Renew 2022: Imitating the Character of Christ
Rev. Peter Semeyn

The classroom in the high school is a temporary home for a group of students who will leave Timothy for the next 7 days to serve in the city of Chicago. The walls are decorated with 4 colorful construction paper posters that have words written on them. The heading of each has one word — Humility, Loving, Generous, Hospitable — words that describe the character of Christ. Jon Huizinga, the group’s staff leader, found these words in a devotional that used them to highlight Jesus’ values and priorities. Each day the group focused on one of the qualities in a devotional time before they left for their daily projects. They would reflect these qualities as they served.

Jon has organized Chicago service trips during Renew for several years. In the past, groups have gone to a different social service agency in Chicagoland each day to serve. One of their regular visits was at Lampstand, a ministry headquartered in Berwyn, and headed by Timothy alumnus Chris Langkamp (’91). This year Jon decided to ask Chris if Lampstand could host the group for the entire week. He felt that would give the group a better experience of what is involved in urban ministry.

Lampstand describes their mission this way: Lampstand Ministries is an urban ministry for the west side of Chicago, serving the Lawndale, Garfield Park, Austin and Humboldt Park areas. Lampstand Ministries strives to have a life-changing impact by bringing the love of Christ to those who are looking for help.

We are a bridge between urban ministries, between the suburbs and the city, between different denominations and races, and, ultimately, between people and Jesus Christ. We partner with 25 different urban ministries, and coordinate 1,800 volunteers a year.

Over the span of Renew, Timothy students worked at 7 different sites affiliated with Lampstand.

Students sign up for a Renew project for a variety of reasons. For freshman Sami Drye, this Renew experience was something unique and it sounded interesting. Senior Fletcher Roemmich signed up because he wanted to see what it meant to serve in an urban ministry. He had heard about Lampstand at his church, but had never been there. They both discovered that God had something greater in mind for them.

They had a lot of preconceived ideas about urban areas that were drawn mostly from the news. They knew they would be working in a poor area where people didn’t have all the luxuries they enjoyed in the suburbs. They expected high crime, gang activity, and violence. They discovered that those things do exist, but that there is much more to these neighborhoods and to the peoples’ lives who live there.

They both were struck by the sense of hope that exists with the people they were serving. The transformation of a building that would house high school grads who were taking a gap year before the next step in their lives was symbolic. The building was going through a transformation, which is what they were experiencing in their lives. This building was going to be the first step in an opportunity for a more bountiful future for those who would live there. Seeds of hope were being sown.

There is a consistent theme in most service projects. Students always believe they are going to help others, to give. But when students serve, they always come away with more than they could possibly give.

Sami went in wondering how much she could contribute. She came away understanding that she is more capable than she imagined. She had never been involved in any remodeling work and enjoyed the demolition aspect of their work. Her confidence grew each day.

Fletcher found a great deal of satisfaction in serving and has made the decision that when college is over, and he is in a career, he will look for ways to serve others.

Perhaps the most important lesson learned by everyone was articulated by Timothy staff participant Scott Piersma who said that he learned “simple things can make a big difference.” That sentiment was echoed by all who participated. God works in the small things.

Does work like this make a difference? Lampstand Director Chris Langkamp said, “These Timothy students hit the ball out of the park because they love Jesus.”

That’s what can happen when you imitate the character of Christ.

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