The group wasn’t quite as large nor the trip as long.
But those involved with Zoe Lite were able to grow in faith and share a message of hope on the recent tour.
Zoe is a music and drama outreach ministry for seventh- and eighth-grade students and is sponsored by First Lutheran Church in Fremont.
Amy Spies is director of worship arts at the church and has been involved in various ways in this outreach ministry since its inception in 1999. She and Joy Jensen comprise the leadership team.
The tour was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And although the pandemic has begun to subside, leaders wondered what could be offered this year.
“With COVID, no one was really sure what we could do or how much, so we made the decision, later than normal, to do a Zoe season,” Spies said.
Instead of three months, the 2021 season lasted a month — hence the “Zoe Lite” title.
Zoe began at the end of April and extended into May during which time students rehearsed before the tour.
The May 29-30 tour was shortened to a Saturday with an overnight stay at Okoboji Bible Camp in Iowa and into Sunday with a home concert.
“We were excited to have seven students participate,” Spies said. “We had four high school students who helped us and four other support team members who helped us. It was a nice group. We were all able to fit on the church bus with all of our stuff and it was a really fun weekend.”
Students had fellowship and Bible study at the camp. They led worship there during the Sunday morning service and then gave a performance that afternoon in the Fremont church.
Spies said students involved in the show were enthusiastic.
“They all love to sing and act,” she said. “We’ve all been involved in church things before so it was really neat to see this particular group come together for this ministry.”
Spies believes students benefit from the ministry.
“I feel like it’s a great way for seventh- and eighth-graders to have a safe place to explore — not only their divergent talents with music and drama — but it’s a safe place for them to explore their faith and what it means to them and what it could mean to someone else when they share it with them,” Spies said.
The theme of this year’s show was “Who You Say I Am,” based on a song by Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia.
Spies said the song involves a person’s identity in Christ and who the Lord says they are — loved, treasured, a child of God and never forsaken.
“Everybody needs to hear, ‘You’re special. You’re loved. I’m not going to leave you. You’re always going to be my child.’ Everyone at some point in their life — or in this very day — needs to be reassured of those kinds of things,” Spies said.
A readers’ theater segment in the show talks about how audience members may come from different experiences, perspectives or walks of life.
“This skit is showing people that you can be happy all the time or questioning if you’re worth it. You can be anything, but at the end of the day your identity is in Christ — and ultimately you are chosen, loved, a child of God, because that’s who God says we are,” Spies said.
She adds something else:
“This isn’t just a message for this time and place,” Spies said. “This is something people struggle with all the time.”
Spies believes students benefited.
“I think they were able to see that they could share their gifts for the good of someone else,” she said.
Spies said the hope is to return to a longer Zoe season next year and to involve more students.
Students on the recent trip shared their thoughts in an audio recording.
Meredith Ruda shared what she learned.
“If you put your effort in, you can do well,” Meredith said, later adding, “I think God wants me to try new things.”
Students Hannah Henderson and Dathan Hansen talked about enjoying the tour.
“You learn about God and have fun with your friends,” Hannah said.
Dathan noted: “You get to have fun doing things you enjoy with people who enjoy the same things.”
Mentor Kallie Johnson talked about the growth she saw among students.
“It was fun watching you guys go from the very beginning to performing and everyone engaging in the performance and liking it,” Kallie said. “It was shown that all this hard work paid off.”