This week we welcome Katie Gerber from Wellesley as our guest blogger of the week.
That feeling of being the only one. I lay awake, jet lagged and homesick. I slowly felt that feeling sink deep within my being. The fact that nobody knew my family or my heritage, none of the norms of my daily life, and not a single thing was familiar to me. Nobody even spoke English well at all!
Being unknown in so many forms, misunderstood. We all know it, some much more than others, this feeling of being the one and only. Whether it’s in another country, as my experience was, at a new and unfamiliar school, or at home with family that just does not seem to understand.
How is it that feeling understood can make all the difference? Discussing, arguing, connecting, spending time with and encouraging others are true blessings. Community. It’s a beautiful word, isn’t it? It encompasses all of this and so much more!
As Christians we are called to be in community with each other, in fellowship that challenges us, encourages us and helps us to stay accountable. This kind of Christian fellowship is showing obedience to God and his word, specifically Hebrews 10:24–25 which says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
Not neglecting to meet together. What happens when you stop meeting with your faith community? I’ll just say that when I am no longer surrounded by a group who keeps me accountable to reading my bible, to spending time in prayer and to keeping my focus on God – I slowly begin to stop.
Most young adults groups in my area end for the summer; it gives a nice break from the weekly engagement that leaves time for cottaging and camping and gardening and all of those wonderful summer things! But it also leaves a gap in many young adults’ lives, where it becomes easy to neglect meeting together without that structure.
So, a group of us began a young adults group just for the summer months of June, July and August. Sunday evenings at 7. We had a wonderful worship band, we invited guest speakers to come share what God had placed on their hearts. We had games and snacks afterwards where people would stay late into the night chatting and playing Apples to Apples.
I believe that God used all that Awaken was this summer for good, giving opportunities and space for young adults to grow closer to Him, to walk in His light together as a community. 1 John 1:7 says, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” We bore one another’s burdens this summer (Galatians 6:2), in crying with each other after losing loved ones, sharing deep hurt and returning to Christ; we were able to live into a community that the bible gives high praise for.
I believe God used Awaken to prepare the hearts of the community for each person’s specific endeavors this fall. Many people were starting or returning to Christian and secular universities, traveling around the world with organizations that called them to share the love of Jesus, or beginning new jobs. Awaken was a training camp where members grew in their faith and learned more about the God they served. They were questioned, supported and encouraged before being sent out. They were dispersed around Ontario – Guelph, London, Waterloo, Hamilton, New Hamburg, Wellesley and Montreal, and the world – Hawaii, Israel, Austria, and the Czech Republic.
Quite early on, God revealed to those of us who were planning that He was in charge! We each came with our ideas of what the group should look like, and watched as it began to take the much more genuine and praiseworthy form that God had intended, beyond any of our original ideas.
We worried when the facility we had planned on using fell through, but God soon provided the perfect place. We would stress out about the fact that we didn’t have someone lined up to speak for a week – but somebody always did, and did a wonderful job. And He continued to provide! Gifted musicians came together to form the band, every week the speaker spoke truth into the hearts of those who came and our weekly crowd was far larger than I had ever expected.
Matthew 18:20 says “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Through some really powerful group prayer sessions, we felt the presence of God surrounding us on particular evenings this summer. If what we desire lines up with what God desires, there is no doubt that He pulls through! For me, this summer was a reminder of God’s faithfulness.
Some people who attended Awaken this summer have been gracious enough to share about their experience of the group this past summer.
“I believe it is paramount to surround oneself with other Christians as much as possible. Iron sharpens iron, so having the chance to get together, to grow, to learn, and worship the same God together is an incredible gift. It is incredibly refreshing to come together like we did in Awaken.” Evan Valenta
“It was incredible to be able to connect and worship with others your age! It definitely strengthened my relationship with God and I’m really thankful for that! It definitely made me want to get connected with a young adults group for the winter.” Kaitlyn Poth
“Leading worship for a community like Awaken was such a rare and wonderful experience. The strong sense of community that existed within Awaken is rare and through this community, it was easy to connect with God and with other Christians. It has been an absolute pleasure to worship with the welcoming people in the Awaken community.” Andrew Prosser
“Awaken was very encouraging to me because I was surrounded by other young adults who are passionate about Christ. I looked forward to Sunday nights ever week because I loved spending time worshiping and having conversations with others who supported me, prayed with me, built me up and encouraged me in my walk with Christ!” Amanda Plumtree
It is my hope that these experiences would be an encouragement to young adults to get involved in a Christian community. For those who are hoping to begin a group, I hope this can be a reminder of God’s faithfulness!
Katie is a third year student in Child Youth and Family Studies at the University of Guelph who loves chocolate and tea and great chats. She cares a lot about the effects of poverty within families in our area and beyond, and is passionate about doing what I can to work as a support to them. As of September 2015, she has been working as the Youth Worker at Floradale Mennonite Church and is very excited to continue to learn and grow with their beautiful youth group!