MEET ANNAGRACE KATZENMEIER: she gave her best yes, spent time serving at camp, and learned multitudes about loving, serving, and meeting people where they are.
How did you first become involved with Young Life?
I first became involved with Young Life because of friends inviting me to WyldLife club in seventh grade. I had heard about it prior to this through my dad, but did not start attending until I watched many of my friends have an interest in going to club.
During middle school and early high school I went to club and campaigners, but it was truly during camp after my freshman year of high school where I not only fell in love with Young Life but where I fell in love with Jesus.
Since the day I left camp I knew I wanted to serve with Young Life, and though I was unable to be as involved locally due to scheduling conflicts, I have since served through work crew as well as Young Life Expeditions.
What did you learn about serving others while at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation?
I learned so much from serving at Standing Rock. For starters, I learned that Jesus calls us to minister to all, not just those who make themselves available to us. It is easy to serve when others walk up and make their needs known, but it is certainly harder when they are hiding behind the crowd. When serving at Standing Rock I learned how important it is to find the student standing at the back of the pack who is anything but eager to talk or hang out with me. It is often the shyest, least interested who Jesus will call you to love on. After all, He calls them His beloved.
I also learned that each person receives and needs to be loved differently. I learned this among the students we were serving as well as within my team. In that, I learned how important it is to pour into your team and build them up, as well as to be poured into and built up. Everyone experiences serving in different ways, and it is so important to accept and love others when they are struggling.
On the student side, I learned how I could serve students in different ways that met their individual needs. For some, that meant listening to their stories, but for others, it meant simply playing around during a water balloon fight or making bracelets in the mess hall. Each person uniquely receives love, and coming to this conclusion completely changed the way I served.
Why do you think it’s important for middle and high school students to go and serve?
Middle school and high school is a time when you are just beginning to learn about and find out who you are and what you stand for. Though this is a process that continues throughout your life, I think it can be especially hard for teenagers to explore all of this among the challenges of growing up. Serving is a way to take a step back from the self-focused mindset that can often be so prevalent during these years, and get a broader picture of the world outside of your inner circle within school. Not only do you have the opportunity to put your own life and problems into perspective, but you also develop long-lasting relationships within your team and those who you are serving. It is a rare and beautiful opportunity to be able to dedicate a week to simply listening to the Lord, growing in your faith, learning about other cultures from your own, and serving the Father's dearly beloved children.
With that being said, serving does not have to be some extravagant mission trip halfway across the world, it can be going right outside your door and getting involved in community projects and service. There are so many ways to serve, and each of them is just as important as the next.
You were able to fundraise all of the expenses for your trip. What do you think made your fundraisers such a success?
It may sound cliche, but I truly believe the Lord is who made my fundraising successful. The first time I went to Standing Rock I was three hundred dollars short just over a week before I left, and a man my dad knew when he was in college ended up buying over twenty shirts to send to his daughter and friends as they were serving on work crew!
Furthermore, it was just this last year when 100% of my funds were met between selling t-shirts and writing support letters, and that was not just a by chance occurrence! The number of people who bought my shirts without ever meeting me or even living in the same state as me was insane, and it is all evidence of God’s providence.
Things like that don’t happen by accident; I can guarantee you that God provides for those He calls.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to serve but isn’t sure where to start?
I would say start with those around you! Asking a youth pastor or small group leader about any opportunities they know of is always a good starting point. If you aren’t finding much from these people, the internet can be a great resource, too. A lot of how I found out about Standing Rock was simply by googling Young Life Mission Trips and seeing what came up. Be thoughtful and careful about what's online, though, and make sure you do your research and take time to be prayerful before making any major decisions.
More than anything, prayer is the way to go. God will open doors that you had never even thought about or dreamed of, and once He calls you He will follow through.