience, and I really appreciated having this opportunity.

Carissa and I were mentors to Shawn and it was a tonne of fun. While it was a very stressful and tiring week, it was well worth it. Our worksites were lots of fun; we sorted food at the food bank, and helped to clean out lockers at the high school.

Worship was great; Shellie is an incredible speaker. Ron is a great guy, and very good at organizing things. I’m going to miss all the people I met here and I can’t wait to come back next year. : )  

Middle = Carissa

This is the second time I have done SERVE, and every time I love it more and more. SERVE for me has always been a way to do what I truly love to do, work with special needs people. The first time I did it I was so curious as to what SERVE was really all about, but once I got here and I had done it, I wanted to go home and do this type of a SERVE in my community. For me this is the opportunity for these participants to be able to give back and to prove to the world that they are as able as any normal person.

My highlight for the week was all the times the participants smiled. The major one was Sunday afternoon when we got to go to for motorcycle rides and a ride in a mustang. We got to the school and the entire ride there my participant Shawn, kept going on and on and on about how excited he was for the event. Just seeing the smile on his face, and how excited he was, made my week.

I'm excited to come back and do this again, meet more people and experience the love that these participants have to give the world.

Left = Christopher:  Participant = Steven

This is my first year at SERVE. I am really enjoying it so far. Justin and I are the mentors of Steven; he (Steven) is a really great guy. Near the beginning of the week he was really quiet and shy but, now he is a lot more comfortable with everything.

Because there are only three male mentors, Jonathan, Justin and I, it is a lot more challenging than I had thought. We are responsible for getting them ready for bed, showering them, finding them and helping them in the bathroom and much more. Although we also have Rey to help us with all of that, the boys love him.

All in all I am really enjoying this and I'm sure everybody else is too.

Right = Justin

It’s been a long week full of good times and challenging times, but overall I’ve had a great week. Chris B and I co-mentored Steven W for the week and the three of us became very good friends. 

The most challenging part of the week was the first night after the participants arrived because we had three mentors and six home-sick participants in one bedroom. Let’s just say that there was a lot of crying and not a lot of sleeping. However after the first night things went much better thanks to Rey who did an amazing job getting the participants to sleep.

 I will definitely remember many good times from this week and some great people who I met. 

Right = Joy: Participant = Rebecca.  

I`ve never done a camp before like this so the experience surprised me a lot. It has been hard in areas, such as getting up with the participants every morning; before the sun it seemed. I think Sarah had to punch me one time. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to fight myself and resolutely serve others. Having a participant to befriend really challenged me to put my wants aside and cheerfully follow along as they take you for a ride.

I knew I`d be blessed, but I didn’t realize how much. From warm fuzzies to group mission, everything has been so in unison, and everyone works together for one purpose. For the first time in a long time I could be myself, and accepted. Watching everyone interact together, especially at lunch, fills me with the feeling of God connecting us all in some odd and wonderful way.

Thank you everyone for involving me this week and blessing me beyond belief. I cannot wait to come again, and while I will be glad to sleep in a REAL bed, I’ll miss each and every one of you!!!! 

Left = Sarah

This was my first SERVE and I am so glad I did it! Every time my Dad did it he would come home and tell me all about all the fun stuff everyone did, all the touching times and learning experiences. I would always say stuff like “Oh that sounds like fun” and “Maybe I'll do it next year,” but I never really gave it much thought or just ignored any thought of doing it.

This year, however, when my Dad asked me if I was going to do SERVE, my automatic answer was yes. I didn’t know why I wanted to do SERVE, but I knew I had to. I feel that this year God has given me a proverbial "kick in the pants." He has given me the inspiration to help people more and to try to be more patient. And I feel that this inspiration helped me prepare for SERVE and has helped me have the right mindset for this week. My Dad also reminded us that this week isn’t about us. It’s all about the participants.

When I met Rebecca (Joy V.'s and my participant), things were a little awkward at first. But every day since then she has opened up to us (Joy and me) and is now talking all the time. And I feel like I’ve known her a lot longer than six days. It seems like so much longer than that. Time has certainly flown by.

There have been many fun times, like our mentor meetings, where we recounted the day's funny stories (which there are tonnes of by the way) and all the touching times (like Tuesday’s worship service.) I have made many new friends here that I really hope will continue to grow over time. And I really hope SERVE can happen again next year!!!!=)

Rosy:  Participant = John

Rosy here, with my thoughts on SERVE... This past week has been a collage of challenges, laughter, energy, fatigue, growing friendships, and learning opportunities. The wonderful and difficult moments in this week have created a beautiful kaleidoscope of memories, just like Shellie taught us during one of the many compelling worship services.

The week has gone by so fast; I can't believe that it's almost done! I was a mentor for John this year, just as I was last year in Winnipeg SERVE 2011. That had many advantages, since I already knew John, and we were great friends even before SERVE began. 

In many ways this week was a fairly typical SERVE week. Being my fourth year, I knew what to expect, but John still managed to surprise me with his great sense of humour and his considerate nature. John and I enjoyed a good football game, some intense discussions of bull-fighting techniques, and a great yoga class with some seniors.

