Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Gearing UP - 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

This weekend we will host our first overnight event for the youth.  I'm seeing youth ministry from new perspectives these days.  Honestly, I've never been a big "youth-grouper".  John Perkins in his book, "Justice For All," cautions that the things you critique with discernment will no doubt call you at some point.  So ironically, the Lord has called us to this good work.  It's not that I don't regard the youth or see extreme potential in them as young adults and reason to therefore invest.  However, growing up I never really enjoyed the various youth ministries I was a part of.  Maybe it had to do with the fact that I grew up so quickly.  Broken homes can do that to kids.   I don't know.... playing leap frog until wee-hours into the morning or enjoying the high of Mountain Dew wasn't alluring to me, in the least.  It could be personality factors too.  I still prefer one on one with friends and older adults or the company of a small posse.

So here we are in the trenches of youth  ministry.  Our youth varies in numbers around 100 young adults with 40 regular attenders.  They've mentioned several times their fond memories of past events.  For them, it is a stake in time,  something to look forward to, time to hole up and get to know each other, building memories and opportunity for concentrated spiritual input.  Maybe the way that I view family vacation or the chance to get out of town with some friends or attend a conference.  These youth have much to teach me and they are.

The other night we were practicing for a music skit they are putting together for Youth Sunday.  After a hard night's work Jason and I opted to buy pizza from a local "fast food" restaurant.  This being the epic of the evening to us was a side note to them.  Many of them weren't even planning on eating.  They were more excited about singing praise songs together around the strum of the guitar.  Unabashedly, they hammered out the tunes to a new song.  They weren't fearful of learning it together, one was off key here, another missed the entrance and this one messed up the words.  None of this hindered their genuine worship and enjoyment of each other.  This particular small group has grown up together; attending the same English speaking school in the neighborhood.  They watch out for each other like family.  Jason and I sat by the chilling pizza in baffled awe; having mentioned a couple of times, "It's ready - let's eat."  We commented how much we had to learn from them.  Talk about feeling inadequate.

So this Friday we are hosting an all night event at the church.  It's by invitation only.  If they attended the past 5 times out of 10 they've been invited.  The requirement is their invitation and permission slip.  One young man whispered to Jason off to the side, "Is it okay if the pastor of the church where I sleep at night signs my permission slip?"  He doesn't have any other parental figure than the kind pastor who only opened up the church cement floor to him.  (pause and reflect and pray)  This overnight is such a gift of local fun, a mark of time, an opportunity to grow, to be poured into...

It's often difficult to accomplish things here; making special-extra things even more of a savored gift and it gets dark here so early that once school is out there are only a small-few hours to hang out.  Locking everyone in for a night provides more time.  And even more perspective: The opportunities to grow in relationships and to organically mentor around events like this is eye-opening.  For example a group of girls are coming over Friday to help make cinnamon rolls in preparation for Saturday morning's breakfast.  Time together.  Time discovering what makes each one tick.  Time to teach ordinary things like bread-making, hospitality, doing small things with great love.  Time.  Relationships need common goals, time and fun in order to grow!

We're praying for God to give us supernatural energy for this.  As it is, we crawl into bed with a smile at night.  Rest is a gift.  We're thankful for the handful of people that are helping out with food and parental over site!  Bring on the weekend!  AND...the coffee!  So thankful that God is continually at work in us; keeping me from getting old and crusty with "opinions" and one-sided perspectives.  Keep growing us Lord.  We're OPEN!