My kids almost missed it. I almost missed it!
It was the youth trip to the St. Louis Project this summer and it was incredible.
Thank God that what began as a somewhat-sore subject to talk about with our kids turned out to be one of the mightiest ways that we have seen Him move in their lives.
We had three teenagers who were eligible to attend. They repeatedly expressed their opinions that they didn’t really want to go. It was your typical parent-kid struggle and, an all-out tug-of-war at times. As the parents, we’d pray and discuss our convictions together. As the kids, they’d of course plead and annoy us with their questions about why. In their eyes, what they wanted to do was more important.
By the way, I’m not singling my kids out, here—we all know what it was like to be teenagers– busy and focused on what they want to do, not what their parents think they should do.
Oh ya, I forgot to mention. The faithful youth pastor kept asking. Talk about holy pressure!
Finally, the deadline came and the decision was made. Our teens were officially signed up. All three of them were going on mission to an inner-city apartment complex to do a vacation Bible school.
Here’s one of the first incredible things that I watched take place. When the end decision was made, I saw these kids (almost literally) breathe a sigh of relief. There was a sense of peace over their faces. They had, though not wanting to make the sacrifice for this trip, experienced our loving discipline and were safe in the confines of the God-given boundaries we had placed around them.
They were going on this trip. And the reality was, they had actually enjoyed the very same trip the year before! The relationships they had made with the children there had made a huge impression on them. In their heart of hearts, they wanted to go back to see them again.
So guess what? With the preparation for their trip came a few smiles! And boy did I soak it in. These kids of mine were sincerely joyful at the thought of having the opportunity to serve Nucci, Little C, and the others whom they hoped they would again encounter this summer.
There’s a huge lesson in that for all of us. The sinful nature and the flesh will have us wrestle the spirit with what we know will be a blessing. Kids or adults. It’s a fight we all face.
Did I mention that I had my own lessons to learn in this process? There was a need for a female chaperone and I was just not jumping at the opportunity. Like my teens, I struggled with the idea of giving up my week, my time, my effort, my sleep, my energy to go. It was really my motherly instincts wanting to “be there” with them (because of where they were going) and the mercy of God working that made me finally decide that I would go.
Let me just say that there are great things waiting on the other side of obedience. The youth from our church pulled together with the other church group at our ministry site to serve and love on many, many children and adults at that apartment complex. We spent time getting to know them, laughing with them, corralling them, carrying them around, teaching them and showing them Jesus’ love. We read Bible stories, we sang songs, we played recreation games, we fed them snacks, we prayed over and with them and we shared the Gospel to their thirsty souls. We took what little we had to offer and God multiplied it beyond what we could have ever imagined.
I had the privilege of seeing my teenagers and their friends sacrifice in the heat and difficult circumstances for the cause of Christ. Less-than-ideal conditions like fifteen plus youth boys sleeping on air mattresses in one Sunday school classroom. Like sticking to a rigid schedule and having to drive to a separate location to take showers. Like being kept up late for worship service or more ministry when all they (well, really me and my old self) really wanted to do was rest.
I am quite certain that my three teenagers—that our entire group of youth– would tell you that it was all worth it. That God was there and He blessed it. They now have ongoing relationships that are being formed with some of those children, year after year—what a sight to behold. Two of those stinkers tried to leave with us in our van, hollering “We love you, Cornerstone!” as we gave our last hugs and said our goodbyes.
I cannot believe that we almost missed it!
By the grace of God, we didn’t. And by the grace of God, we’ll all be going back next year. Fights or no fights. Struggles or no struggles. We can rest assured that God will bless us—parents, kids and leaders alike–as we bless others in the name of His Son, Jesus.