Since 2005, Chris and I have had the privilege of serving alongside our church’s youth pastor as high school youth leaders. While it has always been a challenge and a joy to serve in this capacity, there are a few moments I can think of that mark the work God is constantly doing.
A few years ago, we attended a youth leaders conference with a particularly hard theme: hurting kids. After an intense day of learning, in detail, some of the horrible things our high schoolers endure and put themselves through, we went to lunch to debrief and pray. One of our prayers was this:
Lord, bring us the kids that other youth groups don’t want.
Looking back on that moment, which I venture to say really changed our perspectives as youth leaders, I marvel at just how God answered it. We don’t have an incredible testimony of God giving us “one such kid” (what does it even mean, anyway?) and how it miraculously made our youth group grow until we were bursting at the seams. Nope. As with many heartfelt, honest prayers, God heard what we really meant: use us however You want. Following that prayer, things changed. I am not entirely certain how, but as youth leaders we were more open, more loving, and more bold with our kids. The quantity of our youth ministry continued to fluctuate, as it seemingly always has, but the quality improved. I learned a lot about true ministry that day when I realized that I did want God to give us “hard” kids and all the challenges that came with serving them.
Two summers ago we hosted an outreach series called GOSPEL Journey. We watched the series first with our regular kids, and then we took a HUGE RISK and watched it again, encouraging them to bring their friends. It worked, and at the end of the summer, one friend, Milton, for whom we had been praying for years, believed in Jesus as his savior. Another of our students described her faith as going from “this big” (imagine her holding her fingers close together to indicate “teeny tiny”) to “THIS BIG” (arms stretched out wide).
As part of our personal response to the prayer we prayed, Chris and I began to think more deeply about ministering to our neighbors. We lived next door to a mom with two teenage daughters, and quickly formed a friendship with them. We’ve been bringing Amber to church with us for months now – she is one of the lights of my life and a constant reminder to me of what my life will be like in Spain. Amber is one of my first spiritual “daughters.”
My favorite part of watching her grow in her faith is seeing her stand firm on the truth she knows to be true, that Jesus Christ died so that she could be forgiven for her sins, and grow in understanding just how deep and wide His love is for her.
December 12, 2010.