YaF

So, the title of this post is probably a word that you’ve never heard before. YaF stands for Youth at Fifth. This is my Youth Group.

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This picture is from a few years back, but it will give you an idea of how large our group is.

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This is our AMAZING youth leader Christian. (As the Doctor would say “Bow Ties are cool!”) He’s quirky, fun and hilarious, but most of all he cares about each and every one of us in the group. He is more than willing to listen to prayer requests, concerns or funny stories that we might have. He is an amazing person and the first leader of a youth group that I have truly trusted (even when I have NO IDEA what’s coming next or happening at any given time.)

Christian also has a tendency to come up with games that enjoy immensely and are completely terrified of…like this one…

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This is me… I’m wrapped in saran wrap and covered in shaving cream…I’m a human snow person! This was a few years ago, my first year in YaF, somehow I managed not to get a bunch of shaving cream in my hair…still not sure how, but there you go… By the way, our team won!

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Then there’s moments like this…

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And this…

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And the there’s also the fact that Christian has mastered the art of taking embarrassing pictures of me…

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And by embarrassing, I mean things like this…

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I’m in the background…just, you know, dying…

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All the weird games and embarrassing pictures aside, we go on some amazing adventures. The first year I was in YaF we went to Kissimmee Florida. The week that we were there was spent volunteering at Give Kids The World. (Check out http://www.gktw.org/) GKTW is a non-profit organization that partners with Make a Wish Foundation. They give kids (with terminal or life threatening illnesses)and their families a week in the GKTW village. They get a villa all to themselves as well as access to the attractions at the village, such as…

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The hand carved Belgian Carousel,

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The Gingerbread House, which is the dining hall, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

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The Castle of miracles, this is one of my favorite places in the village. Inside is the home of the Star Fairy. When kids come to GKTW one of the first things they do is come to the Castle. When they arrive they write their name on a small gold star, which is then put into a box and the kids watch as the star fairy carries the star up to her tower. The next day the kids are able to come back and find their star somewhere on the wall or ceiling. They recently built another room in the castle to accommodate all the stars, here’s a glimpse of what it looks like…

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Also inside the castle is the pillow tree,

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(Sorry for the bad pic…my camera hates me…) Here the kids can design a pillow! The tree shakes and makes noises, there are buttons and levers to push and pull, and the pillow is made in seconds! Did I mention that there’s also a wishing well that sounds like it’s eating the coins you throw in? No? Well there is! There’s also a slide that is small but tons of fun to ride down…

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Yeah…just like that…

There’s also a tree outside, that snores constantly, His name is Ol’ Elmer…

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It would be fun to sit next to him and read, if it weren’t for the fact that I am VERY easily distracted…

So, did I mention that the families that come to GKTW get all of this for free? And that every attraction/building is wheelchair accessible?! Not only that, but the families get tickets to the attractions in Orlando! Most of all, the volunteers at GKTW make it a priority to “Never say no” to the kids who visit the village. As long as what they want isn’t dangerous, the volunteers will do their absolute best to make sure the kids get what they’ve asked for.

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As Winston Churchill once said (this is on a mosaic in the village) “You make a living by what you get, you make a life by what you give.” I think this applies to our youth group and to the rest of the world too. Whether we’re in Florida, Trinidad, Colorado, New Orleans or even home in Grand Rapids, we’re constantly volunteering and showing God’s love through our actions. I think that’s what I love best about this youth group. In the youth groups I’ve been a part of in the past, if we went on a trip, it was for our own enjoyment only. Maybe we’d learn some Bible verses or hear a Christian speaker give their testimony, but it was mostly about bettering our relationship with Christ. Don’t get me wrong that’s great! But, at YaF we’re bettering our relationship with Christ through showing His love to others, as well as building relationships with other Christians of our own age. We accept anyone, and make them feel at home. I’ve never felt like I belong the way I belong at YaF. We’re weird and quirky, but we’re also relatable and when we go into a place, you can bet we’re going to include everyone and have a great time! There’s nothing like a YaF trip or meeting. We learn things about each other that we never would have known otherwise.

I’ll be very sad when my time as a YaFer is finished, but once a YaFer always a YaFer and you can bet I’ll be back for a visit every once in a while! I plan to make the most of the year I have left before Graduation. We’re going back to Florida this year, and I can’t wait to be back in a position to minister to those kids just by smiling and helping them have a GREAT time! The best way to minister to someone is to be their friend. That is what I’ve learned from YaF, and the fact that I learn something new every week and that every trip is a new and exciting chance to minister makes me so proud to be a member of the YaFer family. So thank you to Christian and to all of the leaders, I’ve learned so much from you, and I can’t wait to learn more!

Love to all, as always,

Mae

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