“I’ve been on lots of mission trips,” said Russ Friesen, youth pastor from Olathe, Kansas, “but there’s something about SOAR that keeps me coming back!”
“SOAR is more than a mission trip,” Russ explained. “I really appreciate how intentional the leaders are about training and teaching. The orientation and debrief were excellent. These experiences have been an important part of a lifelong discipleship process for me, and for my youth.” In July, Russ brought a team to Vancouver for his fifth SOAR experience.
In all, eighty-six people gathered in Vancouver for the program. Fifteen staff helped to host the ten-day event for seventy-one participants, fifty-five of which were Americans from Kansas and Oklahoma. They joined together with sixteen Canadians.
After three days of orientation that included teaching sessions, team building, prayer times and high-energy worship, the teams were paired with local MB churches and hosted local outreach initiatives. Two days of debrief at the end helped participants reflect on the experience and process what was learned.
Russ saw firsthand the impact that SOAR had on his youth. “It was awesome to see the youth serving together, worshiping fervently, being challenged to grow as disciples of Christ, working through issues, being broken, learning and laughing.”
According to Russ, a lot was packed into ten days. “At the end, we were all tired,” he said, “but it was the kind of tired that comes from intense serving, learning and spending time with God.” Aside from partnering with local churches to host vacation Bible programs, all of the teams visited other parts of the city and were challenged to see the people of Vancouver through God’s eyes. Some went downtown and were able to have great conversations with people simply by asking them if there was something they could pray for.
A few groups ventured into the downtown eastside, an area well known for homelessness, poverty and substance abuse. Thirteen-year-old Alexis, from the Yarrow (B.C.) team, was nervous at first, but talked about how God changed her perspective. “SOAR taught me that the ugly side of Vancouver isn’t all that ugly. There may be problems downtown, but the people aren’t that different from us. They want the same things. They deserve the same things. God loves them the same.”
When Kyle Zoellner arrived in Vancouver for SOAR, he was asking himself, “What am I doing here?” The fifty-three-year-old mortician from Kansas City was accompanying the youth group from his church, but SOAR pushed him far out of his comfort zone. “I felt inadequate,” Kyle admitted. “But God showed me that he could still use me as an effective witness for him no matter how unprepared I felt. I’ll never forget this experience. It helped me understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus.”
Carys, a fourteen-year-old from Enid, Oklahoma, enjoyed learning not only about Canadian culture, but Chinese culture as well. Her group hosted a children’s camp at the Vancouver Chinese MB Church. Carys’ mother, Angela, was amazed at the unique opportunity they had. “Only five of the nineteen kids even knew what a Bible was,” Angela shared. “Everything we taught them about Jesus was brand new.”
“We were definitely stretched at SOAR,” Angela said, “but the experience took our level of love for our Savior to a new level!”
After SOAR, when they returned to Oklahoma, as soon as they get off the plane, Carys said to her mother, “We’re going back next year, right?”