Farewell California: A Reflection

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After an all nighter and a missed flight, I have finally made it home. Its weird to look back on the trip, because it was long enough that I feel like I’ve missed so much of what has happened at home but short enough that it’s flown by. That’s the curious thing about trips.

There is so much I could talk about from this trip, but to save time and hopefully not bore the few who read this; I will talk about two very important things I took away from this trip. The first is simple, yet we Christians get very hung up on it all the time: that scary action of ministering to people. If I am anything like my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and I have spoken to a few who share my feelings, when it comes to sharing the Gospel I always get nervous because I’m afraid I won’t have the right words to say. I was struggling with this during the trip. You see, I was responsible for a group of campers during small group time who would ask me those hard questions to try to trip me up in my faith or in doubt of God. On the first day this happened and I quickly became defensive; I felt like I needed the right words to say to make them believe.

IMG_5626That night, Monday June 20th, during worship the Lord spoke to my heart as I talked to Him about this. Through a vision, He showed me that I was covered by Christ’s outstretched hands on the cross, that my work was covered by His work. He would take care of these questions that the campers really had in their hearts. Over the course of the week, those campers slowly stopped asking the questions to trip me up and instead began to listen and discuss what we were trying to cover. One of these students even prayed for the group at the end of the week, and I call that a victory!

You see, we are the tools. It is God who changes hearts. So when the hard questions come rolling in, it isn’t our task to speak the perfect words of liberation, but rather to show through our lives what liberation in Christ looks like for us. We need to trust that although we may not see the end result, God is using us in our imperfections to bring people to Himself. It’s a lesson I sense we all forget every once and a while. Be encouraged that you are not required to have the perfect words to say. Know that as we are obedient to sharing the simple truth of the Gospel, the Lord is working in the hearts of those to whom we speak.

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A second thing I’ve been learning and I feel very passionate about, being a high school level education major, is about young people. 1 Timothy 4:12 is a well known verse:

“Do not let others think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”

The team I worked with in California was for the most part a younger team than I had expected. There were a few times in which the team struggled with focus and maturity, but besides those moments these young (15-17 year olds) athletes showed me what I’ve always believed about youth. So often in today’s culture we make excuses for misbehavior like “Oh they are just young” as if young people are incapable of big responsibilities. We do not think young people can handle hard topics and big tasks (like leading 250 kids for a week through a sports camp). And because we do not think they can handle it we do not challenge them.

But here is the truth. Young people have the ability to rise to the challenge set before them. Timothy was leading a church when Paul wrote those words to him in 1 Timothy. I saw young men and women rise to the challenge of spreading the Gospel. I saw them lead campers to Christ, campers who were only separated in age by a few years. Let us not make excuses for the generations to come, but understand that we can encourage them to grow by challenging them and putting them in situations that may require big learning curves.

In the education world, we call this “zone of proximal development”, in which the teacher teaches at a level above the learning ability to encourage students to jump to that new level. Here’s something cool that old and young people alike are forgetting: the youth can and will jump to the new, higher levels.

I wrote the following during the week in my journal: “Young people have a high potential to be challenged and stretched. So a thing to learn as a leader is that it is our job to keep encouraging growth in maturity and setting expectations that will make them work for it. We need to be lovingly pushing people to grow.”

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What a trip! I feel like there was so much to learn, so much to be debriefed and reflected upon. I am thankful for the Lord’s blessing in allowing me to go and practice what I am learning about leadership as well as how to be obedient to what He is challenging me to.

Take care y’all, and may you find yourself in the Lord!

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