Servant Life Blog


Summer 2010 was by far the best summer of my life. I did not spend it, however, on the sandy shores at the Gulf, or lounging by the pool with my best friends. Instead, I was in the Ukrainian countryside, at my new favorite place in the world, Camp Friendship. For several years now, God has opened my eyes, and put love in my heart for the people of Ukraine. Ukraine is often portrayed as a dark place. However I know it in a completely different way.  I love this country. When I think of Ukraine, I think about Zhenya, the 11 year old orphan who has is so incredibly smart,  who could melt the hardest of hearts with his sweet smile, and who is a new brother in Christ. I think of Lera, the 16 year-old girl from the city. She has a great sense of humor, but is struggling with many things that most American teenagers struggle with. I think about Marina, the girl who told me that her family is Muslim and if they knew she had been at a Christian camp, she would be beaten, but who also loved learning about God. She was joyful, and although quiet, could brighten anyone’s day. I think of all the little boys in my group that I taught. How they soaked up every word like sponges, even if it looked like they were not listening. About 400 kids attended Camp Friendship while I was there, therefore 400 beautiful reasons why I love Ukraine.

Being able to serve in a camp setting is phenomenal! Camp Friendship is located in the Lughansk region of Ukraine.    The camp schedule is kind of set up like Student life camp. The mornings are filled with music time, small groups, crafts and games.  After lunch is recreation and free time!!  We played water games, ultimate Frisbee, freeze tag, and much more!! The screaming and laughter from the rec field could be heard all over camp.  Free time was one of my favorite parts of the day because that is when we really got to spend a lot of time one on one with the kids. Getting to know the kids is definitely the most rewarding thing about being there. God uses the staff and Americans there to show them His love, and teach them about Him. It is a wonderful thing to witness children coming to know the Lord. From the time they get up, to when they go to sleep, the campers are filled up with the Word. uncp blackboard They see how there Ukrainian and American leaders are set apart, and are different because they are filled with the Holy Spirit.  Camp Friendship has been going on for a few years now, and they are beginning to see the fruit of what they are doing.  God is rising up a generation to be strong in him tell others about His awesome and everlasting love.

God taught me so much during my time in Ukraine. He taught me how to strive to love unconditionally, as he loves us. During the first camp I taught eight teen 10-11 year old boys. I know right… what did I get myself into?! The boys in that group were so amazing, but sometimes I just could not get them to listen! However a team member reminded me of something as I shared my frustrations. I explained that I was not upset because these kids just wou;dn’t listen, but because I had grown to LOVE these kids, and I wanted them to listen to what God was trying to tell them during our Bible study time together.  I was reminded by my friend that this is often what we do to God.  We tune him out and focus on other things when he is trying to speak to us and teach us! I might think I love these boys, but it is nothing compared to how God loves us.  I was really humbled by this, and I was able to be more patient with boys. By the end of camp, their sweet smiles and great company made it very hard to say goodbye. But I know that the Lord has a plan for each of them.  I hope that during our time together they each saw Jesus in me throughout the camp. Some of them gave their lives to Christ, while at camp, and it was a beautiful sight to watch God transform them! To God be the glory!

I could go on and on for days about everything I did at camp, but nothing can amount to what God did, in the lives of Americans, Ukrainian Staff, and campers.  God is truly doing great things in Lughansk, Ukraine and I think that is what draws me there and makes me love it. So I would love to tell you that the reason I go is for the food, (definitely not that) the accommodations, or even the beautiful scenery, however that would be a lie. I go because I have a Father in heaven who loves me and cares for me. Who commands me to go and teach all nations, and who allows me to be a part of the wonderful work he is doing around the world.

-Katelyn Brock

Click here if you want to be a part of what God is doing in Ukraine this summer!


“If you happen to get around to it please go to the Nations.”

“If you could squeeze a few extra dollars out of your budget for missions, I would appreciate that.”

“I would really appreciate you starting a church and for the first 100 or so years of existence don’t bother getting involved in missions.”

These are all statements Jesus NEVER made.

The church has been commanded and commissioned to go to the nations (Mt 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15; Lk. 24:44-49; Jn. 20:21; Acts 1:7-8). These were the final words Christ said to His Church. Why would he have told His people to go rather than staying in our buildings? While there are many theological reasons why we should go, I want to share a practical reason for doing local, national, and international missions. Missions unifies the church.

I serve at a church that has been in existence for over 150 years. This church had never been out of the country on a mission trip. They had gone to Kentucky, North Carolina and places close, but had never seen another culture (outside of the Lottie Moon videos). Everything changed this summer. We went on a seven day trip to Costa Rica. There were many great things that came out of that trip.  People were saved, others were called to full-time missions, and many strong relationships were built, but there is one thing that happened that I had never seen before.

