When I think about hope, I am very thankful to have quite a long list to choose from where I see it. Here I will focus on how I see hope in my church through the community outreach and the youth – and how they intertwine.
Love and dedication
I have the privilege of being a youth leader at my home congregation for the past four years. What has given me hope through this opportunity is watching how the youth group (12-18 year olds) has grown significantly and the love they have for others and Jesus.
When I started youth leading, there were smaller numbers at my church. We were going through a time of changing youth pastors, and it was a good group, but small. Today – where on a full night we have a little over 30 youth (big for our church) – I cannot help but see hope for the future of the church.
When diving deep into conversations about faith, life and anything with these youth kids (especially my High School Girls small group), my hope soars. I see the thought and the intent they have. Seeing these youth’s love and dedication to their faith gives me so much hope as I have many friends who have left church or do not take it as seriously anymore.
This hope extends even further when I see how these youth are involved: they serve and wash dishes at church banquets; they deliver Christmas cookies and cards to a neighbouring seniors’ living facility; they shovel snow at the church; and they participate in clean-up days. The one that stands out the most to me is seeing members of my youth group participate at our conference summer camp, Camp Squeah. There, these teenagers are leaders to younger children. They both exemplify and teach about the love of Christ to children.
This is where I see hope so clearly.
Then I switch lenses and look to the community outreach which my church has been participating in over the past few years especially since COVID-19.
Laughter and leadership
We are blessed as a congregation to have our own building. Through this, as a congregation we have been able to provide space for many different community outreaches.
One example is Bowls of Hope. This not-for-profit organization has a room full of food supplies in our building. They provide struggling families with meal plans weekto-week to make sure they have food. I see hope in the way my congregation is reaching out and helping those around it.
The real special moment for me was when the youth group volunteered to help at Bowls of Hope. I saw the youth kids having fun. They jumped into the kitchen to help prepare the ingredients for soup to feed 1 000 children in our city. There were tears (yes, that might have just been because of the onions), lots of laughter – and a sense of hope. Hope for the ways in which the church is aiding the community around them and hope for the youth in the servantheartedness already present in situations like these.
I am extremely blessed by my home congregation and have appreciated the time I have had reflecting on the hope I have around it. This fills me with excitement to see where the Lord moves next in this time and to see how these youth inspire others.
—Ashley Rempel is a high school French and social studies teacher from Chilliwack, B.C., Canada. She serves at the Mennonite retreat centre Camp Squeah in summer. A member of Eden Mennonite Church, Chilliwack, B.C., Canada, she served as the MC Canada representative for her region at the Global Youth Summit (GYS) in Indonesia. There, she found hope in attending workshops with youth pastors from around the world to listen to their experiences and hear their input of how to make youth groups and the church welcoming for this next generation.
Ashley Rempel spoke at Renewal 2023 – Jesus Christ, our hope – in Abbotsford, B.C., Canada, 25 March 2023. This article has been adapted from her presentation.