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Showing posts from 2018

A Look Into Summer

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“Wait you still work in the summer?” That is a question I get a lot. At times, I wish we did have summer vacation like those that work in the schools. However, I get the opportunity to meet kids whenever and wherever because of their freedom from school! To name a few things from this summer, I’ve had the opportunity to ride the rides at playland till I felt sick, thrift and find a cool dinosaur ladle for an excited youth and visit the local pool with some girls trying to escape the heat! The thing I love about summer, although it can be difficult at times, is the change in scenery and pace we get to do things. The end of the school year brings excitement and a need for change. Summer so often comes at just the right time.

One of my favourite things we get to participate in is Gatorshades. You might have heard about it before as this is my 4th summer being a part of it. To give a brief summary, Gatorshades is a program held at Walnut Grove Secondary School (WGSS) during the summer fo…

Moments of Summer

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Summer has come to an end and we are back in September. You may wonder, do I still work in summer? I assure you that I very much do!

This summer started off with a work conference that a large portion of our organization from across Canada attended. It was a time to meet together and hear the stories of youth workers across our nation. It was also a refreshing time of learning in classes and connecting with God. During this time, there was a graduation ceremony for all who finished their credentialing process to become clergy. As my name was called to walk across the stage, I heard screaming. It became increasingly louder and suddenly, there on stage in front of me was my boss Danny and my co-worker Philippa, holding signs and yelling and cheering as loud as they could with the rest of my team celebrating from the back. All I could do was stand there and laugh; it was quite the show!

When we arrived back from our conference, fall planning started. We decided it was time to change thi…

A Powerful Presence

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Being called into youth ministry at a young age, I never really knew what I was going to be getting myself into. The only model I had for youth ministry was all-nighters at a church, being really loud and excited at speaking conferences, or going all out at a camp for 10 weeks. All of that I knew I could do if I stretched myself, but it wasn’t in my strengths or gifting. Henri Nouwen talks about the ministry of ‘presence’ and how:

“it is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t …

Welcome Home

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Our Wednesday programs had become so popular this spring that we reached a crisis of capacity. We found that in the midst our “success”, the culture and vision of our ministry had begun to slip into crowd control. As our team gathered to pray and discern how Jesus wanted us to shape the coming school year we asked… Do we cancel it? Do we tweak it? Jesus’ answer to us was “crucify it.” As you might imagine, these were terrifying words to hear. As we prayed through those words, we began to see that Jesus was asking us to let our programs die so that he could resurrect them.

So what’s going to change? Well everything and nothing. We’re starting programs later this year (mid- October) because we’re rearranging our space to allow more conversations to happen. We’re adjusting our bus rides to make it less complicated, and scaling down some activities to make more time and space for relationships with students. However, the biggest changes found their inspiration in a place you wouldn’t nec…

Victories & Struggles

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Hey everyone!

We are in the full-swing of summer with 30+ degree weather out here! With the sun comes the opportunity to slow down and reflect on the past school year. May and June are some of the toughest months working with teenagers. With the end of the school year, students’ lives are filled with exam stress, fear and anxiety heading into a summer at home, uncertainty about the next school year or unclear future plans, and a whole lot of exhaustion after giving life everything they’ve got for months on end. However, the end of the school year is also a time for goals being completed, graduation ceremonies and sighs of relief as they switch school supplies for bathing suits for a couple months! I wanted to share some of these awesome end of the year victories with you.

This time last year, I was working with a grade 11 student who was struggling to keep himself alive due to mental illness and tough circumstances. After months of just keeping his head above water, he was ready to g…

The 11's

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The Magic of Numbers

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Hello! I hope this letter finds you well.

We are at the end of another school year so I wanted to give you a quick recap on a few highlights and some numbers from the last year.

Highlights:

We had the privilege of attending a few different trauma workshops throughout the year. We had one on ACE’s (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and also a trauma skills workshop. Both of these training sessions were very helpful and left me feeling informed and better equipped to work with people that have experienced trauma in their lives. I learned that one of the most important things is providing a safe space for people, which is one of the things we aim to provide for our youth. Thank you for this opportunity.

This past month has also been exciting for me, as some youth I have been walking alongside with for 8 years are graduating! I had first met them when they were in the fifth grad  and have been with them through many of their life struggles. Some of these struggles being mental health proble…

Trust the Journey

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In March this year, we decided as a team to finish our Ambassadors of Compassion project early and create a new project that would really benefit our youth. Due to time constraints and contracts, I had a month and a half to adjust and change aspects of the program around. At first, I was overwhelmed and nervous about creating something completely new rather than using an outline from another organization. Our team realized that we often talked about our dream that the youth of Langley would have the means to live healthy lives -- physically, emotionally, intellectually, socially, and spiritually. However, we were not always successful at reaching all of those aspects. In order for our youth to grow and lead others, we need to make sure they are healthy and capable before we send them out. That is how Student Life came to be.

