Pastor Tim MacKinnon is both relieved and happy that everything went off well with the SERVE youth mission hosted in Weyburn, after over a year of careful planning and one week of frantic activity.
The mission of the Western Canadian Baptists and Weyburn’s Calvary Baptist Church brought 250 youth and leaders to Weyburn for the week of July 7-12 from 22 churches from across the four western provinces.
In addition there was a group that flew down from Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories, and a representative from Whitehorse, Yukon, where SERVE will be hosted next year.
“When we first agreed to take this on, it was with some fear and trembling,” said MacKinnon. “But I have to honestly say that God used it to make His name known here in Weyburn.”
While the youth were here, they went out in groups and provided volunteer assistance to around 50 groups, organizations and individuals in Weyburn and some in surrounding communities.
MacKinnon noted they have been receiving calls and cards from some of those people and groups who were helped out by the visiting youth.
“They told us how polite and hard-working the youth were and thanked us for doing this,” he said, noting the organizations ranged from nursing homes, the Wor-Kin Shop and the Weyburn Public Library, among others.
One of the projects the SERVE youth undertook while here was to conduct a community-wide collection of food and donations for the Salvation Army’s food bank, which has been getting low on supplies in recent weeks. In total, they collected over 2,300 pounds of food and $405 in cash donations, with food collected door-to-door in Weyburn along with McTaggart and Yellow Grass.
In conjunction with the food collection, the youth took part in a “hunger banquet” to give them an idea of the disparity between the “haves” and “have-nots” in the world, with the youth divided up roughly in the same proportion as low, middle and upper class residents on the world level.
The Lifeline Christian Mission also had a presence at the event, and had a group of youth fill up 11,000 bags with food for the food bank, including about 5,000 bags of rice and beans, and 5,000 bags with oatmeal, and both types of bags had other nutrients added to make for a hearty meal.
From the church and residents of the community, MacKinnon estimates there were at least 100 people who volunteered a hand to help with the event, people like teacher Jacquie Williams, who helped to set up the sports camp that ran for the week, and a number of city churches that helped in different ways.
MacKinnon had help from the denomination also, such as Peter Anderson, the director of youth and young adults ministry for the Western Canadian Baptists. He arranged for partnerships to help with the mission, such as using the Weyburn Free Methodist Church for the evening rallies with the youth, and using St. Michael School to house the youth groups in for the week.
In addition, Silver Heights Bible Church loaned them tables and chairs, the Salvation Army loaned them a grill and tables, as did Zion Lutheran and the Knox Presbyterian Church, and the Canalta Hotel helped by making popcorn for 300 people as a snack for one of the evenings. The 306 Creamery helped provide snacks one evening, and Michael’s Bakery in Carlyle gave them a deal on cinnamon buns.
Anderson told him this was one of the smoothest-working mission weeks that he’s ever seen.
“It was a stretch for the church and for our people, but we can see how God used it,” said MacKinnon, adding, “It took a village, or in this case, the city of Weyburn to put this on. People were really helpful and supportive.”
The group that came in from Victoria, B.C., held a VBS-style day camp at the church through the week, and stayed in Weyburn an extra day so they could invite the children who attended it to come to the Sunday church service.
Some of the out-of-town destinations where youths helped included the Souls Harbour Missions in Moose Jaw and Regina, the Kenosee Lake Bible Camp, and the Newhope Lodge seniors home in Stoughton.
The Weyburn group went to SERVE last year hosted by a Kamloops church, and MacKinnon said the groups felt a bit disconnected with each other there, so they decided to make a concerted effort to have the groups interact more with each other here, and he feels they accomplished that with some of the projects and with the evening rallies.
A very pleasant surprise came from the Filipino Evangelical Church in Winnipeg, which brought a large group of about 40 youth and leaders. One of their adults came just to volunteer in the kitchen to help feed the group through the week, and most surprisingly was a donation of $2,600 for Calvary Baptist, which they collected by holding fundraisers in Winnipeg, such as a banquet of Filipino dishes.
“It was mind-boggling, a real blessing for our church,” said MacKinnon. “I would just say a big thank you to the people of Weyburn who had a part to play in some way.”