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Graduation is a time where we celebrate and commend senior students for their academic, athletic and artistic achievements.  At this time, I want to applaud the nineteen faithful seniors that I have seen answer God’s call to “visit the widow and orphan in distress” (James 1:27).
Jacob Antonelli, Graham Cate, Ann Claire Cook, Nathan Dodds, Grace Fegtly, Gunnar Green, Isaiah Harper, Kate McDonald, Sarah McMorran, Claire Newton, Ryan O Donnell, Kate Otwell, Cameron Riser, Leah Riser, Lauren Schrader, John Taylor,  Jared Toney, and Luke Vandover. 
 They have served Jesus as they have fed orphan babies, shared with the poor in need and visited the prisoner. These are the things that God says he will reward at the Final Judgment. (Matthew 25: 31-46).
A large number of these seniors began their travels with Go Near Ministry in middle school. They heard stories during a school presentation of what life was like as our family lived as missionaries in Kenya. I challenged them to listen to the urgings of the Lord, even at their young age. I shared of the grand adventure of walking with Jesus and urged them, if He puts the desire in their hearts to go step out and serve for him, then do it! I had no idea that immediately after that presentation, these middle school students asked if I could take them to Kenya that summer! It was just a few months away and no one I knew took children that young to serve in Africa.  I was surprised by a brave group of parents that released their children to go serve with us in the orphanages and schools we partnered with. Our group of 25 volunteers raised their support, we packed our suitcases with donated school supplies to distribute and went!  These students convinced of the reality that they were to “care for children and orphans in distress” traveled for days to get to their destination and served with enthusiasm and without complaint.  They gave their hearts to babies, children and students their ages in ways that surpass what adults can do. These students returned home to invite their friends and family members and over the years our teams have continued to go and grow. Many make the sacrifice to return back to their special friends in Kenya so they know they aren’t forgotten. Some have given up playing high school sports or competitive cheer to prioritize serving in Kenya. They work extra hours to earn their support. They attend team meetings. They gather and organize hundreds of donated materials and distribute them among those in need.
Serving on short -term mission trips isn’t easy. These students travel for days, adjust to the smells of sewage and exhaust, sleep little and serve hard for days without complaint. They step out for the Lord. They share about Christ in prisons, in the streets and african schools. They live in community with people they don’t know of different ages and from different church backgrounds. What is beautiful to watch is their eagerness to learn what God’s plan is for their lives. They want more than attending youth group and church. They want to live with purpose and on mission. I am seeing plans for serving, teaching and medical missions overseas emerge. They dream of starting orphan care ministries and sewing vocational training programs in underdeveloped countries.
Serving the orphan, widow, prisoner and poor is what God says he will reward in heaven. I am getting an early start to say like Jesus will say.. Well done, good and faithful servants!! It is with great joy that I look forward to what God is going to do in you and through you for His Kingdom and for His glory. May God bless you as you step out into this next chapter of your lives. To the seniors and their parents, we are so grateful you have chosen to Go Near.
To see photos of these seniors in action,  please visit our Senior Tribute Post on our Go Near Ministry FB Page.
Melody Taylor