Friday, June 24, 2016

Thursday and Friday

Hey everyone,
This is Ashley Klaasen. Yesterday (Thursday) was our last work day at each of our sites. We left at normal times for the most part and had a community cookout for dinner. A few of the families we served came to eat hotdogs with us. The weather was great and it was a nice time to hang out with the group. After that we went back to the housing site and took showers and hung out until worship time. Worship time was quite different last night and it was my favorite one. We still shared things that we were thankful for that day (yay God's) and we sang too. Then we went out to the parking lot and split up into our work site groups (crews). We each had a chance to wash another's feet and pray for the one getting washed. This was a really good experience because it was so cool to hear what your crew liked about each member. You could pray for whoever you wanted to and while someone was getting their feet washed, almost everyone put their hands on their shoulders. It made me feel loved and appreciated. After that, we came back inside and sung a few more songs. While we were singing, people put their arms around each other and eventually we formed a circle of everyone, with their arms around each other, swaying back and forth and singing. It was really cool to see the transformation from everyone being separated by church to everyone all mixed up right next to each other. The worship service ended around 10:20 so we only had 40 minutes of free time before lights out.
Today (Friday) we got an extra hour of sleep! They woke us up at 8:00 and we got ready like normal but instead of going to our work sites, we headed off to the beach. Some of us swam in the water (I was one of them) and even though it was really cold we were glad it was warmer than Lake Michigan. We had quite a bit of time to just hang out at the beach so in addition to swimming we sat on the sand, walked around, and played nuk'em. We ate pizza for lunch and shortly after that it was time to leave (1:00). We got back in the vans and headed off to a place where we played some games. I think some people were supposed to come and join us from the community but only two community members came. It was still fun. We left at 3:00 and came back to the housing site to take showers and tonight we're having a community worship night and preparing to leave.
Most of us are really excited for our day at Cedar Point tomorrow and we love and miss you all. Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers. We will see you all on Sunday (and some of you on Saturday)!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Tucked in tshirt taco Tuesday.... Oh! Wait! It's Wednesday!

Dear fellow Niekerkians,

Today we finished demolishing a garage that we have been working on. Throughout this week we worked with the homeowner Frank on tearing down and rebuilding his garage roof. While we worked we got to know Frank and his two grandsons Logan and Barron. They got to help us out on the garage and enjoyed lunch and devotions with us each day. We are replacing rotted wood and are looking forward to rebuilding the roof tomorrow. Frank is excited that we are ahead of schedule! We are having fun hanging out with Frank and also with the other church from Tecumseh.

Jokes while you wait for us to come home:
What is red and smells like blue paint? Red paint
What is the best thing about Switzerland? I don't know but the flag is a big plus
"Keep your gloves close at hand"
What is a pirates favorite letter? You'd think it'd be the rrrrrr but my first love be the sea


We are having sooooooo much fun!!!

Prayer requests:
So that nobody gets bumps and bruises
Oppurtunities to interact and to be the hands and feet of Jesus as we close out the week

See you in three more sleeps
I love you mom and dad (and siblings) don't worry about my broken leg!!!!

Austin Helder and Emma VanderMeulen (and the FAM)

PS check out the local Lorain newspaper to see some familiar (and now famous) faces!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Better and Better

