CELEBRATE OUR STORIES OF TRANSFORMATION and HOPE
1. KILBURN HALL HOPE
I have been profoundly encouraged by the work being done at the Kilburn Hall Youth Detention Centre. Many of you might not actually know that I get to work with incarcerated youth once a week, but it has honestly become a huge highlight for me. I work on the worst unit of the centre, most of the kids have committed serious crimes and are locked away for a very long time.
Now when most people think of jail, they think of it exactly like that, "locked away." These kids are the unwanted and unmentionables of society which we have shut the doors on and essentially kept out of trouble. So... That's what most people think, but I have seen an incredibly different world in there.
I get to go there, hang out, play some sports, and hear their stories.
The workers there legitimately care about the kids. And you might not think that this is a big deal but how do you think such young kids end up in terrible situations? I can assure you with the few stories I've heard that many of these kids were rarely ever loved or cared for.
One got hooked on meth after he bought laced weed at the age of 10. Another ended up in the foster system early where the longest he's ever lived at one house (other than Kilburn) was three months. And yet another, at the age of 9, discovered his mother hanging the day after he and his brother stood helpless, as a man broke into his house and violated her.
So who's left to legitimately care for these kids after they've been hooked on drugs and witness things that make your heart stop? It's heartbreaking to see how helpless some of them were when they began the journey down the dark road they ended up on.
But they have help now. The workers there are trying exceptionally hard to instill value in these kids. I've watched these kids smile. I've watched them light up as we play volleyball, or badminton, as the workers congratulate them on a good serve or a good hit. And there is where it dawns on me.
Some of these kids have NEVER been encouraged. Ever.
Maybe they've been encouraged for a job well done on a gang mission, but that's not the same. You don't get a good feeling when you commit evil acts. God designed the world that way. It's when you do legitimately good things or act within your gifting that you actually get the opportunity to feel God's sense of good that was meant to encourage you forward.
There are a couple kids there right now I met through floor hockey... One moved away to the reserve and got into trouble. Another got in with the wrong crowd and ended up in trouble.
At least I know they're safe (weirdly enough), it could have been worse.
I just wanted to share that this is one area I feel things really are going well. They're actually trying to heal these kids. They're going after root causes rather than the symptoms and it really is changing these kids. Good work is being done and it's bringing hope and identity to kids, drastically changing what could have been terrible into potential.
"Good work is being done and it's bringing hope and identity to kids, drastically changing what could have been terrible into potential."
— Evan Peters
2. STUDENTS RESPOND TO GOD'S STORY IN CALIFORNIA.
2018 marked the 40th anniversary of CALBREAK. Over the past 40 years God has used this trip to GIVE LIFE to thousands of high school students as they have been exposed to the STORY of Jesus. Throughout the ten day trip it became quire evident to us that God had a very special plan for these 98 students, and that they were all on the trip because of divine appointment.
Our time in California was marked with not only amazing beaches and thrilling theme parks, but with deep conversations about life, God and faith. Most of our students did not come from a church background, so it was a blessing to have the opportunity to share the STORY of Jesus through our actions, attitudes, and the sharing of our own faith STORIES.
God moved in a powerful way, and we felt a sense of unity within our group that was very powerful and authentic.
Every student on CALBREAK considered the truth of Jesus at some point on our trip, with many making some key decisions to pursue God in their lives. 17 students indicated they wanted to begin a relationship with God! That is so incredible. Please pray for the students and for our staff as they continue to connect with their students now that we're home. Many of our staff have reported that kids from their small groups have been checking out their churches and youth groups! We are so thankful for what God is doing in the lives of these kids.
"Of the 98 students on our trip this year, 17 indicted that they wanted to begin a relationship with God!"
— Corwin Thiessen
3. PROJECT SERVE LEGACY
I want to highlight one of our youth girls who has been living out a great adventure for the last school year. Kelsea MacKenzie is a young woman I met two years ago in her grade 12 year. She was a part of our Project Serve Belize team in 2016, and while she was in Belize God really got a hold of her heart. She is a dancer, heavily involved in all kinds of dance since she was little. While in Belize I lined up an opportunity for her to take an afternoon and spend some time at the En Croix Dance Studio in Belmopan Belize, which is a studio run by the YWAM (Youth With A Mission) where we stay. Kelsea thought she would go and observe a few dance classes, but ended up teaching for the afternoon.
While she was there God really spoke to her and she felt like there might be more for her to do in Belize. She put her plans to attend University on pause and decided to spend a year volunteering as the main dance teacher at En Croix. She moved to Belize last August and has been living there all year. She has been teaching almost all the classes offered at En Croix, ranging from ballet, tap, jazz, conditioning classes, and theatre.
She has done an absolutely incredible job as a teacher. She, for the first time, has been able to combine her passion and talent for dance with her relationship with God and has served Him so well this year. Last week Kelsea was in charge of choreographing and putting on a huge dance performance for the entire city of Belmopan. Hundreds of people were in attendance, and Kelsea put together dances for each of her classes under the theme of “Light”. It was a story of God’s love and light that was shared through dance to the entire community where she is living.
God has used her in such an incredible and tangible way in Belize, not only to love and care for her little dancers, but to share God’s message with her entire community in Belize. Super proud of you Kelsea! It is amazing to see the way God can use a trip like Project Serve to further His Kingdom!
PROJECT SERVE DIRECTOR
"For the first time, Kelsea has been able to combine her passion and talent for dance with her relationship with God"
— Kristin Clark