Mission trip experience planted the seed that gave rise to new local ministry for girls
On a summer 2013 return flight from Ukraine following a time of mission work at a youth camp, the seed of an idea was planted.
Over the course of the following fall, winter and spring seasons, that concept was laboriously and carefully cared for – watered, fertilized, soaked with sunshine.
By May, a sprout had appeared, and the plant grew rapidly over the summer. And its flower is now ready to bloom with a full burst of color.
“During that summer,” reflects Anita Schlabach of Mountain Lake, the cultivator of that planted seed of a plan, “myself, husband Eric and our three children, Leighton, Arlington and Grayson, worked at a youth camp in Ukraine.
“It was when we were returning home on the airplane that I realized I had seen – first-hand – a need, and connected that to the young people here at home,” Anita expands, “and I realized that I wanted to intentionally use what I had learned to teach life skills to the kids here in this community, most notably pre-teen and early-teen girls.”
At that time, Anita was just looking for a way to volunteer the knowledge she had gained from that summertime experience, and was, “not in any way planning on starting a ministry for that purpose.” She spoke with local YFC (Youth For Christ) Director Micah Siebert about her spark of thought, but still drug her heels on taking the lead. In the end, though, following much prayerful introspection, Anita acknowledges,”I knew that I was to be used for this purpose. Although I knew that doing this was something with which I would not be comfortable – it is taking a step outside of my comfort zone – I was definitely being led in this direction. And I’m in love with the idea, its potential, my fellow stewards – and the girls seeking to grow into strong, competent, caring and spiritual adult women.”
In the intervening months of late 2013 and early 2014, she shared this idea with other women – any women with whom she came in contact, “and they all came back to me with the same response, ‘There is a huge need here.'”
She also continued meeting with Siebert, discussing possible steps of purpose, as well as collecting more advice from area women.
“It was when I was reading a Facebook graphic, with a list of ‘You Are’ statements, followed by Bible verses giving strength and support to the statements,” explains Anita, “that I knew what the name of the ministry should be – ‘You Are.’ And that its focus should be on the very formative years for girls in grades six-through-eight.”
Those “You Are” statements – and supportive Bible verses include:
You Are –
* Beautiful. Psalm 45:11, Ecclesiastes 3:11.
* Unique. Psalm 139:13.
* Loved. Jeremiah 31:3.
* Special. Ephesians 2:10.
* Created for a purpose. Jeremiah 29:11, Ephesians 2:10.
* Cared for. Ephesians 3:17-19.
* Lovely. Daniel 12:3.
* Precious. 1 Corinthians 6:20.
* Strong. Psalm 68:35, Philippians 4:13.
* Important. 1 Peter 2:9.
* Forgiven. Psalm 103:12.
* A new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17.
* Protected. Psalm 121:3.
* Empowered. Philippians 4:13.
* Chosen. John 15:16.
* Family. Ephesians 2:19.
* Mine. Isaiah 43:1.
Anita continues, “The world tells girls what they are supposed to be. Magazines, movies, television – and other kids – tell them all kinds of things about how they should act and what they should think is important.We, as adult women, need to help them sort through all those messages, letting them figure out who they are as God has made them.”
By May, the group of women who had brainstormed with Anita had had solidified, with three other area women stepping forward to join her in creating the purpose of the ministry – with additional women, men and young adults pitching in as volunteers when and where needed.
Another key member of the ministry team is Kelly Nelson of Mountain Lake. “The story of how Kelly became involved is so interesting, so awesome – so much divine guidance,” shares Anita. “Micah Siebert had talked to his mother, Tanya Siebert, about my ideas – and Tanya reached out to me, telling me to speak with Kelly. I did so one Sunday, and I could see the light in her eyes brighten as she admitted to me, ‘For five years now I have been interested in investing in the lives of girls, but did not how to approach that.’ She went on to tell me, ‘I am here to help teach them life skills – anything.'”
A third team member, Joelle Bargen originally had no intention of returning to live in Mountain Lake after college graduation – no, uh-uh, not at any time, But, according to Anita, “Joelle kept having this recurring vision about working with girls in Mountain Lake. However, she had no idea the ‘why’ or the ‘what.’ When I learned of this, I Facebooked her my thoughts about a girls ministry. She did not reply to me for three days, and so I thought, ‘That
was that.’ And then, here came her message. Joelle had been so amazed to receive my personal note to her – and how it so coordinated with her inner thoughts and the way her heart had been pulling her – that she had take some to compose herself in order to reply. And now, Joelle, and her husband, Daniel Bargen, have returned to Mountain Lake, and she is ready to lend a hand in any way.”
