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Oak Glen United Reformed Church hosts service week for youth from across the country

By Josh Bootsma

LANSING, Ill. (August 8, 2022) – Teenagers from New Jersey, New York, Florida, and Michigan gathered with youth from local areas for a week of service in the Lansing community, hosted by Oak Glen United Reformed Church.

A total of 21 service-oriented young adults called Oak Glen URC home last week as part of Reformed Mission Services’ TASC program (Teens Actively Serving Christ). TASC allows Christian youth ages 14–19 to engage in week-long service projects around the country.

TASC in Lansing

Luke Venhuizen, an Oak Glen URC youth group leader and a TASC coordinator, said Lansing was chosen as a location for TASC by Reformed Mission Services.

“They were looking for someone in the midwest, they asked around, and we said we were willing to do it. It’s not like they’re pinpointing any particular neighborhood, because there are needs everywhere.”

Oak Glen youth group leader and TASC coordinator Luke Venhuizen helps load cars at Mt. Zion Ministry’s food drive on Wednesday, August 3. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Venhuizen, along with nearly a dozen dedicated others from the Oak Glen URC community, worked for months to plan and prepare for the 21 youth that arrived to serve throughout Lansing.

Helping in many ways

After arriving on Saturday, July 30, and attending worship services on Sunday, groups got to work throughout the week around Lansing. Some helped with painting and landscaping projects at elderly church members’ houses. Others helped at the New 2 You resale store, doing landscaping and item-sorting. Some visited Lansing Christian School to help with painting and other improvements. Youth service members also teamed up with local group Love for Lansing to tackle what Venhuizen called, “weeds turned into trees” near the alley along Oak Glen Lutheran Cemetery. On Wednesday, a handful of the teens helped distribute food during Mt. Zion Ministry’s weekly drive-thru food drive.

oak glen united reformed church
TASC volunteers do landscaping work near at Lansing Christian School as part of their week of service in Lansing (Photo provided)
Adult sponsor John Raudenbush of Ringwood, NJ (back) and Sean McHugh of Pompton Lakes, NJ work on a deck of an Oak Glen URC church member. (Photo provided)
Oak Glen URC’s Ellie Van Groningen works on a basketball backboard at Lansing Christian School. (Photo provided)
oak glen united reformed church
Volunteers stand with Chris Christianson (far right), who needed help with weeds and cleaning around his house. “They cleared everything out including the sink!” he said. From left: Hailey Bysterbusch of Tuxedo, NY; Dan Kramer, TASC Master for Oak Glen URC; Rebecca Forrest of Pequannock, NJ; Dylan Leep of Kalamazoo, MI; Aidan Raudenbush of Richland, NJ; Julia Raudenbush of Richland, NJ (sponsor); Noah Engelsma of Portage, MI; Samantha Venhuizen of Highland, IN (TASC Coordinator); and Lansing resident Chris Christianson. (Photo provided)

Taking a break from passing out food at Mt. Zion, 18-year-old Tess Van Dyk said she was excited to serve for the second consecutive year in the TASC program. The Kalamazoo, Michigan resident said, “You have times where you have a spiritual high and then you’re almost wondering, ‘Wait, so what can I do now?’ Especially as a young person, you’re like what can I do to help others? … This was a perfect opportunity because you go to different places you’ve never been. I’ve never been to Lansing, Illinois before. It’s getting out and serving people in the name of Christ — that to me is what sells [participating in the TASC program].”

Tess Van Dyk pauses her work at Mt. Zion Ministries for a quick photo. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Building relationships

Beyond serving the Lansing community, Venhuizen said a benefit of the program is allowing teens from across the country to bond through their faith.

“They get to know each other. … They really get to build relationships and you can just see and meet the body of Christ coming together. It’s a cool thing to witness,” he said.

The teens slept at Oak Glen URC during the week, and relied on church members to open their homes for showering and other hospitality, more interactions that helped build relationships, Venhuizen said.

oak glen united reformed church
Dale Frump (left) works with Nathaniel Pols to prepare a string trimmer for landscaping work. (Photo provided)

“Pretty much every member of our church opened their doors,” he said.

Sight-seeing among the service

On Thursday, the group took a break from serving to visit downtown Chicago and explore Millennium Park, Navy Pier, and the Magnificent Mile.

TASC volunteers took a break from service to do some sight-seeing in downtown Chicago last Thursday. (Photo provided)

More information about the TASC program can be found online at Reformed Mission Service’s website, Oak Glen United Reformed Church is located at 2244 Indiana Avenue in Lansing.

Josh Bootsma
Josh Bootsma
Josh is Managing Editor at The Lansing Journal and believes in the power and purpose of community news. He covers any local topics—from village government to theatre, from business openings to migratory birds.