While everyone one else is napping, I am blogging. And I’m happy with that decision.
So, next Sunday I am preaching a sermon called “Children of Hope.” It is part of our Family Ties series, encouraging strong family relationships by challenging everyone to do their part. Since I am the youth pastor, my job is to talk about the next generation: how they are to live and participate within their own (biological and church) families, and how those of older generations (their parents included) can guide them and raise them up.
My task is easy, right? I am the youth pastor, so of course I know what to say and how to challenge youth and adults alike to building stronger family bonds among us, right? Without hesitation, I can say that were it not for God working through one particular experience, I probably would have not much besides uninspired and cliche drivel to offer. And that one particular experience is the Next Gen Youth mission trip to Ensenada, Mexico.
I had countless reminders before and during the trip that we were not nearly as prepared as we should have been. We weren’t prepared with money, we weren’t prepared with supplies, we weren’t prepared with our ministry site planning, and we weren’t prepared even with our roster of students going. (We added a student and dropped another just a few days before the trip.) But here’s what made the difference: I also was not prepared for what God would do among our group, most prominently in the students who seemed hardest to reach.
Out of respect for their privacy, and out of respect for even the slim chance that this blog would ever get any widespread attention, I won’t divulge the details of the stories of some of these students. But let’s just say that some of their stories would shock and horrify most. When one of our students told some of the gritty details of his childhood to the Pentecostal church we visited in Ensenada, many in the congregation were aghast. The pastor even noted that it was revelational for him and many others in the congregation to hear this youngster’s story, because many Mexicans tend to believe that people in the US have lives of luxury, and they certainly don’t have serious financial or familial problems.
And yet, it was in some of these students with rough pasts and painful stories that I saw the biggest transformation. And it was through the influence of some of those students that I saw that transformation spread to others. Tears were shed, friendships went fathoms deeper than they were before, and God became more real to almost every student in our group.
I may have had something to say to the congregation before this trip, but it really does pale in comparison to what The Lord God has blessed me with now: a greater passion and vision for the youth I serve and the youth we have yet to reach. I hope that passion and vision spread like wildfire through the rest of the congregation.