Today started off ruff.. Getting up at 7 am is hard when you wake up at like 1-1:30 pm on a normal summer day. I was dreading having to work 6 hours in the hot heat. My group has been assigned to a project at Eddie Sampson's house. Eddie is an older man and he needed some help putting in a sidewalk as well as demolishing a side room on his house which was in poor repair. Having a bad knee and bad shoulders didn't help to get me motivated for work this morning either. I thought I wasn't going to be able to do anything except dig in some dirt to prepare for the sidewalk to be laid and that's what I did in the beginning. I was mad and bored and didn't want to be there. But i got some friends around me and it really turned around my day. Yeah, I still had to dig in the dirt, but having people around me made me think about how blessed I am to have friends and be able to make new friends too! In the end, we got so much done! I also got to help take the roof off with the demolition part of our project and take walls down! Although I didn't get to swing the sledgehammer, I had a really fun time working with Emma Jo and Jake. We did way more than we expected to.
During daily lunch devotions, we had Eddie, the man we were working for, come out and join us. He answered all of the questions with the same story, but it was really cool to here about something he had experienced in his time working as a police officer. I was also able to pop out of my comfort zone and pray for the group.
Later that night we had our evening church program. During the program we sang some songs that really spoke to me and made me think about how powerful and mighty God truly is. I felt like I was truly worshiping.
After the program, just the Niekerk group took off together and went to the beach, talked through our day, and ate some delicious ice cream! During our talk with the group, the talk of Riley Hoeksema came up and everything went silent. I really felt the God pushing me to pray, so in the end, I got to pray for our group, for Riley's family, friends, and everyone affected by this great tragedy. Later, I got to talk with some awesome girls and comfort them in their time of need.
At the end of the day, I had a awesome day. It got better and better. I can't wait to see where God leads me the rest of the week and what new friendships I'm going to make. I can't wait!

Love, Annie Timmer

As you can feel and see as you read Annie's words, God is surely working through our students this week! What a joy it is for me to be able to watch as our group stretches themselves, supports one another at work, at play and during more serious moments, and how close of a bond an experience like this can place in our group. 
As the week continues please continue to pray for the hearts of our students who are hurting over the loss of a friend and classmate. Pray for safety at our worksites (I am sure many of you will in the future hear the story of Laura losing the grip on her hammer and throwing it down at Emma Jo below her ladder!) and health as we are working in the heat and sun during the day. Pray for continued unity in our group, and willingness to share together as well as get to know the other students and leaders who are here in Ohio with us. And finally, continue to pray for our leadership here... Trisha, Jamie, Jim, Ian and I as we work as a team to love these kids and lead them and be an example for them in word and in deed.

Thank you for your prayers and constant support.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Day 2

Hey Niekerk! This is Maegan Sneller telling you what we did today. Well, we had to wake up at 7:00 and breakfast is always going to be at 7:15. After breakfast, we are individually in charge of packing a lunch in your groups cooler for later in the day. There are other teens from other churches here so we all divided into 7 different crews. In each crew, there are about 8-10 people. Each crew has a site in Lorian that they will work on all week. For example, my crew went to Carol's house, who is a widow living by herself in a small home. My crew started staining her wooden ramp, roofing the back of her house, and cleaning her front porch where she likes to sit. More importantly, we talked to Carol and got to know her which was really cool. I am excited to go back to this site the rest of the week to help her. Even though there are some kids from other churches in our crews, I think we are all getting to know each other and work together really well. I'm excited for what the rest of the week will bring! Thanks for all of your prayers and support because we couldn't do this without you! 

Laura here.... Just a couple more updates and prayer requests for the group as a whole. 
We are working on jobs that stretch our skills and get our kids out of their comfort zones. Next Step is great about emphasizing safety and as mama bear.... I truly appreciate that. We would love specific and continued prayers for safety on our worksites!
As many of you know, our HC students lost a classmate, teammate and friend today in an accident back home. Please pray for us as leaders to know how to love and support our students through this time. Pray for our kids to be able to process and reach out when they need to.
Finally, we are having a bit of an issue with the bathrooms at our housing site. We are currently down to 4 toilets for 70+ people. The staff here are working desperately to get the issue taken care of, but this is a source of need for prayer most defiantly!

We appreciate all your love and support, and we will do our very best to keep you updated on our goings on for the remainder of the week!

Much Love!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Checking in

This is going to be short and sweet, as this has been a full day of travel. Our trip was uneventful, which is good! Our three Darth Vader Vans ran smoothly down the highway, and we arrived here in Lorain around 5 pm, only a few minutes late after Pastor Lou's sermon.

Upon our arrival we were greeted by Next Step staff members and shown to our nice warm rooms! We had a delicious dinner of chicken, mashed potatoes, corn and rolls. The Next Step Staff lead worship and a short introduction to our week and we were broken up into our work groups. Our leaders and students will be working at 5 different work sites beginning tomorrow! We are excited to do some demolition, roofing, siding work, drywall work, flooring and painting.

