Care packages keep college students connected

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Golden State Youth Department finds a little encouragement goes a long way.

“Who doesn’t love receiving mail?”

This was Claire Covert’s reaction to the “encouragement packages” the Golden State Divisional Youth Department mails out four times a yeartwice a semesterto college students from its division.

“Sometimes you just need a little extra love, encouragement and a biblical boost,” Covert said. “These little packages always seem to arrive at just the right moment in my life, and remind me people are in my corner. It’s been the best tangible reminder that I am prayed for and thought of.”

The ministry began in October 2016, prompted by information received from the Western Territorial Youth Department about college care packages. The college years are a pivotal time for young adults and their continuing relationship with the church; some students lose touch with what was once their foundation.

“[We] recognized the need for practical encouragement for our college students,” said Sarai Phay, Youth Program Specialist for the Golden State Division. “We were inspired by the current trend of monthly subscription boxes. We wanted our young adults to know we’ve prayed and care about them but in a very intentional, yet relevant way. It was our hope they would be encouraged and inspired to stay connected with God and us, their church.”

The realization that people still care, that they’re thinking of them, helps keep college students rooted in their faith.

“It has been tremendously helpful to know that there is someone praying for you and giving you encouragement that you need to keep up with your studies, and most importantly, keeping you in the Bible and your relationship with God,” recipient Kevan Garrett said.

The packages change with each mailing, and they’ve evolved since the first onea small succulent plant and encouraging note.

“We’ve done a few ‘subscription’ style packages, like a ‘College Survival Kit,’ whereas other mailings have been an encouraging note, scripture poster, devotional calendar, et cetera,” Phay said.

While youth department employees hope the gifts will be well received, they cannot always anticipate the potential impact.

“One of the college gifts I received, literally saved my life,” Sarah Sandler said. “I was in such a deep depression [at that time], and I didn’t know who I was or what my purpose was in this world. There was a moment when I just wanted to give up and end it all then and there. But then, the same day…I got [my package] in the mail. I read it and started crying because it was as if the Lord had sent me what I needed to keep going. To keep striving. To keep living for the glory of God. And to know that I’m going to make it.”

Phay said her favorite mailing was in spring 2018a t-shirt with a “luv-ur-nae-bor” graphic and a call-to-action piece for the students to love their neighbors.

“These packages meant so much, especially the one with the message to persevere and finish the race God has set before us,” recipient Michele Sandage said. “I remember I was having a rough week, then I opened my mailbox and read the that statement. I was so blessed on God’s wonderful timing.”

In an age when snail mail includes mostly bills and junk mail, the encouragement packages are a welcome surprise.

“As someone living in this generation where technology and other forms of communication are so accessible, receiving a letter can go a long way,” said Hanna Banta. “These letters have been wonderful surprises to receive in the mail and great reminders that there are people outside your surroundings who think and care about you.”

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