“And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.” (Micah 5:4-5a)
Its hard to say when it all began. Advent has support youth ministry in a strong way for decades. In 2007, Advent youth participated in their first week-long mission trio and have made it an annual tradition. All of these trips involved doing light construction work for people who needed home repairs such as wheel chair ramps, new roofs, yard work, and painting. It was satisfying work and the trips brought the group closer together.
In the summer of 2011, many of the youth traveled to Washing DC as part of their confirmation experience. In Washington DC, they engaged in urban ministry - working in soup kitchens, handing out bottles of water to the homeless, learning how hard it is to eat on a limited budget, and growing in their understanding of the causes and complications of homelessness.
In 2012, the group decided that they wanted to continue to explore urban ministry and voted to take a trip to Atlanta, Georgia. That week changed everyone's lives. Our youth worked with an organization called "7 Bridges to Recovery," which provides many different types of support for people who are chronically homeless. The kids prepared and distributed sandwiches every day, but that wasn't the focus of their ministry. They used the sandwiches as a way to connect with people so that they could talk and pray with them. The week profoundly impacted our youth and they came home committed to continue the work they had done in Atlanta, here at home.
The group felt a call to a new ministry and since then has been very active in outreach ministry. During the Winter months, they provide conversation, prayer, and a weekly worship experience on Monday evenings as a part of Advent's Room in the Inn ministry. They plan monthly events with the Free Storeon North Caldwell Street in Charlotte. The Free Store provides clothing and small household items to people who cannot afford to purchase those items. The event usually involve music and always good food, a sense of community and acceptance. The youth have found that the food and activities are great ways to start conversations through which they can share in prayer and mutual support and encouragement with the chronically homeless population of Charlotte. Everything needed for this ministry is donated by the participants. It is a true labor of love by the youth, their parents, and their faithful youth advisors.
Their excitement is contagious! Our Rt 67 youth group (6th and 7th graders) is also involved in helping meet needs in the community. They plan and participate in their own Summer mission trip experiences and kick-off their program year with a Witness and Service Lock-in. They also have a strong presence at the CROP walk and are involved with Charlotte Emergency Housing and other local service agencies. Our Mustard Seeds youth (3rd - 5th graders) promote the CROP walk, prepare our Angel Tree, collect the Souper Bowl of Caring offering, and are involved with Plaza Place, a transitional housing alternative for families who are experiencing homelessness. Kids 4 Christ (K - 2nd graders) is spending the entire year learning about how God works through children who pray.
We should all celebrate how God is working in and through the youth of Advent! They are growing up and embracing our church motto: "Love God! Serve Neighbor!"