Can't wait to get our adventures started tomorrow! Talk to you then!


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Lorain, Ohio Here we come!

See that tiny green star?  That, my friends is Lorain, Ohio and that is where God is taking the Niekerk Youth Group this year on our summer mission trip.  

On Sunday morning, June 19th, 26 of us will be loading into our vans and making the 296 mile (give or take a few) drive from Holland to Lorain.  While we are in Lorain the group will be staying at Fountain of Life Church.  Our work sites will be within approximately a 10 minute drive of our housing site, and we will be working on projects such as: siding a house, remodeling a kitchen, roofing, flooring, landscaping, dry-walling, and/or working in a Habitat Restore.  There will be 70 youth and their adult leaders serving in Lorain during this week, and we are excited about meeting new friends and learning and growing together.    

Some prayer requests this week and as we depart:
  • All the last minute packing, gathering and preparation
  • Safety for our travels and time spent in Lorain
  • For the leadership within our group, that we would be united, positive, and Godly examples for our students, for those we serve with and those we serve as well.
  • The ministry of Next Step
  • Spiritual growth
  • Our leaders who are staying home to take care of their families: Val, Joe, and Dana
  • A first time leader in our group
  • Each of our students
There will be a commissioning service in the morning and following the service, a short send off from Niekerk's parking lot on Sunday morning, we would love to have you join us for this.  

It is our goal to keep you updated via this blog throughout the week, so stop back and visit next week!

5 days until the service, leader sleep, laughter, sweat, and hard work begins!

See you soon, Lorain!

Laura J. Bosch

Friday, June 26, 2015

The "Home" Stretch

How can it be that today is our last full day in Panama?!  We couldn't travel all the way here without taking a tour of the Panama Canal, and who wouldn't want to hand-feed bananas to monkeys living in the wild?!  Alarms rang extra early this morning since we didn't want the monkeys to get to their breakfast before we arrived by boat.  Already hot and humid, the breeze off the canal felt amazing as we made our way to the monkey islands to see White-faced, Howler, and Tamaran monkeys in their natural habitat.  They didn't disappoint, and many students got sticky hands as the banana pieces were passed around and quickly snatched up by the greedy monkeys.  Added entertainment included iguanas, birds, and butterflies.  Did you know that one translation of “Panama” is “abundance of butterflies”?
Our next destination brought us to the middle of a mountain, as our bus was unable to climb the steep incline to the summit, where a gorgeous view of old and new Panama City awaited us.  Our excitement and youthful legs brought us to the top quickly, as we took in the view as well as the cool mountain-top breeze.  Here, we took the chance to grab some group photos and selfies (of course!) before heading back down.  A quick stop at one last open-air souvenir shop before lunch concluded our morning, and many of our students snagged some trinkets as reminders of the memories made this week. 
A quick bus ride brought us to the Panama Canal Museum, where we donned our stylish 3D glasses for a quick history video, followed by canal and Panama history pictures and artifacts.  The highlight of our time there were the locks, where we watched multiple ships slowly make their way through.  We spent over an hour on the observation deck, snapping pictures and analyzing the workings of the locks and which countries each ship came from.  

We spent some time this evening reflecting as a group on our week of Panamanian adventures.  Some highlights mentioned included bonding time with peers and leaders, experiencing a new culture, stretching and improving Spanish skills, and experiencing how Christ’s love spans different cultural barriers.

We are so thankful for this week spent together, the connection we’ve made with the students and the unity that God has allowed us to build as a group.  There have been lots of moments of laughter, as well as reflection on the work that God is doing in each life in Panama as well as in our own hearts.  We are excited to take home our experiences and share them with you.
As leaders, it’s our prayer that God continues the good works that He’s begun in our students’ lives, and that He continues to equip us with the tools and words that we need to meet each student where they are in their personal walk with Him.  Thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve alongside your students this week and this year.  We have so enjoyed each moment with them and look forward to what next year holds.  

Dana & Laura