Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 1, 1999
Youth spread God's word
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Following God is no easy task.
Mark Hagman knows it's hard to follow God - he didn't do it for 18 years.
"I was on the wide path," said Hagman, 20. "People who follow God are in the minority these days. It's kind of hard to do something when not a lot of people are doing it."
Hagman gives this little spiel to youth and adults who attend the retreats he helps organize.
But following God has insurmountable rewards, said Hagman.
"I'll give you four things that makes it easy to follow God. Four things that help keep our spirit strong and follow God . . . prayer, sacraments, fellowship, service."
And Hagman is one who practises what he preaches.
He devotes time to prayer. He participates in the sacraments - Reconciliation and Communion. As for fellowship and service, well, he's doing a lot of that with his work on the Behold the Lamb team.
Behold the Lamb, which also includes Mike Lees, 19, Ann Bellemare, 20, Anne Gauthier, 22, Kevin Philip, 22, and Colin Doyle, 21, can be defined as a youth ministry team.
The retreats they host, which range from half an hour to a day in length, cater to various audiences, from children to adults. Retreats consist of skits, with flashes of humour and Scripture, testimonies and prayer.
The team was set up in 1996 when Kerrie Gould was a staff member at John Paul II Bible School.
"In prayer I felt that God was calling me to start a community," she said.
At that point, she had no other details.
"I looked at the gifts he had given me - gifts of evangelization. I thought maybe I should do something with that."
She began talking with a co-worker, Janice Babych, about her prayers.
In the spring of that year, while attending a youth rally, she realized she had to go beyond just praying for this community she was suppose to initiate.
"A Protestant minister (at the rally) said if there's anyone out there who wanted to start a (evangelization) team, to go ahead and do it.
"That was the final sign."
Gould and Babych poured their savings into the group. They rented a seven-bedroom farmhouse and recruited graduates from the Bible school. With training in youth ministry with the National Evangelization Team, Gould helped Babych put together skits and ideas they could use for their program.
The team has since moved into a small building on Main Street which they bought from the town for $1. It was considered condemned, but with a little paint and donations from the locals, they have turned it into home sweet home.
The group receives no funding from the St. Paul Diocese and relies solely on donations and fees from the retreats.
The six-member team consists of Bible school graduates who commit 10 months to the group. They each receive room and board plus a $100 monthly stipend. They travel via a blue van which this year's team has christened Rusty Joe.
Although most of their retreats are in the West, previous teams have travelled to the Northwest Territories and Ontario. They are almost completely booked for the entire year.
"It was all by word of mouth," Gould said. "We didn't do any advertising."
A full-time youth ministry like Behold the Lamb is rare in Canada, Gould added.
In their search for new members, Gould and Babych look for graduates with "an openness to God, a desire to want to grow," Gould said. "I find that we can always teach the talents they need on the road, but they need to have that openness to God first."
This year's crew brings a potpourri of talents and gifts to the retreats.
Bellemare is the natural talker. She can start a conversation with anyone, anytime with ease.
Doyle is also a good communicator, something that didn't always come naturally to him.
"When he first came (to the Bible school), it took him six months to say anything in front of the class," Lees said.
Composed and articulate, Philip is the public speaker of the group.
Gauthier is the musician, her fingers fast and friendly on the guitar and piano.
"And she's very mature," Philip said.
Lees added, "She's also a good listener."
Hagman is the jack of all trades. If there's anything needing to be fixed, built or requiring a handyman's touch, Hagman is the one to do it.
"I like to think I'm also able to inspire once in awhile," Hagman said. "I hope that sometimes if I say something, someone will be inspired by that."
And Lees, the team leader, is pretty much a natural leader. He's also a natural everything it seems. He does a great mime impression, can draw a student into prayer with him and has a natural ability to make faith in God look cool.
"The students can relate to (the team)," said teacher Pat Worger who organized three retreats for the students at St. Nicholas School in Edmonton.
"The kids can identify with them. They enjoyed having them here. They think these guys are cool."
The most powerful portion of the retreat are the testimonies.
With the exception of Gauthier, each member has rubbed shoulders with crowds that knew 1,001 ways to party.
Despite their past, the group now works together to prevent youth from going down the wide path and finding God the hard way.
During one retreat, 70 seventh-grade students smiled and giggled as Lees, dressed in a bright orange Hawaiian shirt, dances with a sock puppet.
Then a silence seeps across the room when Doyle, acting out a militia-type role, is angered by the joyfulness and mockingly nails Lees to the cross, a re-enactment of the death of Christ.
"We're a Catholic school, we owe it to our students to bring them (retreats) like this," Worger said. "This is a (vulnerable) age for students. This is a time when they can go astray. They need things like this."
The Behold the Lamb team aims to be the hands and feet of God reaching out to everyone they meet.
"If you had the cure for cancer, would you share it with everyone?" Hagman asks students at one retreat.
All the students nod their head and immediately say "yes."
"The cure for cancer is like the knowledge of God," he continues. "If we have the knowledge of God, we should go out there and share it with people."