For years, the Bridge Street House of Prayer (BSHOP) has been welcoming high school youth groups into a week of discipleship and urban ministry in the West Side of Grand Rapids. We call it "Immersion." Since 2010, hundreds of high school students have been immersed in a week of Christian community where they live, learn, work, and play together. They have found a safe place to share openly about joys and hurts, only to find encouragement and embrace. They have been immersed in a lifestyle of prayer and have encountered God in deep and intimate ways.
Immersion is more than an urban mission trip. It's an invitation into a life of mission—a life of knowing Jesus and making him known. That's why we say Immersion is "One week for the rest of your life." For the first three days of Immersion, students travel to the wilderness of northern Michigan to meet with God and build community. The next three days are spent in the city, experiencing biblical teaching, prayer walking, and engaging the neighborhood with the love of Christ.
Anyone who has been involved in youth ministry has likely witnessed the "spiritual high" that many students feel after these kinds of experiences. But alas, the emotions fade, and life returns to "normal" with all of it's challenges and monotony. The students may be left questioning whether or not what they experienced was real, and why God just doesn't feel as close as he did then.
So I propose a question. Can a one-week experience actually change the trajectory of a young person's life toward Christ?
Listen to this story from a young woman who came on one of our first ever Immersion trips:
"My name is Kelsey Rae Klumpstra and I did Immersion in 2010, the summer before my senior year. Throughout my entire life God has proven Himself so faithful, from the blessings of a loving family, church and youth groups, to the ability to attend Christian schools. From elementary school to high school, I was a good kid, knew the list of do’s and don’ts and keep them religiously. I was pursuing a religion, and not a relationship. On Immersion, God began to break down those walls. Leading up to Immersion I remember my only purpose in going was to hear God’s voice. Throughout the 9 days He spoke and I listened. He told me He speaks in many different ways, He has always been speaking and all I have to do is listen. I learned about the cost of discipleship, and how to live in community. He also changed my understanding of missions: one does not have to go across seas, living missionally is a lifestyle. I began that lifestyle my senior year: prayer walking my school, deepening my relationships and redirecting my life a few more degrees closer to Christ. Immersion propelled me into a 5 month global mission school after I graduated. While there, God continued to teach and transform me. I went to Mexico, left what was comfortable and felt the weight of not doing “the norm” by putting off college. But I didn’t care, God spoke and the cost was worth it. When I was six I accepted Christ, on Immersion I made Him my own and during this mission school I pursued that relationship even deeper. No more religiosity. While in Mexico and our outreach to Perú, God gave me a passion for the Spanish language, the people who speak it, and working with kids. He also called me to return to BSHOP and attend college, something I previously had no desire to do. That next summer I ran the VBS program as Immersion staff and have had the privilege of being the Immersion Coordinator ever since. I have spent most of those years living on the West Side and being a part of the BSHOP community while attending Grand Valley as a Spanish major with minors in Latin American Studies and Non-Profit Administration. God is continuously transforming me and giving me new opportunities, like leading an International Bible Study on Grand Valley’s campus and co-leading the Bridge Street Mission School trip to Guatemala. This past year He has taught me a lot about myself and how to lead well. It is so cool how God has brought my life full circle. From being a student transformed by God on Immersion to leading students toward God’s transforming work. Immersion is not “the answer.” BSHOP is not “the answer.” God is the answer. God is the answer and among other things He has used and is using BSHOP as a ministry and a community, to transform my life and keep my eyes fixed on Him."
Kelsey is now on staff with the BSHOP full-time, investing in young people, eager to know God and make him known. She is an administrator for Immersion and the Bridge Street Mission School, and 8-month gap-year or "bridge-year" for young adults to be prepared to live a life of mission. She is also coordinating and leading a 2-month mission trip to Guatemala with a team of young adults involved in the Mission School this January.
So, can God reorient a life toward him in a week? Absolutely! He can do it in a moment! It has much less to do with the format than it does about our God who is able to do more than we could ask or imagine (Eph 3). For all who are involved in coordinating church services, Sunday school, bible studies, camps, short term mission trips, and all other forms of ministry, be encouraged. You never know how God will use small moments to change lives forever.
For more information about the Bridge Street House of Prayer, please visit www.bshop.org.
For questions about Immersion or the Mission School, contact Derek (firstname.lastname@example.org).