Many years ago, a young boy stumbled upon the children’s program at Calvary Pentecostal in Dunnville, Ontario. For the sake of protecting this child, we’ll call him “Jeremy” in this article. Through annual exciting-themed Vacation Bible Schools and the engaging Kidz Klub children’s program, Jeremy kept coming back for more. Family Ministries Pastor, Laurie Ricker, shares that although Jeremy’s parents didn’t come to the church, the continual love of Jesus shown to him by leadership, along with the warmth, acceptance and friendship from other kids, kept him engaged and coming.
Now, as a teenager, this same boy has been attending the Junior Youth program where Pastor Laurie’s son, Luke, is one of the leaders. During a recent conversation through one of the online gatherings conducted via Zoom, the young people were given an opportunity to talk about their ‘salvation story’. When asked, Jeremy shared that he accepted Jesus into his heart many years prior during a Kidz Klub service. When Luke shared this story with his mother (Pastor Laurie), she was so encouraged.
"What you do for a kid is like making an investment. It gains more value over time.
The sooner you start paying in, the greater the return will be later.
The longer you wait, the less you earn."
In a recent conversation with Mission Canada, Laurie shared:
“You intersect in the lives of so many families and children as a pastor. Some relationships go deep and last for a long time and other people are more transient and you are left to wonder. Feedback can vary from the highly accepting to sadly (at times) the highly critical and pastors are left to wonder if they made a lasting difference in the lives of the people God has entrusted to them. However, we continue to ‘plant and invest’ in the lives of the kids God has brought our way, praying that God will do His transforming work in their lives.”
As the restrictions and realities around COVID-19 continue, Pastor Laurie’s heart of ministry to reach the Calvary church family and beyond has blossomed even more. She has hosted an engaging weekly story time via Zoom, geared for elementary-age children to participate in. Each session is crafted to cultivate relationships among the children and point them to a loving Heavenly Father.
Prior to the onslaught of COVID-19, Calvary’s “North of 50” Seniors Group was a robust group of almost 150 people from the church and surrounding area. This season of social isolation has been tough for the seniors but finding a way to minister to these dear saints was vital. Since music was always a wonderful part of their in-person gatherings, they have continued this practice by leading a short weekly hymn sing lead by Pastor Laurie and her daughter. The seniors will often put in requests for favourite hymns to be shared. This eager crowd ‘tunes’ in online, praising Jesus and telling the story of His love, while connecting with their friends as best they can. These musical sessions are recorded and posted online so the seniors can have a musical encore at any time.
Church members have been consistent contributors and volunteers at a local food bank which is facilitated by the Salvation Army and provides a very needed service in the Dunnville area.
For many years this church has tried to reach the youth at their local high school and community. When the church has hosted various sport or VBS camps some of the youth would connect with the church and help out as a way of obtaining their volunteer service hours required for school. The church truly valued the service the young people provided and even greater was the fact that they were hearing the gospel message alongside the children in the camp setting. Aside from kids taking the initiative to seek out serving opportunities with Calvary, the church has been closed off from doing any promoting at the local high school. Yet, they keep trusting that God will open doors and grant favour. Out of the blue in the fall of 2019, they received a call to be a part of a volunteer fair at the local high school. When they asked about the ‘change of heart’ regarding any involvement, the high school commented that they could not overlook the number of teens who had served through the church. The high school then extended an invitation to officially include Calvary Church as a serving option for their students. What an incredible gift of favour this was! The life-transforming experience that Jeremy and other have known as they engaged in disciplemaking opportunities at Calvary is now open to all high school students who apply. The gift of salvation is free and available for all!
So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18a (The Message)
As with other helpful agencies, the Youth Impact Centre had to be closed to the public due to the global pandemic. The people of Calvary Church were a little disappointed as the inroad to these youth had been stymied yet again. However, God had something else in mind when Dannae (who happens to be the wife of the Student Ministries Pastor) was hired to be the director of the Centre. As a daily hub for children to receive nutritious meal(s) each day, the centre has adapted their processes in this pandemic season. Instead of dropping in, kids are getting a breakfast box delivered to their home. The church is looking forward to when the doors of the Youth Impact Centre will be open once again to receive more young people. They continue to stand in awe of God’s faithfulness in EVERY season of life. They are seeing how God truly DOES order their steps, and how new opportunities for ministry can having lasting impact on children, youth and even families as the love and hope that’s found in Jesus continues to be shared.
Pastor Laurie and her husband are watching firsthand how seeds planted in the lives of their children are yielding fruit. One of her daughters is a pastor and another one has been helping out with the senior’s ministry during this season, and Laurie has had the privilege of serving alongside her son, Luke, who is in seminary. Whether ministering to children, youth or a more ‘mature crowd’, it is beautiful to see how God is never done with the transformational process of lives who are hungry for Him.