BLUE EARTH - "The Refuge" is what they call it and that's what Aaron Evenson hopes it will be for all the area's youth.
"We finally have a name for the drop-in center," he said of the facility housed in the former First Methodist Church building at 125 N. Moore St. in Blue Earth.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is set for 10 a.m. Thursday at The Refuge.
A?PLACE?TO?FEEL?SAFE?— Aaron Evenson stands beside the new sign at The Refuge, a youth center at 125 N. Moore St. in Blue Earth. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is set for 10 a.m. Thursday.
"We're celebrating and introducing our new name to the community," said Evenson, director of Blue Earth Area Youth for Christ.
"It's an open house," said Evenson. "Kids, adults, anybody can come to see it. We can educate people on why we're doing this."
While the name is new, the youth center is not.
"June 13 was chosen because it's been four years since we have had this place open," Evenson said.
The facility is open to youth in seventh through 12th grade.
"Some kids have had a hard week at school, struggling with friends, peer pressure," Evenson said. "They come here and unwind, get a good message of hope and love and that Jesus wants to save them."
The facility has pool tables, ping pong tables, electronic games, board games, a big screen TV and lots of booths.
"Kids can drop in and hang out, meet other people in a safe environment and be accepted," Evenson said.
There are three meeting times.
Fridays from 7-10 p.m. are "relaxed, hang-out" time for the kids with a 10-minute Gospel program. Evenson said 50-70 kids show up on average.
Campus Life Bible Study meets Sundays in smaller groups.
"That's where we try to plug the Friday kids to go deeper," Evenson said.
The Friday and Sunday gatherings meet year-round, but the Campus 180 group meets at 7:45 a.m. Wednesdays during the school year at Blue Earth Area High School.
There's lots to do all year with camps, trips, events and concerts.
The youth center is a non-denominational and non-profit para-church.
"A para-church is a ministry that works alongside churches," Evenson said. "The 100 percent goal is to plug kids into churches, have them understand God and introduce them to Jesus.
"We get mostly non-Christians," he said. "We accept anybody who wants to come. Our primary vision is to help the unchurched."
Evenson is concerned for the kids because he sees what they are struggling with daily.
"Suicide, drugs, broken families, body image - anorexic, bulimic," he said.
"I think we can be naive to it," he said, imagining that it only happens in big cities. "It's all over. It would shock people if they knew what was going on."
Evenson thinks all the surface problems boil down to one thing.
"They need to find their hope in God," he said. "I truly believe they are looking for something in this world to fill that void. That's why they need Jesus Christ in their lives to find that hope, peace and contentment.
"I have seen a lot of kids come from that (chaos) and be restored," he said. "There's been dramatic changes through what God's done through the ministry here. That's exciting."
He hopes to be able to keep doing that by expanding The Refuge.
"Our hope for the future is to have some more open days, an after-school program, more volunteers and hire more staff," he said.
Evenson is the only paid staff member. He has 10 volunteers and four people serving on the support and adviser team.
The only requirements to be a volunteer is being a Christian who cares about the kids.
"Care for them, love them, that's the best way to counsel them," Evenson said. "Sounds simple, but it goes a long way."
For more information, call the office at (507) 526-2233.