So, let me sum this all up. If I had to use one word to describe SERVE then I would use the word “discovery”. This year has been all about discovering our own talents and gifts, as well as those of others, discovering God's call for our lives, and discovering the awesome power and beauty of God. As we explored space, we saw God's hand at work in the heavens and in our own lives. Thank you to everyone who helped bring SERVE back to Ottawa for another year!
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” ~Psalm 19:1

Leah:  Participant = Jovita.  

This year's SERVE has been amazing! Together we shared laughs and tears, together we grew closer to God. We grew closer as a group too. On the first day we may have been a bit quiet, but by the end we were all laughing and having a ball all the time! Seeing God at work in the lives of these people was a huge eye opener for me. From nightly worship sessions done by Shellie to the touching Tuesday night service.

Especially that Tuesday night service. That day in small group we were all given pictures of ourselves to mess up with Sharpies. Then we brought those blemished pictures to worship that evening. Shellie then invited us to bring our blemished pictures to the cross and trade them for a new beautiful clean one. Seeing the participants tacking their photos to the cross and collecting their clean pictures was so touching! The service touched everyone deeply and many cried after tacking up their photos. Together we cried and prayed. That service meant a lot to me.

Another highlight was the talent show on Wednesday night. Most people went up and did acts from singing and dancing to flexibility tricks. Watching both mentors and participants preform without judgment and just to glorify God and just have plain clean fun opened my eyes. While I watched I just felt happy. Pure joy washed over me. I am so thankful for this week and everyone who participated in it! Thank you so much for making this week so amazing!! :)  

Hannah on Right:  Participant = Tyler

Well, to be honest, I didn't think that I was going to come back for SERVE 2012. But, God had something cool in store for me. Starting SERVE was a bit hard for me. Since I had come straight from doing 3 weeks of working at Camp, it was quite difficult to adjust to being home … let alone leading a worship team and mentoring someone. 

Leading the worship team was something I enjoyed very much. I had never actually led a team and it was a big learning experience. This SERVE, I was not too keen on being a mentor. I thought that mentoring and leading a worship team would be too much together. I was right and wrong. It was stressful at the beginning, organizing everything, but I soon got the hang of it. I also had lots of help. And my mentoring experience was a good one. I got along very well with my participant and had some good conversations with him. 

I think the biggest thing I learned this SERVE though, was about the participants themselves. I kind of just came to see them as people without 'special needs' or disabilities. I came to the conclusion that really, that's how God created them. That's how He wanted them to be. 

They all have amazing qualities and personalities that God has given them, and instead of focusing on the obvious, I focused on their talents and shining personalities God gave them. That conclusion may sound kind of like it should be common sense, but I think it was just this year, after participating in SERVE for 3 years, that I came to that conclusion. So, God has taught me a lot in a short week … and whether I come back next year for SERVE or not, I look forward to what he is going to continue teaching me!

Left = Fontana

About three days before SERVE started I was able to confirm with Ron that I would be there, and as excited as I was, I had some doubts about whether or not God wanted me to be there, but now I'm sure that there was nowhere else he would have wanted me during this week. 

On Saturday when I arrived, I learned that I would sort of floating around rather than having a specific participant. When Hannah would do her worship team things I would spend time with Tyler, but for the most part I got to hangout with a variety of people. This let me meet and get to know some participants and mentors that I didn't know very well before hand. 

This week taught me to not rely so much on a strict schedule, because most times my plans would change last minute. Sometimes my group for worksites or showers wouldn't have enough room for me in the car so I would have to switch super quickly. Normally something like this would make me stress out so much, but every time it happened the car I ended up in, or the place I ended up going to was absolutely amazing and so much fun! 

This was my fourth year doing SERVE, and going into it I thought that I wouldn't get anything out of it, and it would just be a fun week. However, this week I just felt Gods presence at all times, he was always with us! Whether we were cleaning shelves at the thrift store or worshiping in the church, God was there. 

I also realized that SERVE is not something that you can just do once and be completely satisfied, every time you do it it's like you crave it more. You crave the laughter, learning, community and the presence of God. You crave the amazing services that Shelly puts together and you crave the amazing worship. You just miss it and want to do it a million times over. To me, I'm sure SERVE will be a part of my life every single year.

Jonathan:  Participant = Alex

So as one of the three male mentors that were here at SERVE, I have had both the challenge of my participant as well as helping out with the male participants of female mentors. I did not have it as bad as Justin, who is very brave to say the least. 

The time I have spent with all of the participants has taught me if nothing else to love life and what you are doing. When you do that, you will be much happier and easier to live with. At some points the SERVE-ing is extremely stressful, with all the emotion going everywhere. Just try to pay attention to the better things that they do and you will be fine. 

Why focus on the anger and sadness when you watch them so excited to be going on motorcycles and seeing reptiles and receiving oversized packages? The reason to do something like this is not to see people try and run away because they miss their parents. It is to see the happiness that can be in a person. That is something you can't buy.

Joy: Participant = Charlotte

This is my third time at SERVE and each year it seems better and better. Not only are the people amazing, but the activities, crafts, worship and speaking (that so many people put time into making as creative and intriguing as possible) are awesome as well. 

