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.”
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.
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].”
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.
“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.