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About 70 youth ministers, church leaders, and others gathered at Waterloo CRC in Ontario on a Saturday morning for training in abuse prevention and response.

Participants heard stories about addiction and about abuse. But these were not sad stories; they ended with hope, restoration, and healing.

Meanwhile, some 20 people gathered at Bethany CRC in Gallup, N.M., on another Saturday and spent most of the day together.

Among them were teachers, children’s worship leaders, Sunday school and GEMS leaders, doctors, nurses, day care staff, and others. Participants had the opportunity to learn about the Circle of Grace program, which equips children and youth to be active participants in creating a safe environment for themselves and others.

Planned and organized by volunteer team members of Safe Church Ministry, both events met a need that was identified by those who live in those communities.

Both events, partially funded by a Safe Church Ministry mini-grant, helped participants make new connections and develop new leadership skills.

Those who attended the event in Waterloo came away with tools and ideas that will be useful to them in their various ministries.

The training helped answer questions such as, How do we respond to young people who harm themselves? How do we disciple people in forming healthy relationships? How do we reduce risks for abuse?

Presenters from Teen Challenge, Shalem Mental Health Network, Faith Formation Ministries, Youth Unlimited, and the trauma department of a local hospital provided resources in exploring these and other issues.

Atie Ott, a Safe Church team chairperson for Classis Huron, heard enthusiastic feedback and many thanks for her efforts in planning this inter-classis event.

Those who attended the Gallup event took part in several Circle of Grace activities to understand how the program could be used in their various contexts.

As a result, “the Circle of Grace program is beginning to ripple through our community,” said Sara Pikaart, who organized the event.

Pikaart is the Safe Church liaison for Classis Red Mesa and is active in Safe Church work in her own congregation, Bethany CRC.

Safe Church hopes to expand its mini-grant program in the future so that more events such as these can begin to make a difference in congregations and communities. More information about Safe Church Ministry is available on the Safe Church website.

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