Author: lynda thoms (page 1 of 2)

Would you dance at your bank?

Our ALT: Youth Edition team member Rachel, has written a blog on her experiences from the first few days in Malawi! Check it out-

“Today we had the opportunity to observe the Savings & Loans program that World Vision has implemented in the Mposa community. As I plan to attend university in the fall for Commerce, I was intrigued and very excited to learn about this project. I expected to sit in an informational presentation, but what we saw was so much better. We drove about an hour out, through many fields, to a woman’s house. Out front, there was a group of approximately 40 women and children gathered in a circle, singing. Our translator explained to us that the women were in the middle of their weekly meeting. Their songs translated into phrases such as, “saving is good” and “buying shares is good”. We learned that their meeting was actually the process of the women purchasing shares in the bank. They went around the circle, and as each woman got up to buy a share, the group would continue to sing. As each woman handed over their money, the woman who owned the house, the Money Counter, announced how many shares the woman purchased in the bank. A cheer erupted with each announcement, and as each woman turned to sit down once again, the songs would continue. The immense joy of each individual was so early seen.

When I think about buying shares back home, and even conducting regular banking, it can be a very impersonal act. With the use of online banking and mobile apps, one could complete all their banking without speaking to a single person. Business transactions are simply that, business. Here in Mposa, through the Savings & Loans program, banking becomes a celebration for the whole community. It was beautiful to see each woman partake in the meeting and be celebrated for what they offered, whether it be $5 or $15.

Following the meeting, several of the women shared about how the program has helped them. The implementation of the program has eliminated many of their challenges. Before, purchasing basic household items was a problem. With the program, the women have been able to purchase items such as mattresses for their families, food and clothing for their children. They have also been able to buy bicycles so that their children can attend school and a sewing machine to make their own clothing. They were able to start their own businesses such as selling tomatoes, donuts and fish. We learned that these Savings & Loans groups are present in many of the communities, but often are separated into men and women, because the men tend to dominate mixed meetings. This further empowers the women as they are in control of their financial and business decisions.

The pure joy and transformation that I saw and heard about in these women’s lives was so inspiring. At the end, the Money Counter announced the total amount and the number of shares purchased. Once again, the group broke out in song and dance, and even included us in their celebrations!

As we continue to travel to the many villages in Malawi, and meet so many people, I am continually overwhelmed by the sense of community here. These women have taken something as simple as banking and have strengthened their community both relationally and economically. The contrast between our cultures amazes me, and I hope that when I return to Canada, I can begin to model my interactions in my community like those of the people of Malawi.”


Africa Learning Team: Youth Edition



The Africa Learning Team: Youth Edition is heading off to Malawi tomorrow morning! Here’s some thoughts from Rachel White- a newly graduated grade 12 student from our Oakville site, as she prepares to head off with our Team! Don’t forget to track with the team through our social hub


“As I pack for our trip to Malawi, I realize that no matter how much hand sanitizer and sunscreen I pack in my suitcase, I don’t think I could fully prepare for what this trip holds. This is my first time travelling internationally, and I could not be more excited!

When I was first approached about the Africa Learning Team opportunity, I was immediately interested in applying. Since I was young, I have always wanted to travel to Africa because of the many stories I have heard from my mom growing up there. When I heard we would be working with World Vision, I was even more excited because my family has sponsored children with World Vision for many years. I knew that this opportunity was a once in a lifetime chance to learn and grow as an individual, and in community with my brothers and sisters in Christ, both from the Meeting House and in Africa.

As I have been preparing for this trip, I have felt joy for being offered a part in this incredible opportunity, anxiousness about all of the things I have never encountered before that I will on this trip, but mostly immense excitement over the chance to learn and be in community with other believers on a global scale. Recently I have begun to see the beauty and importance of faith-based communities, through my personal relationships at church, youth, summer camp, as well as through learning alongside others. I am so happy to be a part of this experience, as I believe it will provide me with the opportunity to grow in my relationships with others in my church, with people in the places we travel to, and in my relationship with God as we learn from and partner with other faith-based communities.”

