From September 28 to October 2, 2016, Tri-City Christian Academy hosted its third annual “2 Serve” Conference, which is sponsored by the Southern Union. Adventist Christian Academy of Raleigh, Greeneville Adventist Academy, Heritage Academy, and home school students from across the Southern Union participated in Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training. CERT trains people to be better prepared to respond to emergency situations in their communities. By the end of the Conference, nearly all the students received certification to participate in emergency response.
A couple weeks later the students were able to put that training into action when Tri-City was called to Florida to assist Heritage Academy in an emergency response to Hurricane Matthew. The 73 students were sent to two locations, Orange Cove and St. Augustine. There were three activities available for the students to participate in: food distribution, debris removal, and cleaning out homes that had received serious water damage from the storm.
While working in the neighborhoods, the students were able to see the residents’ reactions to their help. Many residents were moved to tears as an army of youth, rightly trained, descended on the scene of the disaster. The free debris and mud removal saved many of the residents thousands of dollars they simply did not have. As the work at each home was completed, the group of 10-12 responders, mostly high school-age students, gathered in a circle with the residents and had prayer. Afterward, a Steps to Christ was given with this explanation, “This is why we do what we do!”
At one house, where the students had to remove five fallen trees, the woman of the house, Kay, opened up to the students during a water break. She shared that she had suddenly lost her husband to brain cancer six months earlier. Since then, she struggled to make sense of everything and had given up on God. The group simply listened, since her tears and raw emotions were too painful to respond to verbally. When they finished their work, this group had prayer with Kay, gave her hugs, and left a Steps to Christ.
At church that Sabbath, Jen, a church member who is Kay’s friend, shared that she had been at Kay’s house when the storm hit, and had assured her that her church would do something to help. Then on Friday, she had gone over to Kay’s house for dinner. When she entered the house, she saw Kay sitting in her chair, reading the Steps to Christ the students had given her earlier that day. Jen also shared that normally Kay would not pray with her at mealtime, but this night was different. When Jen paused and said, “Let me pray for my food before we eat,” Kay asked, “Why don’t we pray together?”
Jen’s eyes filled with tears as she told the students that Kay had never wanted to pray with her before.
It is truly amazing what happens when people minister the way Christ ministered. Not every visit ended this way, but this one experience made the whole trip worthwhile for everyone involved.
“2 Serve” blends the ministry skills of canvassing, teaching, and school administration in a unique way. Each family visited was open and receptive to prayer and literature after their physical needs had been met. In addition, students were eager to learn how to serve, and wanted to be actively involved in every aspect of service. What better way to teach young people to be the hands and feet of Jesus, while taking a message of hope to those who need it most?
Carolina | January 2017