Student Life is a 12-week program meant for those who want to discover more about themselves and work with a mentor who can coach them through their weekly ups a…

Meeting the Masses

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What’s the best way to meet 250 students in one day? Baseball, basketball, capture the flag, yoga and dodgeball… 
I have been given the opportunity to help and participate in gym classes at H.D. Stafford Middle School. Every Friday, I spend my day in the gym at Stafford. As class after class comes through, I am introduced to all of the students and we get to have a shared experience. This shared experience allows for conversation starters, as well as, natural conversation breaks. It gives me the chance to actually be teammates working towards a common goal with the youth I am interacting with. These interactions create familiarity and, ultimately, trust. The perfect way to start off relationships.
 At first, the youth were unsure of why I just got to do the activities with them. Now some of them look forward to seeing me in their class; the teachers, surprisingly, even more so. I have discovered recently that my role at Stafford reaches beyond the students and to the teachers. In the…

Laughter & Tears

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“I want to be friends with her but I need some space right now”.
“I thought I was doing the right thing by pushing them to get help”.
“He is sooo cute”.
“None of my classes that I wanted fit into my schedule for next year”.
Giggles…lots of giggles.
And tears...lots of tears.
This has been the reality of conversations between myself and any combination of the six girls that I work closely with at the school. I began working at the beginning of this year with these grade 8 girls by the request of a school counsellor. My role is to be an extra support for them, a listening ear, and a healthy adult in their lives. These six girls have tested my patience, hardened my listening skills and really, at the end of the day, tugged at my heart. 
Through my time spent with each of these girls, both individually and as a group, they have taught me so much about the value of being a part of their day-to-day lives and simply listening. Supporting them as they process the ups and downs of friendships…

Where God Leads

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Now with teenagers, how you get in touch with them is always a hit or miss. You have to deal with wifi versus no wifi, is their phone number working, do they receive texts and if they do, what app do they actually use to communicate with versus what their parents think they use. So setting up plans can sometimes be challenging.
As I was pulling up to the high school to spend time with a young guy I was mentoring, it dawned on me that I hadn’t gotten a message from him since the day before. This meant that I didn’t have any way to get a hold of him to confirm. Turns out that, little to my knowledge, the Lord had a plan for that time anyways. I decided to go out and look for him and instead ran into three of our young friends waiting to be picked up. We went around the school until we ended back at the same place - on the curb next to the portable. One by one they got picked up by their rides until it was just Carly and I. It became obvious her ride was never coming, she was just tryin…

Eternity Wars

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Here’s a few highlights of the cool stuff I’ve been a part of lately.

Gift Cards:

Over the Christmas season, we had over $3,000 worth of gift cards donated to us. We were able to give several cards to one of the high schools we have a presence in. A few days later, we received an email from one of the teachers reflecting back to us the impact these gift cards were able to make.

“A student I work with comes from a family of 7 (5 kids) and I recently overheard her speaking with her younger brother about how they were planning on pooling their bus money in order to buy their sister a birthday gift (the family did not have the means to buy a gift otherwise). They were
debating between surprising her with a present or with a trip to the local swimming pool. Through your generosity, I was able to bring the student to Walmart in order to purchase a gift for her sister, plus they were still able to take her swimming. Later that evening, I received a text from my
student telling me that her s…

Hope for the Hopeless

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Introducing: Kim

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Hi there. My name is Kim and as of May 14, I will officially be taking over as the Administrative Assistant to Langley Youth Unlimited while Megan, the usual administrator, is on maternity leave. I have served in a similar capacity for the past couple of years in both professional and volunteer settings. I am so excited for this opportunity to work alongside and support the staff here. Working with youth has always been a passion of mine and what a blessing it is to now call it my occupation. 
Having met this group of amazing people before, it is so exciting to be there to ensure all the details aren’t missed so that they are able to serve the youth to the best of their abilities without worrying about the little things.  
I was told that I don’t have to be crazy to take the job, that such things will be taught along the way, and I have no doubt that will be true! I already may be one step closer as I brought a little crazy in with me. 
Currently I am working alongside Megan to gain …