Working with Charlotte was wonderful; she was easy going, super sweet and willing to take on tasks and help out. I had so much fun with her as we went to retirement homes and sang in choirs, or shared times at the piano where we sang together again. Even with the hours of lost sleep and some tough moments, SERVE is always something I look forward to, a highlight of the summer because it's a place to meet God, share gifts with other people and make new friends.

Megan H:  Participant = Zachary

This was my first year mentoring at Special Needs SERVE and it was definitely a challenging – and rewarding – experience. Zach was my participant and over the first couple of days I learned that he's a pretty cool guy. He loves talking about motorcycles and music, among many other interests he holds. There were plenty of challenges, especially the first day, as Zach was sometimes difficult to understand until I got to know him better, but it didn't take long to figure out what he enjoys. 

Being at the work sites held their own challenges as well, but it was amazing, being able to help Zach give back to God. I learnt that he loves cleaning windows and sweeping, but cleaning lockers isn't really his thing... The highlight of the week was watching Zach sing and dance with a broom when we were working at one of the Jericho Road sites. He looked like he was having a lot of fun and was really happy. Special Needs SERVE stretched me and it is absolutely something I would do again. 

Ailene: Participant = Kyle

This year was my first time being a mentor in the Special Needs SERVE. I`ve never had an opportunity to work with special needs persons; I`ve always been one to avoid them as much as possible. Now I know what I’ve been missing out on. The people I met here were astonishing and had a lot to teach me. Through smiles and tears, a lesson was always taught. Their hearts are made of pure gold and have so much to offer to the world. 

They taught me how to appreciate the little things, to smile no matter what, and to always treat people with kindness. I`m lost for words when I want to express how I feel about the people I met here, and I could probably go on for pages, but I just want to convey to all my thank you (especially to those who helped me get here). 

Ron, you are crazy; but that is perfectly fine. You always know what to do and the Lord has certainly made your hands dirty over your many years working with many types of people. For everyone else involved in this event, thank you so much for making me feel like a part of the family. To the praise team, thanks for teaching me how to worship with my heart instead of my mind. 

I love you all, and I am definitely coming to Peru. The Lord has blessed me this week in so many ways. I have many happy tears to shed on the train ride home. 

God Bless, Ailene

Niesje:  Participant = Amy

This year was my very first year as a mentor at Special Needs SERVE. I was a mentor to Amy for the week and we had a ton of fun. We went to our worksites with Megan H. and Zach to clean windows, sweep, pull weeds, water and do anything else the leaders had for us to do. I really enjoyed the worship services and Shellie’s sermons. The music was well performed and Shellie made it easy to follow along. I’m really going to miss this week after I leave because it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve never done anything like Special Needs SERVE before but it’s definitely something I want to do again even if Ron yells at me a lot. (All in good fun of course Niesje.... : ) )

Rachael:  Participant = Taurie

This is my first year at SERVE and I'd been looking forward to it ever since I decided to be a mentor.  Once we got here after a 5 hour drive, I suddenly became very nervous.  That same day was the day that the mentors got to know each other and it went well, but I still wasn't confident by the end of the day that I would by able to get out of the “shell” that I hide in.  

When the participants came, it was whole different kind of fear; a fear of your participant not liking you   or of just not getting along with each other.  The participants started coming in and my nerves just kept getting worse.  Finally my participant, Taurie, came and the first thing she did when she saw me was give me a hug.  It was then that I started to relax and let go of my barriers.  I've gotten to know the other participants and mentors and I've formed a friendship with Taurie that will last for many years to come.  

I'll definitely be coming back and I thank God for giving me this experience and for giving me the  courage to break down my walls.  I recommend being mentor, it's been one of the most fulfilling experiences in my life and what I've learned will stay with me forever.

Carolyn: Mentor = Megan D.

Never a dull moment...  

This is my fourth year as a mentor at Serve, and I have quickly come to realize that each year comes with its own challenges, lessons and laughs and you never know what to expect...

...especially when your participant is a spunky, strong willed, wonderful gal such as the one I had the pleasure of mentoring. 

This year, I found I was able to connect better with my own participant and the other fourteen better. They are each amazing people, with different talents and gifts. This week has really reinforced the fact that there is so much more to people than we realize. I have learned a lot this week, a lot of which I still have to ponder. 

I had a lot of fun this week. I have enjoyed talk to people, laughing together, and getting to know people a lot better. Several of my highlights of the week include the enthusiasm at worship, making new friends, and our group mission times. 

I believe God teaches us through our challenges. Take for instance: patience. This week has made me  work on my patience a great deal, a key virtue of the week. 

Now, I go off to continue to unwrap all that has happened this past week, share my experience with others and  catch up on well needed sleep.... :) and Lord willing be able to do it again.

Ron here again.......and so you have it.  We have been touched by the hand of God this week.  All of us are unique, and for me, the comments made by Hannah sum things up about our week  (the other comments are equally important, but Hannah gets at the heart of it I think).  Thanks for those wise words of revelation Hannah.  

Blessings to both participants and mentors in the coming weeks and months.  May you be blessed, as you have been a blessing...........................