Students Living A Mission (SLAM) is the student program of Global Outreach Developments International (G.O.D. Int’l). SLAM’s mission is to mobilize students to live a mission in imitation of Jesus by serving the poor and marginalized through community service. SLAM serves both nationally and internationally, as students learn to help those in need within their own communities and in the world. Throughout the summer months, SLAM hosts hundreds of junior high, high school, and college age students and youth leaders from numerous churches and states across the country for weeklong service opportunities in Nashville. Preparing for a “NSHVLL Week” is a busy time at SLAM headquarters, as logistics are set up, volunteers are scheduled and trained, and hearts are readied to receive and challenge these excited youth.
The days before a “NSHVLL Week”
There is much entailed in the few short days before a hundred teenagers burst through the doors of our facility, some excited for a week away from home and with their friends, others excited to give themselves to the needy they meet, and others needy themselves for a chance to get closer to God. SLAM staff (volunteers from G.O.D. Int’l) have to be prepared for all of them, as their goals aren’t only to facilitate a smooth week, but to facilitate real, meaningful, and hopefully life-changing experiences with the Lord and those they meet. SLAM staff are expected to reinforce the morning and evening biblical messages throughout the day, as the students are at their services projects, eating meals, and even playing games. The whole week is designed to connect students with God’s word and real life experiences that encourage them to live like Jesus, both while they’re in Nashville, and especially when they return home. Working out the details before the week starts allows for the week to be focused on the students themselves rather than the schedule. All of that happens in the days and weeks before.
Ty Mathews, national manager for SLAM, is responsible to communicate with youth leaders in the months, weeks, and days prior to their arrival, as well as throughout the week. He finds out the logistics of their group, as well as what their expectations are for the week. He consistently discusses with the youth leaders what our hopes are for their youth in order to help promote healthy discussions amongst their youth group. Getting a feel for each group helps Ty know what to expect going into each week. Ty also ensures that SLAM staff know what they’re doing, and encourages everyone involved to stay in prayer for God to move in the lives of the young people.
Liz Kagay, administrative assistant for SLAM, is responsible to coordinate service projects for every group each day, and coordinate service volunteers, including service project leaders, food prep volunteers, worship leaders, speakers, photographers, videographers, and baristas. Together she and Ty handle most of the logistics for the week, and cooperate with SLAM staff to ensure everything, from morning to night, from meals to worship, from service projects to late nights, is covered, not only by someone who is capable, but also someone who cares about the youth involved.
In addition to Ty and Liz, dozens of other people participate in making these weeks happen, though not everyone involved can be seen from the stage. There are countless hours put in behind the scenes, preparing for each NSHVLL week. And those people aren’t any less committed to seeing students impacted with the love of Jesus. Their efforts are conscious and intentional, with the students and those they serve always in mind. A good NSHVLL week isn’t simply a logistical success, it’s when students are living a mission.