The Good in Goodbye

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This newsletter marks the last time I will be updating you on my ministry with Youth Unlimited before I begin my Maternity Leave on May 14th.
The last couple of months have been busy and exciting. Personally, Matt and I enjoyed celebrating my sister, Kim’s, marriage to her husband, Nathaniel. Matt thoroughly enjoyed his week-long trip to Guatemala where he was able to be a part of two home builds, food and clothing distribution and the assembly of 47 wheelchairs for those in need. I was able to enjoy a week of ‘staycation’ where I spent time resting, getting things ready for the baby and prepping for my sister’s  wedding.
The pace at work slowed down substantially as we took a three-week break from our programs for Spring Break. During this time my co-workers spent a lot of their time meeting with students, taking them on field trips, which included a trip to Castle Fun Park as well as a local monastery, and preparing for the final three months of the school year.
One of my favourite…

Two Worlds Apart

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For some, Spring Break may bring up visions of a beach vacation away from the dreary weather of the Lower Mainland.  Even if we can’t get out of town, a break from the normal routine is nice.  However, for many youth, the break from school removes the only healthy structure that they have in their lives. As a result, spring break can be a busy season for youth workers.  This year, our team dedicated multiple days to outings and field trips with the youth that could give them something of value to base their time off of school on.  It is always fascinating hanging out with youth outside of their normal routines. When you go out and participate in an activity together, you connect and grow your relationship. Not only that, we are shaping ways in which they can practice self-care in the times they may be lacking structure.
This spring break we offered a mix of activities from silly to serious.  We did art projects, played video games, watched movies and discussed the social implications…

Belonging

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Here are a couple of my favorite quotes from students over the last few months:
“ Life is great because I finally have a place where I fit in. Everyone here is so accepting, I’m so happy to finally fit in somewhere.”
“It was my first time here tonight, and immediately when I walked in the room I felt safe. I don’t get that feeling anywhere, not even places I’m already comfortable, so I will definitely be coming back.”
Over the last few months I have been thinking a lot about belonging. What does it mean to belong? How important is it for us, as humans, to have that sense of belonging?
Studies within Canada reveal that 25-30% of Canadians, throughout the different age groups, are reporting persistent loneliness or social isolation. This is most common in adolescence and young adults, along with elderly people. To me, this number is crazy! That means more than one in every four people do not have somewhere or someone they can connect with. 
The other thing that I found interesting whil…

To Be Known

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Overwhelmed. Full of fear. Defenses up. Lonely.

This is the reality for all too many students as they walk the halls of their high-school. In the hustle and bustle of over 2000 students in the hallways, it is easy to feel lost and feel like just another face in the crowd. Many of the students that I encounter feel like they are fighting for survival in this place, longing for friendship, companionship and connection. They long for someone to notice when they are feeling down, someone to talk to about that hobby they love that everyone else thinks is weird, and someone that will bring their favourite candy and want to hangout with them for the lunch break. They just want someone to know them.

In every highschool there is usually at least one room that seems to be filled with students instantly the second the bell goes for the lunch break. These rooms all have two things in common; couches and free food. The smell of popcorn being popped and bagels being toasted brings swarms of hungry…

H.D. Stafford

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Since January I have been at H.D. Stafford Middle School in Langley. Three years ago I had the privilege of starting a weekly sports night at Stafford, and I have been driving for a hockey program for them on a weekly basis, therefore the territory was familiar. Nonetheless, it has been an adjustment moving from the high school into the middle school. The opportunities here are immense. They are asking me to reach out to my network in order to find people who want to run afterschool programs for the youth. Thus far I have been able to start a board games club. I will potentially be helping in classrooms or with the youth that are particularly vulnerable. As of right now I spend four days a week at Stafford during lunch period. In this time I bring a game or a fun activity and I use it as a bridge to conversations with students.  I have been able to connect with the students which are in the lunch program and many of them play on the PUCKS hockey team that I drive for. The staff are…

Blind Dates

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Have you ever been on a blind date before? Personally I haven’t, and I’m glad for that. The closest I ever got was asking a girl out and having a super awkward coffee date in Grade 11. She barely spoke, I was nervous and asked tons of questions, but mostly we sat in silence. Sometimes friends can think two people will hit it off and it can just miss the mark entirely. Sometimes they can hit it off and that’s great- it’s just up to the relationship between those two people.

Why am I talking about blind dates? As a youth worker I get set up on ‘blind dates’ quite regularly.  “Oh you should meet this person! You should connect with this guy- I’ll bring him over. Take him out for coffee!”

It happens to me all the time and sometimes it totally works. I get connected with a new young person through a friend, counsellor, or youth leader and it is awesome! Sometimes we get connected, and it just doesn’t work. At all. We sit down or do something fun once and than I never see or hear from them…

The Power Of A Joke

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What’s red and bad for your teeth? A brick.

