Youth group set to put leadership skills into action

Koinonia Christian Fellowship’s Servant Leadership Institute students are heading to the Philippines this April for a mission trip which is part of their program. Four of the six students are EDSS grads. From left, Bryce Fleming, Judah Bondy, Nathan Tarasko, Gabrielle Drost, Elicia Horst, Jonathan Cook, Andrew Collard and Heidi Fleming. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]

When a group of Woolwich youth head to the Philippines this spring, they won’t be spending it surfing, snorkeling, and sun tanning.

Six members of Koinonia Christian Fellowship’s Servant Leadership Institute missions team, along with two leaders, will spend Apr. 16-28 in the Philippines on a mission trip. Their home base will be the city of Davao.

SLI is a 10-month program at the Bloomingdale-based church, where students study leadership principles, relationships, finances and missions.

The World Team members going are Judah Bondy, Andrew Collard, Jonathan Cook, Gabrielle Drost, Elicia Horst and Nathan Tarasko, as well as leaders Bryce and Heidi Fleming. Four of the six students, plus Heidi, are EDSS grads.

“For this specific trip we sat down together, pastor Oto Perez and I, just brainstormed some of our options, contacted a few of our partners and basically from there we find out what their year is looking like,” Bryce Fleming said.

Typically they do the mission trip in the second half of the year because that gives the students time to get to know each other.

Because the students are 18 and 19, the activities they’ll be participating in have been catered to their strengths; children, youth and music. During their trip they will host a youth camp, participate in local church services, visit a tribal village, and support a local orphanage and home for the elderly.

The orphanage is Living Stones Orphanage run by Ken and Cris Sandberg, and the partnering church is Church 153.

They started preparing for the trip in November.

“They’re all involved in some of the fundraising efforts that we’ve been doing. Some of them, more musically inclined, are creating song lists where we’ll prepare some music to be performing and leading churches that they’ll sing in. Specifically there’s two guys that will be leading that piece. Some of them are going to be sharing the public speaking, so sharing some messages,” Fleming explained.

And a couple others are more focused on collected donated goods for the orphanage and home for the elderly. Specifically, they’re collecting twin-size bed sheets and kitchen and bath towels. They’ll also be accepting financial contributions for the trip.

They’re holding a family skate at the Woolwich Memorial Centre on Mar. 15 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. as part of their fundraising efforts. The trip costs $3,200 per student and they’ve each already committed $1,000 of that from their own funds.

“Thinking about our team, praying about our team, if people are inclined to do that, we really appreciate those thoughts and prayers because we believe those are really important as we prepare to go,” Fleming said.

This will be Fleming’s third time leading a missions trip.

The group travelled to a conference in the United States last year, but for four of the six of them it will be their first mission trip.

“I think it’s important because so often, our human nature is to live life focused on our self, whether we hear that from culture or whether we just pick it up on our own, that’s our natural tendency, which is to live with lives looking in, not looking out. When you start serving, you really begin to discover the world opens up to you,” Fleming said.

He says he hopes through the trip that the students are able to experience cross-cultural service through ministry, outreach and building projects, learn about leadership in other cultural contexts and be challenged to connect their gifts to the needs they see.

“As we go on a trip like this, they’re exposed to things bigger, different than they’ve ever experienced, which really puts them in touch with what they have inside of them; dreams, goals, who they’ve been created to be. As they do that, that really sets the stage for a massive amount of growth as a team, and then also as an individual.”