Recently I had the opportunity to serve alongside Pastor Kyle Curry and our RSM High School leaders at their winter camp. The timing of the weekend came at the end of an especially busy few months and I was looking forward to serving the Lord in a different capacity and among a much younger demographic from our church. I’d served in a youth group in my 20s and learned then that the biggest blessing one could offer each student was full acceptance and love. They desperately needed to understand they were loved by their Creator. My teenage years were painful but it was during those years, when too many issues seemed insurmountable, that God gripped my heart.
Teenagers are wonderful in all their youth, giggles, grunts, insecurities and awkwardness. They are playful yet contain great depth of thought and wonder for the future. Although they begin to grasp the ugliness of sin, they are still close enough to touch the innocence of childhood. They can maintain a unique perspective on the world and bridge the gap between youth and adulthood as they come to the end of student life; all they’ve known since they could first remember.
I saw familiar faces of many of your children and even those who knew not a soul or deeply desired connection with a peer. There were athletes, scholars, artists, comedians, and students with varying passions. The leaders were akin to mother hens repeatedly counting each chick to be certain all were held in the fold of love and not left out in the cold. Their care for these students was genuine, transparent and bold. As an outsider looking in…rest assured…they saw each of your children and sought to express love to them the way any parent would. These youths became their children while under their watch. Truth, grace, love and prayers were spoken.
We looked at the woman at the well in John 4 over the course of the weekend and studied her interaction with Jesus. The students were challenged to assess their current paradigm on identity and grasp that God’s opinion of them should ring the loudest bell in their hearts and minds. The Holy Spirit was speaking to everyone present.
God did an amazing work Saturday. I wanted to store it in a bottle and bring it back so people back home, parents and others at Reliance Church, could witness what transpired. I wanted you to take part and receive the blessing of God’s work on the mountain that day.
Pastor Kyle was inspired by the Holy Spirit and it was beautiful to witness his vulnerability which God then used to help the students connect with Him. They could grow and step out in faith because they saw their pastor step out in faith that way first. After the message Saturday night, I sang Josh White’s song “Face to Face” with the candid lyrics:
Minutes dissolve as I fight this fall
I’m learning to crawl, trembling I call
Restrain my heart, replace it with You
Jesus, I’ll deny myself, I will follow You
As I played, the leaders, one by one, walked across the stage with a sign they held up displaying a written word expressing a previous struggle, sin or hurt. The students watched and the leaders then turned the sign over to reveal how God redeemed them and worked in their life. This was followed by applause and cheers from the students as they celebrated the victory won by Jesus. It was the beginning of God cracking open the student’s hearts to receive healing from Him.
Sometimes we need a little coaxing to be vulnerable with our hearts. Students are no exception and yet they were eager to be ministered to by the leaders once shown the way. Leaders were spaced around the room so students could approach them for prayer or counsel. But the students were standing in pews so it required more than the raising of a hand to acknowledge their need for God. At this moment, God spoke to Pastor Kyle and used him to encourage the students to step out in faith. Once they started, all the walls came down and it was an outpouring of emotion from students and leaders alike. As I led them in worship, each youth responded to the Lord through tears, asking for prayer, talking with a leader or authentically worshiping Him.
It was powerful to witness people talking and praying around the room, see their tears or hear their worship in front of me. It wasn’t a cacophony of sounds but rather a harmony of different tones, each representative of the Holy Spirit’s movement throughout hearts. To see people their age be willing to step out in faith and courageously talk, or ask for prayer, was an intrinsic reminder of our need for a Savior every day. May we each be willing to seek God with a hunger in our hearts to be restored and healed by Him daily.
There is great value in taking a temperature of what’s going on with the youth at our church and to see how the youth ministry runs in a different atmosphere than on their regular Tuesday night meetings. This was an opportunity for me to interact with other people at our church. The weekend left me immensely blessed, encouraged and hopeful for the future of the youth at Reliance Church.
I watched the mist cling to the pine trees as I made my way back down the mountain, just as I longed to cling to God’s presence, and it caught my breath. As the sun began to shine and bring its warmth, I was reminded of the face of Jesus as described in Revelation 1:16b (NLT), “And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance.” This was the beginning of a new day dawning in all our lives.