-Rachel White


Thankfulness is pouring out of me today – it’s overflowing and cascading over every inch of my body. I’m drenched in gratitude.

This thankfulness has been born out of a heart set on celebrating – a heart that is reminiscing on the blessing this life really is. Today I’m reminded that I have more than enough reason to celebrate and I want to welcome you into that, to explore what it looks like and feels like to rejoice in what this coming weekend holds.

This weekend I’m celebrating the life of the King.

Often my celebration is thwarted by mourning; deep sorrow overwhelms my ability to rejoice. When I stop and think about what those days leading up to his death truly looked like I get caught up in a million unanswered questions.

Sometimes I try to think about how He would have felt – What it would have looked like to see the world through Jesus’ eyes. Who would he have seen? What looks or expressions would they be wearing? Would they cast disapproving glances in His direction? Would they look on in disgust? Would there be some people who would show compassion in their eyes but remain silent – fear keeping them amongst the crowd?

In the midst of all that I wonder what Jesus was thinking. How amongst all of the hurt, accusations, and disapproval Jesus still saw them as His children. He was unwavering, unchanging and constant; He was unfailing in his love for them. And while he was being mocked, ridiculed and beaten, He knew the entire time His sacrifice was for them. And without fear or reservation he trudged onwards. He humbly surrendered to death, death on a cross, knowing that this was the only way to truly rescue us.

What if that was the end of the story? A brave soul, a wise teacher, a peaceful man – nailed to a cross, mocked and shamed and left to die? But this story doesn’t end in death and disappointment. We aren’t left with bitterness and frustration. No, this story resumes three days later with the most extravagant and triumphant of conclusions.

Three days later there is an empty tomb. Three days later there is no body to be found. The book of Matthew tells us that the women outside of the tomb were “filled with joy” when they heard the goods news; that upon seeing Jesus “[the women] ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshipped him.

As I read that I have to ask myself “Is that my posture of celebration on Easter weekend?” Do I actually grasp the magnitude of what this weekend is all about? Do I stop and take more than a mere moment to consider the price Jesus paid for my life? And if by chance I answer yes to all those questions one larger question remains – As I reflect this weekend on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, am I filled with Joy, and does that joy cause me to fall at his feet and worship him?

So here’s my challenge to you and to myself this Easter Weekend. Let’s CELEBRATE – Let’s be filled with joy! Let’s shout and dance and scream at the top of our lungs because we are loved infinitely by the King. My prayer is that we might start to live a little differently as a result of recognizing that truth – that we are loved by a King who conquered death and loved by a King who LIVES!


Kenya Training

Just over a year ago I visited Kenya in Africa. It was there that God revealed a few important things to me. He taught me that here in North America we have our wants and our needs very confused. He showed me that I don’t fight for my passions as hard as I could. He told me that I need to appreciate and not take for granted the family, things, and opportunities I have.

Leigh Janssen and I visited Kenya to film some of the youth curriculum that we have been watching at theUNDERGROUND. Neither of us had been overseas, and we had no idea what to expect. We visited a running academy in the western highlands of Kenya. Here we met really incredible teenagers who are gifted in running, and hope to attend the school to get an education so that they may take whatever opportunities their future successes may bring. Many of them want to be doctors, lawyers, teachers, and engineers. They dream big, they don’t let their circumstance hold them back from hoping and trying. They know that God can work miracles. We spent a few days there, training alongside them and getting to know them. We got to see their homes, meet their families and see how different their circumstances are from our own.

These kids have no choice but to run. They live in the most rural parts of the highlands, they have to run to school, train before school starts, focus on academics for a few hours, and then train again after school before running home. The endurance, passion and motivation that these kids have is inspiring. They run in hopes of winning races and marathons in order to get money for their families to improve their living situations.

