Savanah Yancey is a young adult and college freshman that is actively involved in serving both within her community and at Eastside Christian Church. She has grown up at Eastside, and began getting involved in service projects at a young age—from local to global outreach. She plans on getting her bachelor’s degree in psychology and then studying to become a physicians assistant, with the ultimate goal of doing fulltime medical missions work.
Savanah and her family all currently serve on weekend services, and are eager to jump in whenever they’re needed at Eastside. Savanah has also helped in various ways on different Serve Days put on by Eastside Christian Church, both in leading peers and serving alongside them.
Below are two memorable experiences that have stuck with her from being involved in past Serve Days:
Grandma’s House of Hope Tea
On last year’s Serve Day, Savanah helped out with a women’s tea that was put on at Grandma’s House of Hope. Grandma’s House of Hope is an Orange County-based non-profit charity that provides basic needs and enrichment services for women, children, and families who live in extreme poverty and face seemingly insurmountable challenges, including human trafficking, domestic violence, life-threatening illnesses, and severe mental health concerns.
On this particular Serve Day, Savanah recalls an interesting encounter that helped her see the true difference serving could make in someone’s life. She remembers a woman coming up to her, an angry and suspicious look on her face, and asking, “Why are you doing this? What are you doing this for?” And one of the other ladies attending said, “They’re doing it because they love us, and they care about us!” However, the woman wasn’t convinced, retorting, “Well what do you get out of it?” to which Savanah replied, “We get to spend a day with you. You know, we get to hang out with you, and love on you, and share stories with you, and learn about you.” But the woman still didn’t quite understand.
Savanah was struck by the encounter: “It just kinda hit me—these people, these women—their whole lives have just been [full of] hurt, and abuse, and [being] taken advantage of, and the concept of people wanting to serve them and love them simply for the sake of serving and loving them was so foreign to them.”
The experience opened her eyes to truly see the value in serving: “It’s really neat because it’s so counter-culture. We live in a culture that says, ‘Do everything for yourself.’ And then when we look at organizations that are sponsored by major companies, we see that these companies are doing it out of, ‘Well, I need good publicity,’ where we’re a church—we do it because that’s what God’s called us to do…and we have a great time doing it.”
Savanah’s heart for serving is evident in her passion to help others, simply because she knows that God has called her to ‘love her neighbor.’ And her obedience to that call is evident in all areas of her life, as she seeks out any opportunity to serve those around her.
On another Serve Day, Savanah was given the opportunity to lead a carnival event for a school in Anaheim. Most of the volunteers at the event were high schoolers, serving alongside their parents and families. The volunteers had set up a huge carnival with games and food. When they opened up the event, they were expecting a ton of people to show. However, no one was there when they first opened the gate. The volunteers began to get nervous, wondering what they would do if no one decided to show up. And then, slowly but surely, kids and families began to trickle into the event. It didn’t take long for the carnival to fill up with smiling and happy kids. But what really stood out to Savanah that day was the opportunity to come in and love on these kids—to see the weight lifted off their shoulders, and create a space where they could be free to play and laugh. For many of them, this was a rare opportunity.
Savanah recalls being told that one of the kids’ family members had recently been killed as a result of gang violence. This had put the entire community into a state of mourning over the loss. Savanah saw the Serve Day event as a great opportunity to love on these kids and families who were suffering—to give them a break from the pain, if only for a little while. “You could see them as they came in, this kind of cloud that was over them slowly moved away, and it just felt like the sun had come out, and the whole place lit up, and people were happy, and families were together.” Through the event, the volunteers were able to create an environment where these kids could bond, relax, and smile. “It’s a poor community, so they don’t have extra money to just spend on going out and hanging out with each other.”
Inspired to Serve
Savanah is continually inspired to serve through seeing the impact serving has made in her own life and in the lives of others. “When you see people’s faces light up, when you see people receive your services, it’s just a reminder that God has done so much more than that, and God does that every single day. I feel closer to Him and I really feel His Spirit moving in those moments. And just being in a vulnerable place of going, ‘Okay God, how do You want to use me, what do you want me to do today?’ and allowing yourself to be vulnerable [with] Him is really a way that I connect to Him.”
Savanah believes that serving doesn’t have to be a big, emotional draw, or life-changing experience (although, for many people, that does happen). “God calls us to serve because that’s a way that we can change our hearts, and that’s a way that we can align our hearts with Him.” She feels strongly about the fact that in one way or another, God has blessed every person with the ability to serve other people in some capacity. And even if we don’t feel a tremendous conviction towards one thing or another, it’s important that we still serve, because God has asked us to.
In her experience serving, Savanah has really enjoyed working with the high school and jr high students, whom she deems ‘the next generation.’ She sees them serving wholeheartedly—not because it’s something their parents forced them into—but because it’s something they truly enjoy. “Just being able to connect with them and see that really inspires me and reminds me every day that I need to have that mentality all the time, not just on Serve Day.”
Savanah wants to encourage others to serve, and enjoys sharing her serving experiences and stories. “There is a place for everybody, especially [on] Serve Days. Eastside does such a good job of making sure that they find a spot for every guest and every talent, whether that’s just cleaning or some kind of creative opportunities, young and old, able or disabled—everybody can serve on Serve Day. There should be no excuse for it. You can, and so—I think, for the most part—you should.”