June 15-18 was our youth service retreat, fulfilling our Baptismal vows to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our (local) neighbors as ourselves”. We sought to see Christ in all people from all different walks of life. We responded to three major issues: hunger, refugees, and homelessness.
The first day, we learned about hunger, both globally and in our local area, then responded by serving at the Southeast Gwinnett Food Cooperative ministry. Some of our youth served in the pantry, filling orders and loading up clients’ cars. Some of our youth played outside with the children of clients while they got their food. Our youth experienced so much joy playing there!
Next, we focused on refugees. We headed down to Clarkston to learn about several ministries with refugees, including Intertwined Candles, which provides jobs to mothers who need to work from home so they can also care for their children. We attended a rally at Refuge Coffee Company (which helps provide job skills to refugees by training them as servers and baristas). The rally was in celebration of World Refugee Day, where many different nations were represented. We heard the stories of resettlement of two refugees, one from Syria and one from Congo. Our youth were inspired with ideas for how we can serve the needs of refugees in our own area.
Finally, we learned about the issue of homelessness. On Sunday, we were joined by another youth group from St. Mark’s in Jacksonville (their youth minister is a childhood friend of our youth minister). Together, our youth groups packed lunches for the Church of the Common Ground, an Episcopal community which worships in Woodruff Park, largely attended by the homeless in that area. Thanks to the generosity of St. Matthew’s, we were also able to provide them with TONS of socks for their foot care clinic.
SEEKING & SERVING CHRIST IN ALL PERSONS
Each day, we reflected on how we had seen Christ in each person. The youth saw Christ in so many ways…in the delight of the children playing with bubbles or hula hoops, in the delight of their parents watching them play, in the creativity of a street performer at the Refugee Day rally, in the bright blue eyes of a soft-spoken man we met on the street, who attended church with us, in all our brothers and sisters in Christ that we met for the first time, and when we passed the peace, and the barriers seemed to come down. It was an incredible and amazing experience! If you get a chance, ask one of the youth to tell you what was meaningful to them! They will have so much to say, and they’d be happy to share!