I don’t have to raise up gardens and livestock to eat. I don’t have to run for 30 minutes just to get to a store to buy necessities. I don’t have to wear shoes with holes in them that have been worn by someone else previously just to be able to train for what I want to do to.

These teenagers showed me that they are just as hardworking, responsible, and disciplined as any adult I have ever met. They don’t have iPods or play video games, they work the land and take care of the livestock. They take care of their siblings, and pool any money they get into their families funds. They spend their race winnings on things like trees for shade, vegetables and their siblings school tuitions.

After being home for a year and thinking back on my time spent at this academy, I realize I’ve needed this reminder again to work harder at my passion and my relationship with God, and be more self disciplined.And I will be reminded yet again when I see their faces on TV after winning an important race or marathon, or an olympic gold metal. They deserve it, and I will praying, and cheering them on from over here on my side of the world.


– Rachael Bawn

I remember….

11 years. 22 retreats.

I remember each and every one like it was yesterday. I remember the countdown on Fridays as I anxiously waited for the bell to ring at the end of the day to usher me out the front doors and into freedom. I remember tossing my bags in the car and rushing to the bus. I remember the anticipation building as the night grew darker and the bus trekked onwards.

And then I remember it all in a series of flashes – like a blur of pure bliss. Music, laughter, friends. I remember running through camp and feeling like I was free – free to roam and dream and finally free to be. It was liberating and exhilerating and I remember feeling like I was coming home. Coming to a place where I was found, accepted and a place I belonged. I remember feeling like this was family. This was where the memories were made, this was where the laughter was found. This was where my heart grew a thousand times over. This is where I found myself – it was here that I recognized who God was calling me to be.

11 years later and I’m no longer that 11 year old girl waiting for the school bell to ring. 11 years later I am the young woman who is eagerly awaiting the moment when hundreds of kids arrive at the front gate. I am the young woman who knows exactly how they feel. Because I’ve been there. 22 times before. And I know what they are on the brink of. They are on the brink of the beginning of everything. It is here that they will dive deeper than they ever have before. It is here that their heart will awaken for the first time. It is here that the journey begins.

From the girl who has been here a few times before – I hope you join me. I promise you it’s beyond your wildest imaginings.

– Kaitlyn


It’s getting closer!

GDSLV – theUNDERGROUND Fall Retreat is getting close! its only 27 days until we are together for a weekend and we don’t want you to miss out! Our early bird pricing of $125 ends next Sunday- Nov 8th! So don’t miss out on this great deal! Head on over to now to register and for all the most up to date information for the retreat! Don’t forget to invite your friends and send them over to our retreat website to check things out as well.

While you’re there check out our GDSLV blog. Over the next 27 days we will be posting thoughts, videos, art and ideas to help us prepare ourselves for our time together at the retreat. Make sure you check back in every few days to get the latest content.

Here we go again…

It’s that time again! Everyone is back to school. There has been haircuts, new backpacks, topping up on school supplies, and balancing schedules; trying to squeeze in family time wherever possible! It’s a fresh new school year, full of anticipation for what is to come! Maybe your child has begun their final year of school and is planning on hitting the books hard – ensuring a spot in their desired program for university. Maybe it’s their final shot at taking home the championship. Maybe your kids have changed schools because they just started high school and they are worried about making a good first impression. Or perhaps you have a child who has just started Grade 6 and is has just joined us at theUNDERGROUND for the first time!


Well no matter how far along in school your kids are, we are so excited to welcome EVERYONE back to midweek 🙂 We have had a great start to the year and are so excited to be back into the swing of things! Starting back at midweek is almost like New Year’s Eve for us! We have been thinking through what our “New Years’ Resolutions” will be! And we welcome you to join with us in our hopes for this school year. We have taken a good look at our Mission and our Values over the summer, and we want to be more intentional about living and breathing these values, making them part of our DNA instead of a list of ideals. Our Mission is ‘to lead students into a growing and lifelong relationship with Jesus’. This is no easy task! And I would love for all of us to think about that word, ‘lifelong’ for a moment.


