Michigan Church Hosts Teens for 22nd Year

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More than 90 high school students and leaders took part in weeklong service projects this year through LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“It’s a really good, satisfying feeling to know that you’re doing something good for the community and for the glory of God,” said Benton Vargason, 16, from Orange City, Iowa.

LaGrave is the longest running site for Youth Unlimited, an organization that runs SERVE projects across North America.

“We got to interact with people. We get to form relationships, and it’s great,” said Katelyn Lieuwen, 18, from Platts, S.D.

(L-R) Nicole Veldhoen, 17, from Brampton, Ontario, and Benton Vargason, 16, from Orange City, Iowa, work on a skit for children.

Ryan Struyk

The students and leaders came from Canada, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. “You get to meet different people from everywhere in North America, which is really cool,” noted Nicole Veldhoen, 17, from Brampton, Ontario.

Students partnered with at least 18 agencies in the Grand Rapids area—serving food, washing cars, and working with children and with people who are homeless.

For some, the trip was a new experience. “There isn’t as much poverty where I live. I’ve never gone on any SERVE stuff before,” explained Selena Wikkerink, 16, from Hamilton, Ontario.

The students camped out in LaGrave’s church building, and the church provided all of their food.  

At the end of each day, the teens held a time of praise and worship, listened to a speaker, and talked in small groups.

“We get to talk about the session, what we learned that day, and the God moments we had that influenced us that day or the whole week,” said Veldhoen.

The week was a huge success, noted Scott Albers, spiritual life coordinator for LaGrave.

“The benchmarks are that the work gets done and God is glorified,” he explained. “Small groups are gelling, people are being changed, and we’re walking along students. All the way around that’s a success.”

About the Author

Ryan Struyk was a former Banner news correspondent for classes Grand Rapids South and Thornapple Valley. 

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