Photo: Kaneland junior Jeremy Faivre recently created an oil pastel painting for the Community Congregational Church in Elburn. The church held a dedication to the painting, entitled “The Gift,” on Sunday during the morning service. Photo by Kimberly Anderson
by Susan O’Neill
ELBURN—Kaneland High School student Jeremy Faivre wasn’t sure what he would find at the Elburn Community Congregational United Church of Christ two years ago, when his mom suggested they begin attending church there. He was 15 years old at the time.
“I didn’t really care for myself or others, and didn’t think others cared about me,” he said.
Jeremy initially asked himself, “What am I doing here?” and said it felt weird to talk about God. He had gone to church when he was very young, but had not been back for a number of years.
Jeremy and his 11-year-old brother, Jacob, then went to the Wednesday night youth group. At first, Jeremy didn’t really want to go.
“(He) dragged me along with him,” Jeremy said. “I guess I owe him a thank-you.”
What Jeremy found there was friendship and acceptance. The other young people in the group were also students at Kaneland, but Faivre had never met them before. Calling it “ironic,” Jeremy said that, after the evening was over, he thought they were the “coolest, interesting, and awesome people ever.”
Jeremy said that his experiences with the church just kept getting better and better. He had felt welcomed by Pastor Michelle Prentice-Leslie when he first arrived, and as time went on, he became close with the other people in his youth group.
He saw himself changing, too.
“He attended almost every time we met,” youth group leader Jessie Van Develde said.
Van Develde said that she didn’t really see the changes taking place. To her, Faivre was always a “kind, compassionate, and wonderful person, a very positive person.”
But Faivre felt the changes inside of him, and he said he was grateful to the church and the people there for their friendship. He decided that he wanted to paint a picture for the church, and when he showed Pastor Michelle some of his work, she encouraged him.
Following youth service on Sunday, the church held a dedication of the painting that Faivre calls “The Gift.” Faivre unveiled the painting that had been hanging on the wall outside the sanctuary. The painting incorporates many symbols that depict Faivre’s life and the church, and messages about who he had been, what he had found, what he learned and who he has become.
The centerpiece of the picture shows two hands touching. The left hand represents himself and, more generally, the human race. There are thorns on that hand, “symbolizing troubles that people go through to become who they are now,” he said.
The right hand, reaching out to the left hand, is Jesus, interacting with the human race.
Other symbols include pizza and items that represent mission trips and other experiences Faivre has had through the church.
“I didn’t know he was having such a hard time,” VanDevelde said. “When he made this painting, it brought me to tears. It’s been a pleasure having him and his mother in church.”
The youth group has gone to conferences and on mission trips to places such as Wayside Cross Ministries After School program in Aurora—a food pantry near VanDevelde’s house—and a vacation Bible school in Indianapolis for low-income children.
VanDevelde said the young people learn something about other people’s lives through these trips. Some of their parents are in jail, and there is always the risk of gangs in their neighborhoods.
Van Develde said that when she was younger, she went on a mission trip and it made a huge impact on her. She wants to provide those experiences for the young people at the Elburn church.
“We’re all learning from each other,” she said.
Kaneland junior Jeremy Faivre recently created an oil pastel painting for the Community
Congregational Church in Elburn.
The church held a dedication to
the painting, entitled “The Gift,”
on Sunday during the
Photos by Kimberly Anderson
The Gift” by Jeremy Faivre.
Photo by Kimberly Anderson