Students are in theUNDERGROUND up until Grade 12. We have seven years with your kids (if they go start to finish). But they are with you for life! As parents, you have an incredible opportunity to speak into your kids’ lives. Sometimes they don’t listen, we understand that. In fact, sometimes they find their youth leaders to be some of the smartest people in the world – and all we do is repeat something that you’ve already told them 100 times! But let’s go back to ‘lifelong’ again. We get a brief time with your kids. Our hope is that in that time, we can work with the parents of our students. One of our values is ‘resourced and spiritually engaged parents’. We believe that parents are the primary spiritual influencers in the lives of youth. We want to communicate with, resource and engage parents in the life of the youth ministry. We want to come alongside you and help your kids become lifelong followers of Jesus.


Parents, I want to challenge you with something. I want you to think about all the activities your kids are involved in, and which ones are the highest priority. Have you built in time for them to grow spiritually? Have you set up a culture in your home where hockey practice is more important than homework? What is more likely to happen: your child becomes an NHL prodigy, or graduates university? What if the students in theUNDERGROUND spent as much time with God as they did in any other activity? What if the primary focus for their future was a relationship with Jesus? My challenge is to be intentional. We are intentional about providing kids with a safe space where they can be themselves, learn about Jesus, and grow as a community. And you, as parents, are the most influential part of that spiritual community.


So how do we ensure that this New Years Resolution doesn’t end up flopping a few weeks in? Communication. Involvement. Prayer. We do our very best to communicate and keep you up to date about what’s going on inside the doors of theUNDERGROUND. We have Facebook pages, blog posts, newsletters, etc. Look us up! Say hello 🙂 Let leaders know what’s going on at school or at home, maybe there is a piece of the puzzle that you can provide! Let us celebrate with you, let us grieve with you. We have committed volunteers who have a heart for ministering to your kids, let them be a consistent voice in the lives of your kids. Midweek is a great, intentional time for your kids to be involved in games, small groups, discipleship, and teaching. Ask them what the night was about! And if they can’t tell you – let us know so we can make adjustments 🙂


Try your best to get your kids on retreats, these a great for building relationships, getting away from life and focusing on Jesus, and for just plain old fun! We understand that it’s not realistic to send every kid, from every family, to every retreat, just know that we are happy to help in any way we can. And lastly, the most important thing you can do as a parent is pray for your kids. Pray for their small group leaders. Pray for their youth coordinators and pastors. Pray for their teachers at school, their coaches, and their friends. There are so many spheres of influence in the life of a student, and we want to remind you that we are on your team! Let’s commit to helping your kids enter a lifelong relationship with Jesus.


– Mark Muller


A week well spent!

City camp team 1

It’s been almost one week since our City Camp Summer Leadership trip ended and in the week that has followed we’ve taken some time to reflect on some of the incredible moments we got to share in as a team. We spent our week serving alongside the Muskoka Woods staff, sharing in leadership development sessions and having fun in community together. As we reflect on the week we can look back and see three key lessons we can take with us.


Through working alongside the Muskoka Woods City Camp Staff we came to understand the value of encouragement. Working at a day camp for one full week gave us all a chance to experience the high demand the counsellors are in. They run activities, plan games, create skits and videos and lead kids through a full and exciting day of camp. We learned first hand that at the end of the day you’re exhausted and one of the greatest ways to regain energy is to know that there is a team of people supporting and encouraging you in your role. Our students spent hours writing beautiful encouragement notes to the entire Muskoka Woods City Camp Staff team. It was a joy to watch how much life it gave our students to encourage those they had been serving alongside and amazing to see how those words of affirmation fuelled the counsellors in their work.