The third woman that is part of the ministry is Jody Lepp of Butterfield. “As a school guidance counselor,” notes Anita, “Jody has the skills and the training – along with the connection with local girls – to really help make a difference. And, the timing worked out so well; she has taken a leave of absence for this school year from her position at Mountain Lake Public High School.”
The last puzzle piece to fit into place was the “where” the meetings would, or could, be held. “We were creating this ministry from zero, and needed a place to be able to ‘plug-in,'” Anita explains. “That, too, was an answer to prayer.
“Art Ellingson, who has ‘The Studio’ in Mountain Lake, which also hosts YFC, is also on the YFC leadership team. He came to me to share that he, and his wife, Donna, had purchased a home in the city, and were moving from the top level of “The Studio” building at 1205 2nd Avenue – and that space would be available.”
Location, location, location.
“With YFC meeting on the lower level, ‘The Studio’ is a place that is well-known to kids; is a building that is insured – and with a large, open upper level featuring a kitchen – it was perfect for creating our ‘own’ space – ‘The Loft!'” declares Anita.
“Our goal always was,” stresses Anita, “not to hold the meetings in a church, so that it was not just ‘one’ church that was emphasized – and, truthfully, some people get turned off by church. We wanted a place that would be ‘ours.'”
Meetings will open with supper, followed by the teaching of a life skill. For example, if the statement of the day is “You are beautiful,” the connection to that “You Are” theme could include a guest who is a hair stylist. She would, perhaps, lead the girls by teaching them what hair style bests fits a certain face shape. From there, the deeper meaning would be brought forward, such as, “What beauty really means,” for example. At that point, women would share their thoughts on how God made it true in their own lives.
Each life skills “lesson,” would allow the participating girls to explore what they are truly passionate about, identify that and match the girls with that intensity. This would provide the girls a focus on their talents, skills, goals and possible careers.
Emphasizes Anita, “‘We’ often get so insulated in our own church circles that we don’t see the needs of people. This is a way to bring the community together, plus a way to bridge gaps between churches. It is imperative that people from all churches be involved; we can come together as a bigger church, because, together we can meet the needs of people in the community, especially the young people.
“The character traits and values we hope to instill include compassion, kindness, servanthood, encouragement, guarding of the heart, trustworthiness, honesty and integrity.”
The larger vision
As the ministry has grown – at least in the concept – a larger, long-term vision has been adopted. “We are looking a ‘the big picture,'” Anita acknowledges. “This is much bigger than junior high.
“We see it as a potential three-tier ministry. The first is happening now, with You Care. But, we know that as we get to know the girls on a deeper level, what will be revealed are the needs in this community. This is the big unknown right now. However, part of the responsibility of us as humans, as Christians, a representatives of the church, is to care for the needs in the community.”
A possible second-tier scenario would pair a girl with a mentor, an adult woman – and become part of her life in order to see how she handles what life throws her way.
Ideas kicked around for a third-tier for the ministry would be an ongoing program of building relationships and teaching life skills. “Say that there are a lot of broken bicycles, and there is a need to fix them,” explains Anita, “we could hold a bike-fixing clinic, teaching young people the ins-and-outs of bikes – and then, when the bikes are fixed and ready to roll, we can all bike the lake trail together.”
You Are’s when, where
You Are in Mountain Lake is a where girls in grades 6-through-8 can find a place where they belong; a group through which they can discover their true identities.
You Are will meet the first and third Wednesday every month at 5:30 p.m. in The Loft, on the second floor of the YFC Building in Mountain Lake, located at 1205 2nd Avenue, with the kick-off event slated for Wednesday, October 8. And each Wednesday that the group meets, supper will be served.
Girls from the three grades will have the opportunity to hang out and make friends in a place that is safe – and with people who accept and care about them.
The focus of You Are is allow the young women to figure out who they are, along with discover their individual passions.
The first meeting will feature a spa night, focusing on nails, hair, facials and make-up. There will also be an overview of future meetings. Aaron and Nikki Petersen will provide live music, and there will be a photo booth.
For more information, call (507) 427-2918. The ministry can also be found on Facebook at youaremtlake and on instagram at #youaremtlake.