I came to Heart of the Rockies during my seventh-grade year in school. It was only my second year in the public-school system, I went to private school for the entirety of elementary school, and I hadn’t been able to make very many connections to make up for the ones I had lost from switching schools. From my family’s first visit to Heart of the Rockies I felt welcomed into the church community and quickly decided to get into the youth group. All of the leaders and fellow youth members were amazing and allowed me to quickly transition into the church and the many service opportunities available. This sense of community that I felt upon entering the church would have an enormous impact on everything I would do into the future inside and outside of the church.
The first event that I can remember going to was a fall retreat that we did in Denver at the beginning of my 8th grade year. The experience was completely new to me as I had never done volunteer work of any kind previously. The main focus of the event was around the idea that we should give without asking for anything in return. We executed this by discussing what it meant to us in our personal lives in a series of small group discussions and then went out to 16th street mall and handed out snacks and water to the homeless and anyone else who just wanted one. I was extremely shy at the time so this activity was very daunting to me, however the people around me made it so much better than I ever could have imagined. I had so much fun competing with everyone to see who could give out their bags the quickest, but more importantly really enjoyed seeing the joy and satisfaction on the faces of everyone I interacted with.These ideals of church community and service have played such a large role in my life no matter what I am doing be it at home, school, or in the community.
Since that point, I have participated in numerous fall and winter retreats, community service projects, and school events. These have ranged from helping to rebuild homes after the major floods in northern Colorado, helping to clean up and replant a park in Oregon, putting on a 5k for cancer victims, and visiting nursing homes to help with events and chat with the residents. All of these events have allowed my Christian values to become strengthened as well as more focused.
I have come to realize that going to church to learn and understand what Christianity is a key part in the religion, however going out into your community and acting it out is just as important if not more. Not only do you get to help out others, you also get to experience the tingly feeling inside you get when you see the joy inside the eyes of those who you’ve helped. In Romans 12:10-13 it says, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” My interpretation of this centers around the idea with action comes benefits that make the entire worthwhile. If your work is motivated by love and performed in God’s name then you will find yourself enthusiastic and energized by it. God’s love for us shouldn’t remain held deep inside ourselves, instead it should be expressed and spread to the many others throughout our lives so that they can experience its wonders as well. God sends us opportunities every day to positively impact lives around us. One’s service may be as simple as a pleasant smile, an encouraging word, or a listening ear. In different situations however, God may ask for more of you such as sacrificing your time or giving generously of your resources. As you pour yourself into loving them, you’ll discover a sense of fulfillment and joy inside yourself that may never have come about otherwise and also realize what it truly means to be a complete Christian.
Written by Charlie Johnson, a senior at Fossil Ridge High School. Charlie will attend UC -Santa Barbara in the fall.