More than 90 Hamilton (Ontario) District Christian High School students and a dozen Redeemer University College students gave up their Christmas holiday to travel to Gulfport, Miss., where they helped to repair some of the damage done by Hurricane Katrina.
The students worked on roof repair, general cleanup, and electrical work. Their trip was coordinated by Servicelink, a ministry of the Christian Reformed Church that connects people with service opportunities through the denomination’s agencies.
The students started planning for the trip in October. Principal George VanKampen said that even though he was apprehensive about such a large group going on a service project, there were “a million confirmations” that this was what God wanted the students to do between Christmas and New Year.
Peter van der Meulen, one of the parent chaperones, said the kids were proud of themselves for forgoing normal Christmas activities to bring some light into the lives of hurricane victims. “But we didn’t give them as much as they gave us,” he said. “The hurricane victims were just so thankful. There were a lot of ‘praise the Lord’s’ and ‘thank you, Lord’s’ going on at the homes.”
Student Kim Voortman said the hurricane victims’ utter dependence on God made her think about how she demonstrates her faith. “Seeing all these people with nothing and they still had this fire and passion for God was amazing,” she said. “We live in a comfortable society…we don’t think we need God. But after this, I realize God is not something you put on the shelf.”
VanKampen said Voortman isn’t the only student who has changed. He said in the hallways of the school there is a sense that the community has “moved closer to understanding what God asks us to do when he calls us to be his hands and feet.”