This time last year, I was sure that I had my summer figured out: after taking a few weeks of needed rest after the first year of my master’s degree, I would spend the summer months hiking with friends, being at home with my family, working as an intern for a landscape architect, and competing in a national flower show. Most certainly, it would involve me making the regular trip to the University of Nottingham to serve as a counsellor at For the Strength of Youth – an event that has become a ‘summer staple’ for me, of a sort.
However, fast forward a few months, and my plans had changed entirely; with travel now prohibited and events cancelled or postponed, it was looking likely to be a very different summer. I’ll admit that it was initially hard not to feel disappointed, and I found myself wondering how this ‘new normal’ would compare to what I had planned.
Enter the Rise and Reach programme, a summer initiative that brought together youth, young adults, and full-time missionaries across the UK as they participated in various online activities and performed acts of service. As part of this initiative, I was brought in as co-organiser and leader of a virtual choir, formally known as The Rising Generation Choir. I soon found that much of my summer was spent with other choir team members (a small group of five YSAs). We worked on arranging music, organising rehearsals, and creating promotional material to be distributed to wards and stakes across the country to encourage people to get involved.
Over just two months, the choir – now over 100 members strong – could rehearse, record, and perform multiple songs and group ensembles, which were broadcast during an evening of music through the Church’s primary social media channels in November. This feat – though incredible – was made more significant through the efforts and enthusiasm of those who participated.
Reflecting on those weeks, I can say that while it wasn’t the summer experience that I had initially wanted, the Lord had a perfect plan to give me the summer I never knew I needed: a summer of forming friendships, serving others, and strengthening testimony. Having the opportunity to participate in the Rise and Reach programme has strengthened my belief in the positive impact that service has in our lives; the Lord will bless and strengthen our efforts when we strive to do good.