This week my wife and I had the privilege of donating our time and talent to a church with a ministry that found a need and met it in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. We were serving the thousands of university students who make their way to this city on the Colorado River during their university spring break.
The idea for most at Spring Break is to go crazy: party, dance, rave, alcohol, drugs, summer sports, boating, meeting people, and all the other stuff that you would expect young university students with lots of strength and little wisdom to do. And, problems occur because of that. It’s normally hot and sunny. Alcohol dehydrates the students. Exposure, no food and little rest creates medical problems aplenty. Some even die.
There are two ways that we can react to a problem like this. One way is to say, “they deserve it…look at their behavior…they are ninety percent naked (if that)…they are drunk…they are godless…they are dangerous to themselves and everyone else.” Yes, that may be true. But does this solve the problem of young students suffering heat stroke, severe dehydration and even dying?
The other way we could respond would be like Pastor Chris Blythe of the Calvary Church in the north part of Lake Havasu City. He looked at these students through grace healed eyes. He had to do something about this problem without a critical attitude. In 2007, he and his church initiated Pancake Village. Pancake Village is on the canal that goes under the London Bridge, one of the most crowded spots during the spring break season.
There is a sign in front of Pancake Village that says: “The Pancake Village…Everyone’s Welcome! A local pastor, tired of tragic stories, involving ‘college spring breakers’ decides to do something about it. Hydrate ‘em … Free! Feed ‘em … Free! Love ‘em … ABSOLUTELY FREE! Keep ‘em out of ER (Emergency Room)…or worse! Pancake Village has grown from a few tables and chairs to what you see today (many tables). Serving students, residents, winter visitors…Everyone! Thank you for coming. God Bless You!”
I like that sign. It’s clear and concise. It’s explains ‘why’ Pancake Village. No strings attached. It’s free. No commentary or judging, just kindness and goodness in action. Notice Pastor Chris doesn’t mention his name here or even the church. It isn’t about branding and taking credit. There’s nothing to gain for Chris or the church. Students, locals, and winter visitors all enjoy coming to Pancake Village. Even the many dogs walking their masters get a dog biscuit. Pancake Village is open for one month during the entire spring break season.
Of course, this takes volunteers to serve. Let me describe to you our daily routine. Arrive at Pancake Village at 9:00am. Prepare pancakes, serve, greet the hundreds of students who come each morning, handout bottled water and pour coffee, love on the students and locals, and clean up at 2:00pm. (The students tend to arrive late…imagine that).
Then we go handout water bottles to hundreds of students at the afternoon beach parties and student relay races. We gave over 740 bottles of water in the afternoon parties on a cool day. On the busiest weeks or hottest weeks, they can handout a skid of water bottles in the afternoon. That takes several hours. Afterwards we distribute water bottles at 10:45pm each night at the student “Rave.” Students, jumping up and down, drinking, and everything that comes with that. They don’t come to us so we have to go to them, right in the middle of the crowd.
Surprisingly, most of the students thank us. “Thanks for the water. Thanks for caring for us? Why are you doing this?” I think when they look at me they are thinking, that’s a nice old guy. I have news for them. Someday they’re going to look like me.
See what happens when someone like Pastor Chris steps in? Change! Uplift! Don’t find fault, find a remedy. Who knows, you might be saving someone’s life who isn’t very wise now, but will be wiser later. Be the change! The best tact for uplifting a community is contact. If you are interested in helping, getting involved or giving, just contact me at email@example.com.
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