Missions unified the church! It served as an agent that unified the people in raising the funds to go. People would come in droves to help, give, and volunteer during the fundraising campaigns. The church came out and spent time with the team, prayed over the team, and spoke words of encouragement to the team. It was as though something had shifted in the church completely, and it had.

For the first time in a long time, the church saw the Mission of God as a reality. They no longer just heard, “Go therefore into all the nations” but now they were actually going to all the nations. It wasn’t just praying for, giving towards, or thinking about missions. It was being a part of missions.

Local, national, and international mission trips breed excitement. It breeds the opportunity to go and share the Gospel in a completely different context. It breeds the fun, lively, and often lost passion of the people going and not going. I am convinced that while there is nothing as life changing and unifying as a mission trip.

Local, national, and international mission trips bond students with adults.  It thrusts them into a situation of reliance on one another that is different than anything they have ever been a part of. What a great opportunity, in such a rich culture as ours, to unify for the mission of God to the nations. I promise you this, take a trip to a different culture or a different continent, and your church will never be the same.

When we returned and shared what God had done on the trip, how He changed lives, our trip for next year doubled in size. People want to be a part of something special and God ordained. Missions is an agent that unifies the Church.

-Chris Comstock

Should there be a cost for missions in youth ministry?  As I have done camp over the past seven years, I have seen the difficulty in teaching the importance of missions to students, the difficulty in getting a church leadership to get on board in sending students, and sadly for some youth ministers, I have seen the attitude of not caring about missions. First, let’s define missions: missions is the command Jesus gives in Matthew 28:19: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” I think that the gospel compels us in our seeking to go and preach in order to meet a spiritual need, as well as physical needs.


When it comes to youth ministry, there are so many hoops to jump through in order to get your church leadership on board with taking students out of the state to serve, and even harder to get them out of the country. I had a youth pastor write this to me once “…our students really feel a call towards missions in Africa.  We are trying to see if this would be possible for next year.  There is a lot of hesitation from our lay leadership about cost involved during these difficult financial times.” For some youth pastors, the church is having financial struggles and the leadership just isn’t sure if it is feasible.  Other leaderships are simply against it. This is tough all around because it isn’t always just the church; there are parents involved. I pray for the latter leadership that they would be broken for God’s command and support youth pastors in teaching the importance of missions.  And for church leaderships in financial need, I pray God overflows his resources and ideas to get you there. (“There” being wherever it is you go to spread this gospel; i.e.; school, down the road to the homeless shelter, to your neighbors, to a lager city with many needs, or overseas.)


For us in a leadership role, I believe the spread of the gospel to all nations should cost us every thought and decision. The growth of our church has some how taken the place of the growth of God’s kingdom. Instead of being on mission and seeing the cost as absolute necessity, we see programs as absolute necessity.


Would missions cost us our programs so God’s kingdom would be advanced, instead of our churches?


If we’re honest, there are some youth pastors who really just don’t care.  They have neglected the commission of Christ and only want to see their youth be the largest and coolest. The moment God’s kingdom being advanced is sacrificed for a great Wednesday night service, I believe we have failed. Until we take seriously the call that Christ has given us, I believe we will continue to see students fall away from faith.  Of course, that’s not true for every student, but all good things cost something. If you find your students to be apathetic about missions, both local and abroad, I pray for God’s provision in your ministry and for the Spirit’s conviction.  Committing to missions is difficult, but it is one of the few things worth committing to.


Would we rise up as the church and tell the world about Him?  Would we sacrifice the things we want, for what the world needs?


I am grateful for you.  Whether you are a youth pastor or an adult leader, you are living out the cause of missions, right now in your local church to students in your community. ip information  I pray that we all would have passion for introducing missions into the lifeblood of the next generation.

-Jared Brown, college pastor at Christ City Church in Birmingham, AL

I think it’s imperative youth ministries take students overseas on missions. It may seem difficult and there are many hurdles to overcome. But it’s worth it and it will completely change the culture of your student ministry – for the good.

I’ve taken groups to Ukraine through Servant Life, Student Life’s mission sending initiative, for several years – 2006 (twice), 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012. And we’ll be going back this summer!

On our last trip our primary purpose was to share the Gospel through teaching English as a second language. Through this we built strong relationships with many Ukrainians, especially the Radooga staff. (Radooga, a partner with Servant Life, is a non-profit organization that ministers to orphans as well as uses English Language camps to reach Ukrainian teens for Christ.) We still keep in touch. We talk through social media almost every week. server ip In fact, I saw a friend from Ukraine last week in Atlanta and it was like we had just seen each other yesterday. These are great friendships that I believe will last a lifetime.

