Reach Local. Kids’ Lives Change.
Children are often the ones forgotten and ignored in the face of poverty or addictions at home. Many who serve with InFaith love and care for the next generation in their communities by providing programs that share the amazing truths of God’s love and create consistent, safe environments.
Jim & Teri Wilson in Kearney, Nebraska
Jim Wilson greets kids by name on the street in front of the youth center he and his wife, Teri, started seventeen years ago in their hometown of Kearney, Nebraska. This ministry is so much more than just an after-school program to tell kids about God: all the volunteers and staff are here because they love these children, individually, by name. You can see it in the faces of the children as they light up at Jim’s greeting. It’s obvious when one of the many volunteers at the end-of-the-year party asks each child if they want the ketchup on their hotdog in a straight line or a squiggly one. It shows when Teri lists the names of children from fifteen years ago who, parents themselves now, have come back to thank her for the rules and boundaries she enforced. It’s there in all the little details of snacks prepped and Bible stories told and service projects organized.
Many of these children live with drugs and alcohol at home, as well as dads leaving. The youth center provides a place that is consistent and safe. “I want them to remember that they met a guy who loved them,” Jim says, “and who said that God loved them, too.”
“I needed somebody,” Laurel Ramer, a mother who came to the center as a child, says. “They were here for me. I wouldn’t be where I am in my relationship with the Lord without Mr. Wilson.”
The kids are so comfortable that they have their shoes off in the youth center, lounging around as if at home. Jim teases one of them and gives another one a hug. A sudden rainstorm hits outside, and all of the children stream outdoors, jump on their bikes, and ride around the parking lot, laughing and yelling out to each other – pure, unbridled childhood joy on their faces.
“We love kids,” says Teri. “We’re in their lives on a daily basis. People in the community see that there’s something here. They see love. They see their kids wanting to come here.”
(Through Press On Community Youth Center, Jim and Teri Wilson have spent the past seventeen years building relationships with kids and their families to earn the privilege of sharing the message of Jesus Christ. Recognized by its multi-colored bus, which picks children up for events, the center’s motto is “Helping Kids on the Road of Life.” A short video about the Wilsons is available on our website. Check it out at http://infaith.org/kearney.)
Kevin & Gina Bickel in Hungry Horse, Montana
The school building smells of sausage and pancakes, and the sound of sixty kids starting to arrive for the Wednesday night kids’ program fills the air. In a town where many children are left to fend for themselves due to alcohol and drug abuse in their homes, InFaith’s Kevin and Gina Bickel try to give their programs a family atmosphere. So these children sit down with the volunteer leaders who will later lead them in songs, games, and Bible lessons, and have a family-style dinner: eating together and talking about what’s going on in their lives.
“I like getting to know the kids for who they are and getting to talk to them about God,” Jordan Rajkowski, the volunteer teacher for the kindergarten-and-first-grade kids’ club classes, says.
Situated just ten miles from the west entrance to Glacier National Park, Hungry Horse feels disjointed from the dramatic natural beauty around it. It is a small mountain town plagued by inner-city problems. Yet, the residents take care of each other, providing couches for neighbor kids to sleep on when they can’t go home.
The school district has allowed the Bickels to rent and use the school building for ministry meetings. The school itself was shut down several years ago due to lack of funds, and the children are bussed to a neighboring town. But the building continues to be maintained and now provides an amazing location for a children’s program. “There’s nowhere else for these kids to go and feel the love of Jesus,” says Kevin. “This is where they’re hearing about God.”
The Bickels’ mission is to show the love of Jesus through relationships, not only with the children in their kids’ clubs, but also with the children’s families. Kevin and Gina take walks around town in the evenings, which gives them a chance to talk to their neighbors, many of whom hang out outside until nine or ten at night. “There are people here who matter to Jesus,” Kevin says. “That’s why we’re here.”
“Just start loving your neighbors,” Gina encourages. “If we start where we are, it will just grow.”
(Kevin & Gina Bickel have been reaching local in Hungry Horse for three years. In addition to their Wednesday-night kids’ program, they lead various Bible studies, run a basketball night for middle- and high-schoolers, and a four-days-a-week Bible club for children in the summer. Kevin also pastors a local church. A short video about the Bickels is available on our website. Check it out at http://infaith.org/hungryhorse.)