Through our Leadership Development Sessions we learned how to prioritize our own spiritual growth. Over the course of the week we made our way through a few concepts and ideas that held incredible weight in each and every one of our spiritual lives. We learned about our personalities and the way we’re wired, and we learned about how to approach our spiritual gifts with a heart of thankfulness. We talked  about following God’s guidance and the importance of looking retrospectively at the times when we could see God at work in our lives, and we talked about the immense power of our story and seeing God use our lives as living testimonies. Through all those sessions one fundamental truth was clear – We were created to love and be loved.  We put that into practice as we served the Muskoka Woods Staff, our campers and each other, while we wrestled through what God has called us into- a lifelong journey with him.


Through our time together in community we began to understand the importance of investing time into relationships. Our team started out as 21 strangers (a group of students who barely knew one another’s names) to a team at the end of the week who ran to hug one another goodbye, who laughed over shared experiences and who stayed up till the early hours of the morning writing one another notes of encouragement. There was time serving together, time eating together, time leading together, time having fun together – all that invested time allowed us to reap the ultimate profit – friendship. Our team was open, honest, vulnerable and quick to support and encourage when the moment called for it. We came to understand that when you invest in a friendship, when you take time to pour into someone you gain a deeper appreciation for who they are, who they were created to be and who they are in the midst of becoming.


Our week was one of laughter, memories and incredible opportunities to experience growth together in community. We are so thankful for the chance to have made new friends, shared our stories and to see how evidently God is at work in the lives of our students at theUNDERGROUND.


– Kaitlyn Kirkwood

We’re half way there!!!

We are over half way through our Muskoka Woods City Camp Leadership Trip and have been having a blast!! The 20 students from different sites have been paired with one of four cabin groups and have been facilitating the camp activities for the kids at City Camp. The Muskoka Woods City Camp staff are loving having our students working with them and the City Camp kids are having a great time!

Our students arrived on Sunday and jumped straight into work! We spent the afternoon setting up equipment with the Muskoka Woods staff and many hands made for lighter work for all. Our evening was filled with some great time getting to know each other and setting some personal and community goals together.

We have been spending some really intentional time in the evenings in leadership development with our students. So far we have talked through Being real as we hang out and serve together, our different personalities, how to approach our spiritual gifts, our stories and how they can impact others, and listening to Gods guidance in our lives. Its been a real privilege to see our students engaging in these times and getting a deeper grasp on the ways that God has made of each of us intentionally unique, and uses us all in different ways.

Our group has really come together over such a short period of time and we are excited for the rest of the week. We’ve had some great times of fun relaxing at the park, chilling out in front of a movie, enjoying a pool party together, and can’t wait for Aerosports Trampoline Park this evening! The junior leaders have been doing a phenomenal job leading our small groups and demonstrating vulnerability in their discussions. Its been amazing to see them taking the leader and growing so much this week!

Please continue to pray for the students as they continue to interact with the kids at camp and with each other as we finish off our week together!

City Camp is almost here!!!

We are only a few days away from welcoming students from across our sites to the Muskoka Woods City Camp Leadership Trip! We have 20 students that will be joining us this Sunday to serve in Oakville for the week. This is a great opportunity for them to have fun serving kids in the Oakville community, while learning who God has made them to be and exploring their own life story.

During the day, our students will be assisting the Muskoka Woods staff and campers in a variety of camp activities such as; trampoline, laser tag, inflatable slides, and even bubble soccer! Yes! BUBBLE SOCCER!!! Our evenings will be spent together doing some of our own activities and team building exercises, as well as helping students discover various leadership qualities. We have some great things planned for this group! We have even created a special leadership track for some of our older students. Our grade 10s and 11s will have some in depth leadership development that they will practically apply each day by leading small groups of students in grades 7-9. This allows them not only to discover and learn, but apply and share the tools we are helping them develop.

Our goal is that all of our students will step into leadership roles for the upcoming year in theUNDERGROUND, no matter what site they attend! We would appreciate your prayers as we bring these kids together for an incredible opportunity!

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