My hope for this most recent trip – as with all of them – was that my students would see the heart of God – that they would sense God’s call on their lives and become stronger leaders within our student ministry. God blew my expectations out of the water. I saw my students worldview completely change. They began to realize God is the God of all nations. Not just home sweet America. Our experience in Ukraine completely altered the landscape of our student ministry – affecting everything from their worship, to their Bible Study, to their interaction with others, to their leadership. Even the younger students saw how the experience impacted the older students and now those younger students want to go!

Please, if you can, try to send your students (and you too) to serve the Kingdom of God abroad – or at least in a different community, city or state. You won’t be sorry. (You might even get to eat something unique like Borshk – I’m just saying.)

-John Bodine, youth minister

“How different can Mexico really be,” I asked myself just before leaving the church parking lot for my first youth group international trip. In my high school, America-centric mind Mexico was almost an extension of Texas. As I sat in a 12-passenger van about to cross the border I realized how wrong I was.  I will never forget the confusion I felt when I looked to my left and saw beautiful “American-dream” homes. Then I looked to my right and was shocked to see homes made from a tarp hanging cement blocks. God used that moment to awaken something in me – something I wasn’t even fully aware of yet.

Our youth group was headed to Juarez Mexico to build a house for a family in need and to show the love and compassion of Christ. There was great poverty there. dns test A home made of a tarp and block was not the worst I would see.

As a teen I believed that real service and being a “missionary” required someone more mature in their faith. But throughout the week the Lord opened my eyes that he wanted use ME to help meet the needs of people in my own country and around the globe. Both physical needs like new homes and more food, but also spiritual needs.

“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”  (James 2:15-17)

This understanding came because I was given the opportunity to experience it. The encouragement to step out of my comfortable context came from three people. My mom, who actually came on the trip, guided me in Colossians 3. She provided an example of what it looked like to clothe myself in compassion and kindness towards others. My dad, whom I greatly trust, gave me the confidence to go to a new and uncharted place. And no matter how cliché this may sound: I wouldn’t be the person I am today if my youth minister hadn’t given me the chance to serve in a context that wasn’t my own.

My faith became active because my mom, dad and youth minister encouraged me. And gave me room to grow.  Parents and youth ministers, you may never fully know the seeds planted through the opportunities you give. So give them in abundance! Teach students to serve and allow them the chance to do it. Show them how to put their faith into action – abroad and next door.

-Lesley Blanton, event coordinator for Student Life

Through the years, The Lord has led Servant Life to a list of four Core Values that shape all the work we do.  They are: Gospel-centered ministry, long-term strategies, one-on-one relationships, and a focus on youth and children.  Every missionary in our global network is prayerfully and specifically selected by the type of ministry they are doing.  We are highlighting each of these Core Values in a four part series.  The first is “Gospel-Centered Ministry”.

Now this one may seem like a given, but unfortunately “Gospel-centered” is not a characteristic of all Christian organizations.  When we say, “Gospel-centered,” here is what we mean.

First, a Gospel-centered ministry exists to meet spiritual needs.  As great as the physical need is around the globe, there is even greater spiritual need in the heart of every man.  Servant Life works in many areas to meet physical needs, but first and foremost we desire to see souls saved by the blood of Jesus Christ.  This same focus is consistent throughout Christ’s earthly ministry.  In Mark 2, Jesus heals a paralytic but He does not overlook his sins; He forgives them.  In 1 Samuel 16:7 we see that man’s tendency is to look at outward appearances, but The Lord looks at the heart.  Servant Life strives to have that same focus.  We believe that, as Christ-followers, we are called to more than humanitarian aid.  The Gospel is the only thing that will truly save.

Secondly, a Gospel-centered ministry has a commitment to Scripture.  We are not in the business of broadcasting their thoughts or opinions.  Each missionary in our network of partners has been sent as an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ.  They have been sent to preach and teach the Word of God.  We trust that where the Word is, there is power.  Isaiah 40:8 tells us that, “the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”  A Gospel-centered ministry is committed to the Word, because eternal impact is what they are after.

Lastly, a Gospel-centered ministry has a desire to create opportunities for people to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.  The Lord has sovereignly chosen to use man as the primary means in which the Gospel is spread to the nations.  Matthew 28:18-20 clearly commands us to go and to teach.  This call is for every disciple of Jesus Christ, no matter how old or young they are.  Servant Life believes that teenagers and college students have a unique and important role in the advancement of the Kingdom.

We, at Servant Life, routinely evaluate our processes and partnerships based on these values.  We are daily being refined into all that God has called us to be.

Only the Good News of Jesus ultimately has the power to save people from their sins and lead them to a life of hope and freedom.

Therefore, we center our ministry around the Gospel.  Praise The Lord that He allows us to be a part of bringing this Good News to the nations! accommodation sbsavings