Reaching a Community through The Chicago Project

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Youth groups from around the United States and Canada converged in Palos Heights, Ill., from July 28 through August 1 to participate in The Chicago Project. Their purpose: to show Christ’s love and bring restoration to the community.

An initiative of Youth Unlimited, a nondenominational ministry based in Grand Rapids, Mich., the event brought more than 250 students and youth leaders together to serve and learn in the neighborhood of host site Trinity Christian College.

“Every Youth Unlimited faith-forming experience seeks to have students get deeply into the Word of God, to worship authentically, to build relationships with adults from their own church, to see and serve a world in need, and to explore their own gifts and interests,” said Jerry Meadows, mission director at Youth Unlimited.

After gathering for chapel each morning, students and leaders fanned out across the area to volunteer at various work sites. There are five basic types of work at a project like this, Meadows said, each with a goal of introducing a deeper understanding of justice: community revitalization, creation care, recreational children’s ministry, care for persons who are marginalized, and strategic acts of kindness.

“The Chicago Project offered our students the chance to experience God in a living, breathing, moving, present way,” said Emily Enstminger, a youth leader from Bethel Christian Reformed Church in Sioux Center, Iowa. “They were most impacted by our times of worship and small group discussion.”

Trinity Christian College alumnus Zantesah (Zan) Ingalls, senior pastor of Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., led chapel throughout the weekend.

“Pastor Zan was an exceptional speaker, and I always understood what he was saying,” said Becki Persoon, a student who attended from Mountainview Christian Reformed Church in Grimsby, Ontario. “He had so much energy it was impossible not to get carried away in his teachings and message. He would be speaking up there and you couldn’t help but want to have his faith. He was an inspiration at the very least.”

Students were encouraged to return home to seek how they might serve their own congregations and communities while reflecting on those they had helped in the Palos Heights community.

“When we work as the hands and feet of Jesus, we’re helping people see him, and we’re either planting the seed of Christ or watering the plant,” said Danielle Veldman, who also attends Mountainview CRC. “Through Serve I learned that you can’t water a plant if the seed hasn’t been planted. Matthew 4 talks about how God is the sower, and he is spreading his seed. In Chicago, we got to be God’s workers by spreading that same seed to the people who hadn’t heard the Good News already and water the plant of the people who already had.”

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Melissa Holtrop

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