The Pacific Northwest region of the United States is a ripe mission field for youth. Tim Nieuwsma understands that reaching young people in an area where over half of the adults have no religious affiliation requires dynamic relationships and challenging activities such as whitewater rafting.
Nieuwsma is a commissioned pastor at Faith Christian Fellowship, a Christian Reformed Church in Everson, Wash. He also serves as regional director of Youth Dynamics, a parachurch organization based in Washington.
In July Nieuwsma led a challenging six-day trip in 104-degree F. temperatures with sixteen young people. Together they rafted the Salmon River in Idaho.
Most of them were from families with low income and no church background. Besides rafting with the young people, leaders were given the opportunity to share how God has made a difference in their own lives. Students were also given solo time to reflect about deeper issues.
“Wilderness trips take students out of their normal environment and away from the barrage of distractions they are usually surrounded by. . . . The scenery and challenging experiences shared by the group help to quickly form bonds between all participants, including the leaders,” Nieuwsma said.
Following the trip, students and leaders met together a week later for a reunion. The leaders continue to connect with youths one on one and through social media. “It is through the relationships with leaders that students are connected to local churches,” said Nieuwsma.
Students were not permitted to bring any electronic gadgets on the trip. This helped leaders gain a captive audience and create an environment to share about hardships and learn gospel truths.
“I see how kid’s lives are such a mess. Pretty much every student we work with has huge issues they’re dealing with. I want to show them that there is a better way—Christ’s way,” said Nieuwsma.