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Sharing the love, Agape Café style


BARRINGTON PASSAGE, N.S. —

It’s love that drives the mission at the Agape Café Youth Centre in Barrington Passage, both on the local front and internationally.
Founded by Melissa and Marty Swim, Agape Café Youth Ministry has grown from a youth group held at the couple’s home to a youth centre/café run entirely by donation and fundraising where everyone is welcome.
“People that come here feel loved, wanted and that they matter,” says Melissa. “That’s what our teenagers need. It’s a place where the youth can be safe. Everyone is welcome here.” 
Since 2014, mission trips have become an annual quest for the youth group. This year they went to Guatemala in late June/early July, where they helped with a building project and visited numerous villages, spending time with children doing various activities. The mission was in partnership with Centro Cristiano Cultural de Guatemala (CCCG).
“We travelled to a lot of villages,” says youth leader Brett Smith. “We took soccer balls, colouring books and bubbles and spent time playing with the kids and having fun.”
They also had sports jerseys donated by Barrington Municipal High School to give out.  “They were so excited to get them. They’re big into soccer so any jerseys they get is awesome. I’m glad BMHS donated those. It was certainly worth it.”

The experience was humbling, eye opening and inspiring for members of the youth group who went on the mission.
“I was humbled by the experience,” says Marty Swim. “To see other cultures, see how they live, what they have and don’t have,” Swim says, including the basics like food for survival. “When I come back, I feel so energized with gratitude for what we have, what the Lord have gave us here in North America.”
For son Josh who has been on quite a few mission trips, he says, "it confirmed for me I’m not going to live overseas. It’s not that I had a bad time. I had a good experience but I saw the passion of the Guatemala team that was there and how much they loved their people and their country and that inspired me to bring that back here and just affirmed to me this is where I’m going to live. Some of our team have considered moving overseas as missionaries, but it affirmed to me that what I’m going to do, I’m going to do here.”
The Guatemala mission was the first one for youth group member Brett Atkinson but not likely his last. “It has brought a lot of thought to me,” he says. “They don’t need material things to be happy,” adding the trip has made him “grateful that we live in a free country and more grateful for what we have in Canada.”
The take away was similar for fellow youth group members Jessica Swim and Ryan Richardson. “To see the people so happy with what they had made me really think I should be really thankful for what I have, and for Canada,” says Swim. 
“We need to be more thankful for things,” says Richardson adding the trip made him realize language isn’t necessarily a barrier to having to relationship and interacting with people.
 For Hayley Hallett, the Guatemala mission was her second. She has also participated in Me to We with BMHS. “It was really cool to focus on God and how he is moving through different countries,” says Hallett. “You could definitely feel His presence in Guatemala.  I just like focusing on that and seeing the joy on everyone’s faces. We never me an angry person or upset person even though they had nothing. It’s really inspiring to get back home and tell people about that.”
The Agape Café Youth Group has also gone on missions to Haiti and inner-city missions to New York and Toronto. 
Meanwhile back on the home front, for the summer months Agape Café is open for business from Tuesdays to Saturdays from 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. where specialty coffees ground on site are served as well as home baked sweets for a donation. “Everything is cost of donation. There’s no prices,” says Smith. “All donations go back to café.”
During the summer months, Agape Café holds youth group on Fridays for youth in Grades 7 through 12 as well as other events including soccer games at the nearby Richard Swain athletic field, or volleyball on Stoney Island beach. Once school resumes, youth groups are held for students in Grades 7 to 9 and 10 to 12. Agape Café is also involved with other initiatives at BMHS.
Agape Café is often used by other groups for various purposes, from socializing to delivering programs.
“One thing that is special about Agape is that we unashamedly love Jesus and because we have experienced the love he has given us, that’s what drives us to go to these countries and do the things in the high school and open up this café because that love is driving us to see leaders raised up in our community  and see it transformed and see issues like depression and drug addiction eradicated and that’s what driving  the force behind the Agape Café,” says Smith. “We want to be able to extend that love to others.”
 To find out more about Agape Café, visit their Facebook page. 

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