BYU-Hawaii church leaders said they are working to encourage service opportunities within the Laie community through the Just Serve website organized by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The website allows students to propose, plan, and volunteer for events happening nearby.
Bishop Scott McCarrey of the Laie YSA 8th Ward said, “The church offers more opportunities to draw us into service. The focus is just to go out and serve without necessarily trying to promote the church, which I believe is a big part of the gospel. You just serve because that’s what you do.”
The Just Serve program is an initiative put together by the church in order to help members connect with ways to help people in the community, said President Dennis Mataia, second counselor of the Laie YSA 1st Stake. He said prior to development, church leaders noticed a trend in the service sector: service projects were completed within the church, but the majority were typically organized for members of the ward. He said, “As far as serving outside of the church, other churches [were] much better than us.”
According to Mataia, the church leader talked about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Louisiana mission presidents encouraged missionaries to serve people rather than proselyte, which led to encouraging results six months later. “They saw a huge change. People were a lot more receptive to the gospel. The mission presidents looked back and said, ‘Well, we just served,’” said Mataia.
The church began looking for ways to improve the service opportunities within community wards, said Matai. After releasing the Just Serve program in 2014, members across the world have been taking steps to improve the interface, create localized projects, and make a difference in the lives of community members.
Elder Sessions, director of the Just Serve program in the Laie YSA 2nd Stake, said, “It is an initiative that was created over the last five to six years that has been designed to bless people not of our faith, but also to reach out to organizations and let them know that we have every intention of blessing all people. Any time you have an opportunity to be involved in making someone’s life easier, It is a mutually beneficial arrangement whereby everybody wins.”
In addition to volunteering, individuals can identify community needs, submit projects for approval, and learn more about organizations hosting events. President Mataia said, “JustServe.org is like the Facebook of service, or so the goal is. The purpose of every stake committee is to enter service projects in [the system], and then tell members of the stake that there are projects. You don’t have to contact anyone or set anything up; everything is laid out for you. It’s a search engine for projects. [You] can go online, pick the projects they want, find the details and who to contact, and then go and do it.”
Bishops are encouraging students to begin interacting with the website and actively looking for opportunities to serve in the community. McCarrey said, “As a campus bishop, I really like how it draws people together. I think that when we serve together, we enjoy the time spent and being with each other. You can’t help but feel the spirit.”
To register, go to www.justserve.org.