Bellevue (Wash.) Christian Reformed Church is about a 20-minute drive from the campus of the University of Washington and the CRC church plant Church on the Ave. This summer, seven youth and leaders from Bellevue CRC spent a weekend engaging with different ministries in and around the campus and the upstart church. From July 11 to 13, the group interacted with graduate students who make up part of the university’s Graduate Christian Fellowship, did projects around the church, and also helped with meal service at ROOTS Young Adult Shelter.
When asked why Bellevue CRC chose to send the youth group on this type of trip, Kendra Bengelink, one of the church’s youth leaders, said, “Many mission trips are just Christian vacations where (a) church youth group spends exorbitant amounts of money to go to far-flung locations, do less than meaningful work … and have no opportunity to further any relationships started. We wanted to engage in a project that was potentially one to continue in, to have a more stewardly and economical service project, and to see that there are very real needs in our own community.”
The youth were taken on a tour of the university campus by two members of Graduate Christian Fellowship, a group brought together by campus ministers and Church on the Ave pastors Geoff and Ashley Van Dragt. The high school students were able to visit a variety of labs and departments around the campus. Ping-Ping Nearenpitak, a graduate student in the atmospheric science program, and member of GCF, was able to show the students some of his work in the field of climate change research, and then explain to the students how he sees his “current studies and future career as a vocation within God's kingdom.”
Besides spending time on campus, the youth also pitched in with all sorts of cleaning, painting, and organizing at the Church on the Ave. They planted a new garden area, power-washed and stained the deck, and sorted and arranged clothing donations provided to people who drop in looking for shelter or support.
For Casey Staal, one of youth on the trip, visiting and helping to prepare the Friday Feast, a weekly evening meal at the ROOTS shelter, was one of the key highlights. It was here he said he “experienced community, and saw this throughout all the people, how they were willing to help.”