"I see their impact as a ray of hope – students living differently and being ready to help those around them.
The youth minister at the church said a devastating flood in 1997 triggered years of overwhelming hardships. People lost their jobs, many turned to drugs and alcohol, fell into depression and overall the town and surrounding area of Pendleton County struggled to bounce back. Monks said it was like a positive domino effect when the residents started to accept help from local churches.
The love of Jesus not only saved the community but continues to do amazing things to this day through young Christ followers in Monk’s youth group. For the past few years, there have been a constant flow of service projects, public worship events, new Bible study groups, invitations to church and a new culture at the local high school.
“I could go on for hours about all the things they’re doing,” Monks said. “I’ve been in youth ministry 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like it. The high school students are seeing their environment as their mission field. They see this county as their family and I’m just blessed to be a part of it.”
The majority of Pendleton County High School’s student council is comprised of youth group members from GCC – which means several Kingdom workers have been in position to implement changes and start new events as leaders in their schools. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes club is thriving – with prayer held before meals and a culture within the building that has shifted into lifting each other up. Senior Shelby Johnson said she never hesitates to lead events at her school and in her community, and has stayed on fire for God by making incredible memories with the ministry of Christ In Youth.
“I’m going to carry everything I’ve learned from years of going to CIY MOVE with me into college and my future career,” she said. “I hope my peers see a difference in me so that I can tell them about Jesus and what I’ve seen Him do in our community. It warms my heart to see so many people who have never known God to hear about Him and our stories of how He’s impacted our lives in amazing ways. He’s worked in my life through great family and friends. Through Kingdom work, I’m able to see how God works through us to impact people all around us.”
For several students – such as sophomore Jordan Kirsch – life is nonstop between clubs, sports, youth group and school. But Kirsch said that’s where Kingdom work comes in.
“It can be overwhelming, but having so many of my church friends by my side while we work in clubs or sports together is very helpful because we can encourage each other and share the work that we do,” she said. “I love knowing that when people see me they don't see me as just a part of the world that conforms to everyone else. They see me as different – someone who represents Jesus. I think my friends and I are doing a good job with living for Jesus in our clubs and sports, and I can even see the way we have grown. CIY really helped me with my confidence and boldness to live for God. I can't wait to go back this summer and gain a new refreshing lesson in my life and see how much more my friends and I will grow in days to come.”
Melanie Hartzel, a lifelong GCC church member and sponsor for the youth ministry, said she’s seen remarkable changes because this group of students have said “Yes” to serve the Lord. And she thanks CIY for providing God-driven moments for the students who have helped improve the world around them.
“It’s great seeing these kids step up as leaders in their schools,” Hartzel said. “A year ago, prayer before meals and school events kind of fell by the wayside, but these students have intentionally focused on bringing it back into the school’s culture. I couldn't be more proud of them. I see their impact as a ray of hope – students living differently and being ready to help those around them. It’s awesome to see peers caring for one another and sharing the love of Christ. Our church loves going to all of CIY’s events – it’s a huge help to our youth ministry and makes a great impact on the students.”