A chance to serve
What opportunities are there for young people to engage in Christian service whilst on a gap year or holiday, in the UK or overseas? David Cruchley and Stephen Tomkins report on programmes run by the Council for World Mission and Smile International
Council for World Mission
The Council for World Mission (CWM) has been running programmes for young people for decades. Some Reform readers will have been a part of Training in Mission and various European-based work camps: Holy Island in 1997; Orkney Islands in 2005; Hungary in 2009; Amsterdam in 2011 and most recently the Exploration Project in Caernarfon in 2013.
All of these programmes have given young people from European member churches opportunities to serve local communities and explore mission, and their work has been a great witness to the message of love and service that we have in Jesus Christ.
The 2012-16 Youth in Mission Programme of the European Region consists of three activities:
Mission House, Amsterdam
This 10-month gap year programme is an opportunity to serve some of the neediest people in Dutch society whilst living with an intentional Christian community in a supportive, spiritual atmosphere. Young people from across Europe live together as a community, sharing meals and chores, with regular Bible study and prayer meetings. Each participant manages their own weekly schedule, contributing to a range of community projects ranging from immigration and asylum advice centres to homeless shelters, and from hospice care to working with sex-workers.
Each project presents its own challenges to the volunteer. The work can sometimes be hard and emotionally draining, but each participant it works with speaks passionately about their work. It is a wonderful demonstration of our young people’s grace and compassion that comes from their understanding of what being a follower of Christ means.
CWM European Internship Programme
We have just come to the end of the very first CWM internship: Victoria Meachin (pictured above left) came to us with bucket-loads of enthusiasm and became an integral part of the church community. Victoria’s work was 70% with Altrincham United Reformed Church in Cheshire and 30% with the Congregational Federation’s youth and children’s office. This is to give interns a diverse experience, putting local church mission alongside national youth work. In the local church, Victoria ran regular community activities, such as toddler groups, Pilots (a Christian youth organisation) and luncheon clubs. For the Congregational Federation, she provided administrative support to the national team as well as preparing and delivering a child-friendly church training programme in South Wales.
The internship builds on CWM’s theology of missional congregations and aims to give young people a practical, supported experience of local mission, offering professional and personal development to the intern as well as a service to the community. The 2014-15 programme will run for six months. It is fully funded, including housing, food, transport and a five-day visit to Mission House in Amsterdam.
In the summer of 2013, 10 young people from Europe and four from East Asia came together to run a five-day children’s holiday club with the Noddfa Centre in Caernarfon, Wales.
The young people led games and activity sessions around biblical themes. The group led a vast array of activities, from bookmark-making to water fights, and from sand painting to five-a-side football tournaments. The club was a huge success with lots of children from the local community coming each day. It culminated in a celebration day for the whole community which was really well attended.
The programme was also a chance for these young people to explore mission in a local context, learning about Welsh culture and language and the local area. Each one of the young people performed admirably throughout the two-week programme and demonstrated the love of service and hearts of compassion.
David Cruchley is programme associate for The Council for World Mission European Region. To find out more about CWM Europe’s youth programmes, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.cwmeurope.org/opportunities
The Christian development charity Smile International offers gap year opportunities for young people who want to serve God overseas – in Zimbabwe, Uganda, Sri Lanka and Kosovo. Teams of three or four young people choose their destination, and spend from three to nine months there, taking part in aid projects, youth and children’s work and evangelism.
This year, a team of five are spending nine months living and working in Kampala, Uganda. Their work there includes: Contributing to Smile’s projects in the slums; teaching children in local schools and running a children’s holiday club; preparing craft work; sports activities; supporting the local church; building, painting and decorating; Smile’s sponsorship programmes; outreach; hospital visitation; and praying for the sick.
It’s not all work though. Young people visiting Uganda with Smile International have time to enjoy the city life of Kampala and activities such as safari, white water rafting and bungee jumping. They also learn to cook Ugandan food.
Before the trip, Smile provides a week’s orientation and training at Otford Manor, in Kent, where team members get to know each other and pray together. They are briefed by a variety of experienced speakers and previous gap year students on the country they will be going to. The brief covers issues including how to keep safe and healthy (emotionally, physically and spiritually), cross-cultural awareness, evangelism and support.
Smile International covers the cost of accommodation, food, airport transfers, insurance and suchlike. The young people pay a trip contribution, which varies depending upon destination and duration, plus the cost of flights, and are also asked to raise funds for the project they work on.
To find out more about Smile International’s gap years, email email@example.com, phone 01689 883322 or visit www.smileinternational.org
This article was published in the June 2014 issue of Reform.