Church of the Brethren and Mennonite youth in the Denver and Colorado Springs areas of Colorado participated in “River of Life,” a weekend of service on Aug. 18-20. Students including youth from Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren arrived at First Mennonite Church to examine how the Anabaptist faith tradition teaches them to be in service to others. Some students gave up their last free weekend of summer, while others rushed from school to attend.
Twenty-six participants were divided between four service projects. The projects included painting a Community Outreach Center at Garden Park Mennonite Brethren Church; pulling weeds and picking up trash at Yarrow Gardens, a Mennonite owned low-income housing project; scrubbing a club at a Denver Boy’s and Girl’s Club; and office work, yard work, transforming pallets into firewood, and serving lunch to the homeless at Franciscan Friends of the Poor.
On Sunday, the youth reported some life lessons they had learned from the weekend during the worship service at First Mennonite, and led the church in singing. They not only filled the platform with their physical presence, but with their faith sharing as well.
“I didn’t know what a homeless person would be like, but now I know they are really cool human beings,” reported one youth. “Kids with few options for where to go after school can join a Boy’s and Girl’s Club for only $2 per year,” reported another youth. Another youth observed the struggle for help a single mom was having with her teenagers on moving day, the same day as the River of Life service projects. When the River of Life youth pitched in to help, the other kids also started helping more.
Maybe the life lesson from River of Life was best summed by the song title “Take Me In,” sung during the closing concert by the band BlackKnyt whose members are middle school students with connections to Glennon Heights Mennonite Church. Even when life pushes us to be on the outside, the River of Life weekend models a different way of living that encourages youth to “take people in” and share some simple deeds inspired by Jesus’ love.
Mennonite Urban Ministries (MUM) and Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection (DOOR) sponsored the event.