Yup… terrible right? That’s one of my go to lines with youth when they’re in a bad mood, the conversation has died or we are veering into inappropriate topics. I usually follow it up with this one; What do you call a dog with no legs? It doesn’t matter what you call him he’s not coming. That one usually gets me a groan or an eye roll but I never stop there… Why did Sarah fall off her bike? Because she had no arms. By the third or fourth anti-joke I have them right where I want them and usually the next 20 minutes are filled with equal amounts of laughter and groaning. You might as well admit it now; you’ve been chuckling while reading this.

An anti-joke’s punchline is something that is not supposed to be funny. The irony of this is typically what leads to the humor. I’ve seen these ridiculous jokes change the atmosphere of a hallway from cold and uninviting to one where everybody’s gathering around. I’ve seen them move a youth from angry si…

Adverse Childhood Experience

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At our March Greater Vancouver Staff Meeting, we took part in a workshop on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) led by Registered Psychologist, Jennifer Mervyn. Recent studies have been shown that childhood trauma can severely affect our health as we age. 64% of the population has been found to have at least one childhood trauma, while 12% have four or more. ACEs are considered to be the single most powerful determinant of our health, far outweighing any biological history.

These statistics can be concerning considering the demographic of youth that we work with. Many of the youth we have contact with find themselves living in the current reality of these Adverse Childhood Experiences. So how do we interject into their reality in hope of preventing long-term consequences? How do we support these youth in stopping the cycles from being passed along to future generations?

One of the most encouraging statistics that Jennifer shared during her presentation was that a caring individual i…

Relying On My Intuitions

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Intuition is something that I have learned is very important when it comes to working with teenagers. Especially since they are not always an open book about everything going on in their lives. I do not consider myself to be your “typical” youth worker (then again, who really is?) because I would describe myself as an introvert. At times it can be hard when your job revolves around meeting new people everyday, especially teenagers! However, with my introverted personality comes other skills and gifts that I am learning I can bring to our team with Youth Unlimited. I have strong insights into people’s emotions and moods which helps in understanding how they are feeling. I am able to pick up on body language, facial expressions and tone of voice to better understand and empathize with them. 
This intuition helped me in a situation with a teenager. It was during one of our regular Wednesday night programs when I spotted Sophia by herself and not engaging with the rest of her friends. Si…

Contentment

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Living in the now while anticipating the future is the paradox that I find myself to be living in lately.  In a few short months, Matt and I will be welcoming our first child into the world - something that we have longed and prayed for. In a few short months, I will be entering into a different stage of life. One that is hard to imagine as almost every aspect of it is foreign to me. I anticipate the future with excitement and eagerness. I cannot wait to hold my baby for the first time and I love the idea of nurturing another being and devoting my time and energy to a tiny human.

I also find myself grieving what I will be putting aside for a time. My job with Youth Unlimited has fulfilled a part of me that I did not realize I needed so bad. I have found an identity within this organization and I struggle to imagine going a year without it.

Since joining the Langley Youth Unlimited team 3 years ago, I have witnessed a lot of ups and downs within our team. We have grown from a team of …

Commitment

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To those that know me, it is no secret that I like sports. When the Olympics roll around I find a new sense of fascination in watching competitions I otherwise pay very little attention to.  There is so much on the line for these athletes who make it their lives to be in this moment.

I find great metaphors for life and for my work in watching how these athletes deal with the pressure that they are under in representing their nation.  The scrutiny of the judges, broadcasters and spectators as well as the demands that they put upon their bodies to perform at the highest of calibers.  Few will stand on the podiums but I walk away with admiration for all of these people that have the will to press through the demands, the risks, and the possibility of public international humiliation.

I even find inspiration in the commercials.  Consider this Olympic themed script from a Powerade advertisement:

“Now here’s the reality of it. You don’t want to be walking off with any regrets. Be annoyed. …

Spiritual Care

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I just wanted to start off by thanking you! I am so thankful for the opportunity to be here and to be able to holistically love others. Having the opportunity to focus on all of the aspects of health has really been challenging me overtime to focus on those areas of health in my own life. As many of you know, as an organization, Youth Unlimited focuses on five aspects of health; physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual. This letter is focusing more on the spiritual area of health, so this one is for all you spiritual-ish and/or churchy people.

Spirituality can look very different for each people and if you have never grown up with any form of spirituality it can be difficult to grasp. A lot of the time asking someone to do something as simple as taking a silent walk in the forest can be difficult. Without growing up with a “religious” background, some concepts can be hard to grasp and some of the
language can be difficult to understand.

Those of you that know my famil…