The following is an article from our Spring 2016 magazine. To view the whole magazine, click here.
SERVE and My Life Story
by Thomas Kielstra
Discovering what my faith was as a teenager was not exactly easy. Feeling the various pushes from different Christian institutions to focus on different aspects of faith was challenging, but making my faith mine was very important to me.
In 2011 at the age of 14, I went to Muskegon SERVE in Muskegon, Michigan with a church that wasn’t mine. At the week of SERVE, I saw that the Reformed Church put a much larger emphasis on a personal relationship with God and personal relationships with others than I previously experienced. As a result, I began to analyse faith—specifically my faith—in a different way. I began investing in my own church’s youth group, and started to make connections within my church.
I went on to go to Woodstock SERVE in Woodstock, Ontario in 2012 and then back to Muskegon SERVE in 2013 with my own church in addition to four mission trips to Detroit, Michigan and one to Nicaragua with my high school.
In Grade 12, I wanted to do something more to help out with the SERVE. Having made a personal connection with Brian Kingshott, the youth director at Calvin Christian Reformed Church, which hosts Muskegon SERVE, I contacted him and asked if he would consider taking on an intern. I offered to help out with whatever needed to be done behind the scenes. He responded quickly saying that he would be interested, and he started connecting with Youth Unlimited to come up with a process to make this possible.
So in July of 2014, I went to Muskegon as an intern. I helped out with icebreaker games and activities and I was responsible for doing games before dinner and worship, but my favourite part about the internship was the personal connections I made with the participants and youth leaders. This is when I discovered how valuable friendship is to my personal faith journey. This is when my relationship with God truly became a friendship—not just something I believed.
I then went off to university, where I fell in love with my studies, and my faith took a back seat. By February, I still had not found a church that I called my own and my relationship with God became distant. This is when Brian reached out to me about coming back for another year, to help out with SERVE again. I hesitantly agreed.
Then, during my summer semester, I was invited to Royal City Evangelical Missionary Church’s youth group. Their focus is on relationship—Relationships with the youth and relationships with God.
As I attended Royal City, my relationship with God built over the summer as my relationships with my friends at Royal City grew. When I went back to Muskegon, again as an intern, in the summer of 2015, my relationship with God was much stronger than it had ever been. Now I am a Junior Youth Leader at Royal City. I have learned more about how to show the love of God and what my faith really is.
All in all, SERVE has taught me two things: first, I have a passion for serving others and second, having honest relationships with others and showing others that I will always be there for them is one of the best ways I am able to show God’s love to others.