By Kevin Sabo Contributor
A group of 34 youth and leaders escaped the clutches of Alberta’s winter and spent nine days in sunny Florida, just outside of Orlando. It was not a pleasure trip though, as this group was in Orlando to work.
Youth from Castor, Brownfield, Halkirk, Coronation and Amisk, along with parent chaperones, went to Florida as part of a short-term missionary trip through world-wide organization Youth With A Mission (YWAM).
The group left March 22 from the Castor Evangelical Missionary Church, and returned March 31, with the group being grateful for the experiences they had. The experience starting when they left Castor just as a snow storm was coming into the Castor region. The bus made it safely to Calgary International Airport and the group flew out early the next morning. For some of the youth on the trip, it was their first time ever being on an airplane, let alone leaving Canada.
Once on the ground in Orlando at the YWAM base, the crew spent the next several days volunteering with YWAM’s outreach program and cleaning up the trees, branches and debris from the last hurricane that went through the region. Working with the outreach program offered some unique experiences as well.
The most impactful of the outreach experience was the help they gave to the Orlando Children’s Church. The Orlando Children’s Church is a ministry focused on helping the youth in Orlando that are caught on the fringes of poverty, and 14 buses of kids are brought to a central church and then go to a Saturday morning church service and have a time of fellowship.
The weekend that our group was there was a low turnout for the children’s church, but it still had over two-hundred attend, and some weeks the outreach tops 500 youth. Eric Nielson, one of the adult chaperones commented that it was very powerful seeing some of the “tough” kids who came to this outreach also stand before the group and accept Jesus into their hearts.
In addition to the Orlando Children’s Church, the group spent an afternoon helping at an area second-hand store/charity, and at a charity called Clean The World, which recycles soap and shampoo from hotels, and distributes it via hygiene packs to those in need.
When asked about the most lasting part of the trip, Eric Nielson replied that for him it was “Watching the kids experiencing and doing challenging things. Opening their eyes to the outside world.” Experience the outside world they did.
One of the first activities the group did on the ground was a team-building scavenger hunt in Orlando, and unbeknownst to theme their hunt was coinciding with a 20,000-member anti-gun protest, which the group found themselves at the edge of. The group also attended a debate between a Muslim Imam and one of the local YWAM leaders one evening at a local church entitled “Guns, Faith, and Community.”
The trip was not all work though. On the Sunday after they arrived in Orlando, the group took a bus an hour and a half east to Coco beach, which is located near Cape Canaveral, and spent the afternoon playing touch football, playing in the surf, and having pizza which they ordered down to the beach. The group also spent a day at Disney World before returning home.
When asked which part stuck with him most, Brock Penner, a castor member, responded “How prayer was answered, and the answers were everywhere.”
Katelyn Golby-Larson of Alliance said that it felt “Nice to help other people out.”
The group was led by Brooke Tangjerd of Brownfield, who is currently undergoing RCMP training in Saskatchewan.