Our summer started, as always, with Youth Camp in June. This was my third year to go with HCBC and Paul's second, but the difference this year was that we had our very own cabin! We had a cabin generously donated to us by a church that had disbanded. It's not fancy, needs some work and about 2000 more square feet, but it's OURS. We are one of the smallest churches in the association, but have one of the largest youth groups.
The summer that has been so very mild decided to show one big huzzah of heat....during the week the youth were at camp. The children had gone the week before and enjoyed temps in the 80's. We had one day during our week where it got up to 111*. Yeah. That was fun.
Our church held a Youth VBS this summer as well. As far as we know, we were only one of two churches in the association that had one and we heard that this year was the other church's last year to do it. We had no idea what to expect going into it, had no idea how the kids would react to what we had planned, had no idea if the things we had planned would work and really just prayed that God would show up and show off.
Oh, He did.
The theme was Go. Simply two letters and a period. Go. We had planned a mission for each day and a fun activity or outing for each evening. Pretty much nothing went as planned all week LOL. The first day our mission was to paint and clean at the homeless shelter in Miami. It rained all day long. Which blew our outing to Carousel Park in Joplin, a small amusement park with go carts and bumper cars, etc. We scrambled around for a Plan B, committed to it......and the sun came out. *sigh* We ended up not chancing a re-fire-up of the rain and took the kids to see Despicable Me 2. They loved it.
That first day's mission was painting and cleaning and we were told they had about four hour's work to do, which is exactly what we needed. Except when you have 24 very willing and energetic teenagers doing four hour's work, it turns into about and hour and a half. There we were, doing things they didn't even ask us to do, just trying to come up with something to kill time and the pastor said, "We've got to find another mission! What do you have up your sleeve?" I made a quick call to my stepmom who just happened to be working that day and Plan B fell into place. We loaded up the kids in the church bus, told them we were taking them across town to the nursing home and a collective groan arose from the masses. I told them to remember Jesus talking about "the lease of these", a lesson we had covered in Sunday School and youth group just weeks before, and the entire attitude of the group changed.
We went over there thinking we'd kill an hour and then head back to the church. Our amazing wonderful stupendous fabulous youth group took to ministering to those elderly folks like a bunch of ducks to water. After two and a half hours, more than a few tears (from us, the kids and the residents), hilarious conversations, and about a dozen a capella hymns in the dining room, we practically dragged the kids out of the building amidst pleas of, "Please bring us back! Can we come back tomorrow?"
And just like that, our new nursing home ministry was born.
All from a Plan B.
I love it when God does stuff like that.
We did five days of mission work, from multiple nursing home visits to lawn mowing to cleaning the church, top to bottom, inside and out. One day, we got so busy working that we didn't even get to the fun outing in the evening and only one kids complained (but he was our resident complainer, so we ignored him). I have never seen a group of kids more dedicated to servanthood in God's name in my life.
Paul and I started in youth ministry three years ago. Out of the six kids we had at the time, two were ours, and most of them were only sixth graders we boosted up into the youth room just so we could say we even had a youth group. Then soon six kids turned into ten, then 15 and now God has blessed us with a group of about 22 students. We may go as high as 25 on a Wednesday, but we usually hover around 20-22. People tell us we're doing a good job and we appreciate that, but really, we're just honored and blessed to even get to be a part of what God is doing. We haven't done anything more than go where He's lead and do what He's said. It's been amazing.
They aren't the same kids they were at the beginning of the summer. That is a really good thing. They were good kids before, but they are great kids now. Their whole attitudes have changed. They look for ways to serve others. That is a very rare thing with this generation of self-absorbed, duck-face-making, Instagram uploading, forty-leven selfie shots every day on Facebook kinda kids.
We had a hope when we started planning this youth VBS that, God willing, if the kids responded well we would start preparing them for a mission trip within a year or two. We now know that these kids are ready, willing and able. The Director of Missions, after hearing the stories about our kids, said he felt they were ready. We are now looking for a big mission trip opportunity and when I think about it, I literally get goosebumps and my insides feel like jello. God has something big in store for us, I just know it. We are seeking His will and I am so excited I can hardly see straight!
We've brought in another couple to help us with our ever-growing group of students and so far they are a perfect fit. The kids love them and it's giving us the support and back-up we've been desperately needing. We've been praying for over a year that God would send the perfect couple to our church and give them a heart for our kids. Not only did God send them, they have become our dearest friends. Their girls have been such blessings to us, they themselves have blessed us and bolstered us in so many ways. We took a vacation together, we've cried to each other (Well, that was pretty much just us women. As far as I know, the men haven't shared tears yet :)) and shared concerns, blessings, prayers and hallelujahs. Recently, they eased into the youth group and the kids embraced them with open arms.
If you are a praying person, we ask that you lift up our youth group. They are great kids, but still susceptible to the world's evils and temptations. School is starting and they will be getting busy and distracted. We just pray that the fire that was lit in them this summer doesn't go out when they enter the halls of their schools. Pray that they stay focused and diligent. Also pray that God sends us the right mission opportunity and things fall into place. We are confident He will, but it never hurts to have believers stand together and intercede.
God is just so very, very good.