Giovanni Hollis watched as his mother spent every Friday night helping young people develop a relationship with God.
Now he’s following in her footsteps, volunteering with a number of youth-based Christian organisations.
The 18-year-old has served as a member of the AME Conference’s Young People’s Division for four years, has co-hosted the St Luke’s Gospel Concert with radio personality Nikita Robinson, and run various clothing and food drives for the underprivileged.
He’s also organised international conferences for the AME church and founded a book drive to donate reading materials to public schools.
“My earliest memory of serving in ministry would be in worship, leading the children’s service almost every month for a couple years,” said Mr Hollis, this year’s recipient of Teen Service’s Spiritual Leadership Award.
“I enjoy the feeling of knowing I’ve made an impact on someone’s life and that God has used me for that. That is why I always give with a smile. It is something my family always taught my sisters and I to do.
“I enjoy service because I always feel humbled and happy at the ability to recognise my own privilege in society and use it to give back and help others.”
He began following spiritual principles and teachings at a young age after seeing the way God guided and protected the people around him and poured out His favour on their lives.
“My mother, for example, has been running a YPD chapter for almost 20 years most Friday nights, which involves Bible lessons, arts and crafts and [gives] a full meal to young people — all out of her own pocket,” he said. “Living in such a tough economy, but seeing how she still sacrificed, this really made me realise that God can provide a way.
“He can use someone to help others through all obstacles. Also, seeing how genuine of a giver my mother was really helped me realise that with God’s help I can realise my full potential and live a life that is pleasing to Him.”
He was very excited to learn he had been nominated for an Outstanding Teen Award.
“I’m aware of the significance of the awards in the Bermudian community. To me, it meant that my school saw in me potential to succeed and evidence of my leadership and passion.”
The awards presentation on April 20 was a proud moment for the teen. The cherry on top was winning alongside his best friend, fellow Warwick Academy student Kirsten Maske, whom he describes as “a big spiritual mentor”. “I see her work hard every single day despite adversity and criticism,” Mr Hollis said. “As someone who isn’t a morning person, for example, I found it really admirable that Kirsten got up to make the 6.30am sunrise service at her church.
“For me personally, winning that award meant that God recognised my achievements and was giving me an opportunity to be recognised by the Bermudian community at large for the work that I’ve done.”
It also showed him that God believed he was “on the right path”, Mr Hollis said.
“I felt grateful for the award because in walking up to the stage and hearing my friends and family shout my name, I was reminded of all the people it took to get me to this place in life. In my house, there’s a painting that says ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ and that’s truly a phrase my family adopts.”
He’s learnt that you have to trust God through the good and bad seasons in life. One his favourite passages of scripture is from Psalms 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.”
“God is exalted when we serve Him and when we let His light shine through us,” Mr Hollis said. “This is a verse that I discovered during a Bible study with Kirsten last year that describes the necessity of an everlasting and unrelenting trust in Him and a realisation that giving our troubles to God is the best option rather than trying to see them through our own eyes. Having already gone through several trials and tribulations, I have surrendered to Him in the past and will continue to trust that He will help me through my troubles for the rest of my life.”
This September, Mr Hollis will head to Boston, Massachusetts to study bioengineering at Northeastern University.