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Youth Group Edges Closer to God-Sized Goal

As the Cedar Rapids First youth work toward their $100,000 Speed the Light goal, their youth pastor marvels at the changes God has made in his students' lives.
The youth group at Cedar Rapids First has what Nate Roeder, their youth pastor, calls a scary-big dream — also known as a “God-sized goal.” Their goal is to raise $100,000 through Speed the Light for Project Rescue this year.

Nate and Krisha Roeder have been serving at the Iowa church for about two years. Prior to their arrival, the Cedar Rapids First youth group of about 50 kids had been raising around $2,500 a year for Speed the Light (STL), the Assemblies of God youth missions ministry that helps meet transportation and communication needs of missionaries.

“We changed that right away, creating 10K Day — trying to raise $10,000 in one day by completing projects for church and community members,” Nate Roeder explains. “We raised about $11,000 for Speed the Light. Then last year, we raised just a little over $20,000 for Speed the Light.”

But this year’s six-digit goal is 40 times the amount the youth group was accomplishing just two years ago.

On Oct. 5, the youth group, which now averages about 110 and has already raised $22,000 through its 10K Day earlier in the year, put on an event called Speed the Light Hustle. At the event, students exhibited some of their skills and sold items in vendor booths, including artwork, baked goods, farm-fresh eggs, a selfie-booth with puppies, a dunk tank, home good crafts, and more for STL in the church’s gym.

A couple students raised funds getting pledges for every strike they could pitch in 10 minutes. Another student, who takes karate lessons, raised funds in the same manner, only she chose to see how many boards she could break in 10 minutes.

“God gave our students everything they need to succeed,” Roeder says. “He doesn’t ask us to give something we don’t have, but what we do have. If it’s skill, like throwing a baseball or breaking boards, then throw a baseball or break boards.”

Austin Lynn and Ethan McManus, both 12, threw baseballs, while Jayden McManus, 13, threw softballs at a strike zone to raise money to “strikeout slavery.”

“This event has grown me spiritually closer to God because it showed me that no matter what you have or what you give, God can always multiply it,” Lynn says. Together the trio more than doubled their goal of $400, raising $860.

Twelve-year-old Aubrey Bade offered homemade cinnamon rolls and other items for sale at the event.

“I participated because I wanted to support people coming out of human trafficking,” she says. “I felt like it was my responsibility to help women and even girls my age.”

Isabella Roberts, 16, offered her original painting, representing freedom, for sale at the fundraiser.

“I decided to participate in the STL Hustle because of the simple phrase ‘why not?’” Roberts says. “If I have the opportunity to change the lives of girls I will never meet, and make room for God to move in a big way, then why not? This was a huge opportunity for us to be stewards of what God has given us and impact our world.”

Roeder, 29, who played basketball for North Central University, says he never asks students to do more than he would do. He joined in by raising pledges for every free throw he could make in a 10-minute span, sinking 155 shots and raising more than $8,000.

Project Rescue has been an inspiration for his youth, Roeder says. The program not only rescues women and children from sex trafficking, but also provides opportunity for mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual healing — a “rescue to restoration” approach.

With the pledges and other funds students are raising due to be turned in next week, Roeder believes they are approaching $40,000, with a little more than 10 weeks remaining to attain their overall goal.

“We may be chasing failure,” he admits, “but we believe God shows up in God-sized ways when we live out God-sized dreams.”

Whether or not the Cedar Rapids Youth make the $100,000 goal or not, what Roeder has been amazed to see is the attitude and personality changes in the students. He explains that as these Gen Z students take their eyes off themselves, ignore their insecurities, and no longer worry about what people think, they’re coming to believe Why not me? Why can’t I be the one God works through to change lives?

“It was a huge win, overall, for the night,” Roeder says. “It was a big win for our students, using their God-given gifts and doing what they could do to help women and children get out of human trafficking.”

Dan Van Veen

Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he and his wife, Lori, teach preschool Sunday School and 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls on Wednesdays.