It was such a joy and a blessing for our Ohana Youth Groups to meet outside the church on Sunday, November 15! We have amazing groups this year with 40 high schoolers and 25 middle schoolers on the rolls. We are all longing for more connection and being physically present to one another makes a huge difference. Thankfully, we are also discovering other ways of connecting through phone calls, emails, zooms, and “lawn chair” visits. Our whole community has been so supportive of one another.

Even so, we recognize how trying these unusual times have been. Many continue to struggle with anxiety, depression and loneliness. Virtual learning has been a significant challenge for most, presenting numerous and sometimes unique challenges. First Congregational and Ohana Youth Ministries want to be there for you in your time of need. Please contact Youth Minister Mark Lindberg, markl@fcceugene.org with any concerns you may have. We really do want to help and meet you where you are, so don’t hesitate to reach out! Even if you have a need that might seem like too much, please let us know because we have many connections in the community that fill out our support network. If it’s something we can’t help with, there is a good chance we might know the right organization or person to put you in touch with!

We do plan to continue with our outdoor youth group meetings again for MS and HS, as soon as public health conditions allow. During the current spike of Covid-19, our board has made the difficult decision to pause our outdoor gatherings. We certainly hope to begin those meetings again in January, but we are in a holding pattern for the moment. Stay tuned for more information on upcoming ways to connect.

One great option currently available to all of our youth, is “ZZP with SSP”. This is an online Zoom with Sierra Service Project leaders and participants from all over the country! This program has just begun and as all those who have participated in SSP will testify — these people know how to have fun — yes, even virtually! See old friends, and meet new ones, in a safe and affirming environment centered on faith, fun, and serving others through advocacy.

This is part of a series of free monthly gatherings, led by SSP’s new Youth Advisory Council (YAC). BONUS SWAG incentive: We’ll send a seasonal SSP sticker to each person who attends, so be sure to include your mailing address when you register! We’ll also raffle off a $20 coupon to SSP’s online store for one lucky participant at each gathering. There will be special incentives for youth who participate in three monthly gatherings this school year, as well as all six, so be sure to join us on December 30th from 3:30 to 4:30pm Pacific! Check it out and sign up for the next ZZP with SSP online. We hope to see you there: https://sierraserviceproject.org/zzp-with-ssp/.

In the meantime, as we head through this sacred season of Advent, let us remember to keep up our good practices of gratitude, meditation, journaling and exercise. Eat good foods and be sure to get good sleep each night as your body needs it! It’s important now that we take really good care of ourselves – mind, body and soul – so that we can also be there for those around us who are in need. Thank you for holding our entire community in your prayers and good intentions.

May the Grace and Peace of the Christ Child be with you during Christmas and always. May you be blessed and know in the well of your being, that you are deeply loved by God. Always and forever…no exceptions!
In that same Spirit of Love that calls us into being,
Mark Lindberg
Youth Minister