Every Sunday evening during the school year, youth in middle school thru high school gather for fellowship and to study the Word at Youth Group. They alternate meeting at different church member’s homes for a home fellowship experience and the Church Sanctuary for an evening of worship. For more information call our Worship/Youth Pastor at 406-946-2191.
A Letter Explaining the History of our Mission Trips Written by Debby Young on June 28th, 2016
“Dear Youth Group Mission Trippers,
My heart really does overflow when I think of your significant part in this, the 22nd consecutive year of Gardiner teens going on a Mission trip. Do you comprehend how huge that is for a town and a church as small as Gardiner? Yet the Lord has been guiding this endeavor in a way that has been hard to ignore. No wonder it has been one of Bill and my biggest blessings in all of our 38 years of ministry!!
Alisa asked me to share the history with you, and I’m honored to do so. I began working with the Youth Group when my oldest son Matthew was an 8th grader. He is now 38 so that was ages ago! I had been praying for a dynamic person with a passion for both the Lord and a heart to serve teens to move to Gardiner, but that didn’t happen. So I began working with a very small and honestly, a very boring little group of about 10 teens. We met every other Sunday, and it was obvious that many of them, including my son, were only there because their parents made them.
One morning at Sunday School in February, 1994, Jill Bernethy, Tim’s daughter and a senior at GHS, said that a guy had visited her Dad the night before and was all excited about a mission trip he had been on. Jill asked if our Youth Group could go on a mission trip in the summer. I knew absolutely nothing about mission trips and so made several lame excuses about how could we ever find chaperones or participants since summer was our busy season. Jill said she knew her dad would be a chaperone and so why didn’t we pray about it? Good advice, eh?
We went into church after class was over, and during the friendship period, Harry Miller introduced some friends of theirs who were missionaries in Mexico with YWAM. The missionary asked if he could speak for a few minutes about an up coming mission trip he wanted to put together in the summer for teens. At that point, Jill Bernethy looked around at me with a big smile and a wink. Can you believe the timing on that? Only God could have worked that out!
Sure enough–July 4, 1994 saw a group of 3 adults ((Mary Joy, Tim Bernethy and me) and 7 teens (including both Jill and Annie Bernethy and Matt Wagner–the Burkes’ uncle) going to Tijuana, Mexico to work at an orphanage and do street evangelism with YWAM. Most of us had never been to a 3rd world country, and it was truly a life-changing event.
But none of us could possibly have imagined the life-changing event that was right around the corner. Two weeks later, while driving to work, Jill was involved in a head-on collision and died the next day. Even this many years later, I get tears as I remember the sorrow that enveloped our little community. Everyone knew Jill–she was a volleyball star who had a scholarship to play at MSU that fall. We all grieved with Tim and with Jill’s mom and the rest of their dear family.
While in Mexico a few weeks earlier, we had decided to have a back-to-school retreat at a campground in the Tetons. Now I felt it seemed inappropriate. But Tim insisted we still have the retreat–he said that Jill would definitely have wanted that to happen. So with little enthusiasm, I began to make plans for the retreat and get the word out to teens. Imagine my shock when over 40 Gardiner students signed up to go. Of course, this was just 3 weeks after Jill’s death, and we had many teens going who had never been inside a church before.
That night in the Tetons was a beautiful full moon night, and our speaker was none other than Tim Bernethy. He told how he had become a Christian after becoming a dad and watching his little girls go to church. He then told about his and Jill’s prayer times each night. The night before her death, Jill had prayed that Jesus would be glorified in her life. Tim then explained how to become a Christian and wanted everyone to make sure they knew for sure where they would be spending eternity.
At first the scene around the campfire was totally quiet, and then Seth Neal stood up and through tears, asked for forgiveness from several people in the group. He said his pride made him think he was better than them because they didn’t go to church while he did. Immediately it was like a floodgate opened up–teens started confessing their sins to each other, making commitments to the Lord, and on and on. I’d only heard about these things happening but had never been a part of it before–a revival broke out that lasted until 4 am. Incredible!
Youth Group began that fall at Tim’s, and he led it for many years. The next year we had 40 teens go on the mission trip!
As a direct result of the Lord’s working, we have 2 of our former Youth Groupers, Ryan Sutherland and Andrew Young, who are now full-time pastors of churches in Missoula and WA. Daniel Bent served as a full-time missionary with YWAM in China and plans to go back after health issues get cleared up. Rachael Neimi is serving as full-time staff with YWAM. We have had at least a dozen Youth Groupers go through DTS training and serve as short-term staff with YWAM in the past 22 years. Many of our former Youth Groupers have told me that they chose their careers of teaching or nursing because of their mission trip experiences.
On top of this, only the Lord knows how the Gardiner Youth’s witnesses were used to change lives of those we ministered to in Mexico, inner-cities in the U.S., Thailand, the Dominican Republic, India, Russia, and Africa. We won’t know the end of those stories until we get to heaven!
Another exciting way our teens are witnesses is by sharing their excitement with their families and friends in Gardiner when they return. The adults at GCC wanted to have similar experiences to the teens, and so they began their own mission trips in 2001. They too have seen the Lord work in amazing ways through their willingness to serve.
And now here you all are–the 23rd team to have represented your church, your community, your family, and most importantly, your Lord, while sacrificially giving of your time this past 10 days. Please be bold while sharing your faith with your loved ones that don’t know Him! Please look for divine appointments each day to love others for Him! Above all, know that He who began the good work within you will keep you faithful to the end. Phil. 1:6
With thankfulness and love to each of you,