After a full year of college under their belts, a full year “out on their own,” we got back together for our small group reunion. And how things have changed from when I first met them.
In fact, I couldn’t help but be amazed by them, but mostly by God.
|Be honest, do I look like I am actually just in high school too….
They all came over, one by one. We used to do this every Wednesday together, looking forward to it each week. But this time, a reunion, not bible study.
As they gathered together and chatted, I got up;
“I’ll be right back, I have to check the brownies,” I told them, watching their faces.
“Ok!” they said over their shoulder, and started discussing their lives that are interwoven with one another like fabric. As the tooth pick came out still doughy, I heard their chatter, their laughter, their encouragement to one another, they were talking about a bonfire they had just had together, I marveled. Three years ago, when we had just started meeting, it was a different story.
I had always been the glue, their only connection was me, and leaving the room for a moment lead to awkward silences, and darting glances at the floor, they were strangers to one another–different schools, different interests.
But God did some good work in this group, he brought us far.
|I know, I know hotdogs, but hey, we still want to serve while on a budget!
Andrew loves them too, he pulled out the shirt he wore on our first date. They always love hearing about when we dated, how we dated, how we got engaged, and married, and we love sharing with them. “This is the stuff that will effect your life forever, seek God, chose wisely! Choose a man who loves God first, and who sees your true value,” we’re a broken record.
Two years ago, on a whim I signed up to lead a “high school group” at my church. When driving there the first time, I knew I had made a mistake, and felt sick. (No literally sick, it had never happened to me before, I am not a nervous person) “I don’t even like highschoolers!” I realized, but I pushed through, cause I think God had pressed this one on my heart, “Fine God! I’ll suffer for you!” I grumbled.
I offered to help with 9th and 10th grade, the needed 11th and 12th grade leaders.
The first night, Mandy and I had 2 girls show up to small group. One boy crazy, the other scared and silent.
“This is going well.”
But, I changed my attitude, they were kind of sweet, and pretty precious in their own way. We decided to invest in both of these girls who hadn’t been to church since junior high, to show them that I truly cared about them, and that reading the bible is fun. “If it’s just these two all year, oh well,” I thought. “I can’t complain about the state of youth, or our society if I am not making an investment, right?”
More girls came, and slowly, we all learned how much we loved reading the bible together, and loved each other. The girls were so different from each other, with different pasts, but one thing in common, our group. I saw them making wiser choices, and it felt good to see! They would be blown away by what they read in the bible, and it was amazing to be a part of. I came home each night feeling so joyful and happy–we were all connecting and growing. “This is NOT sacrifice God, this is blessing!” (another moment of God teaching me to trust him)
Together we discovered Reece’s Rainbow and picked a child to pray and donate to. That child was adopted that same night we prayed. We were hooked and picked a new child. We’d meet up on weekends to raise support for them, as our relationships grew, the girls started to really care about children and especially orphans. They got their friends and families involved. So cool.
I would be so happy to see the girls, who used to be strangers, spending time with each other, knowing these friendships were based on love and growth and on serving God. (Cause some other teenager friends are better to only just see at school, you know? If you know, you know 😉
After a year, the girls went on missions trips together to Ecuador and Fiji, the year after to Africa, serving children, orphans, women and working hard–learning the joy of giving, opposite from the American teenager perspective.
My sweet husband Andrew would sometimes overhear their conversations about guys at the beginning of our night, and say to them all grumpy, “I don’t like him, I don’t like how he’s going about pursuing you, and you can do better,” with a grumpy face. I would laugh and agree! But what’s funny is that later, many of the girls told me it made a big difference in their decisions, that maybe there were better guys out there. “I had never heard that from a guy before, you know?” (Andrew is going to make an amazing father to a daughter 🙂 We need more people telling the truth to the young women in this world.
I’m not trained, didn’t know what I was doing, and was mostly winging it. Each and every night. I thought that as a leader my job was to get them all to talk and share, not really me doing most the talking, which took the pressure off. But I knew it was my job to see the gifts God had uniquely given each one, then to tell them what I saw. They would just stare at me.
“So, you really think I am a good listener? You really think I’m good with kids? You honestly think I am good at that?” they would ask, surprised.
“Um, yeah, everyone knows it too!” I said, at that point almost feeling like I had wasted time not mentioning it earlier. “You are such a good listener, and make anyone who is talking to you feel really good and loved, I think that there are so many ways you can use that to show others love, just like God wants you to. That’s why he made you that way!”
“Really?” they questioned.
Three yes three of my girls since graduating high school signed up to lead their own small group of junior high students. They meet with them weekly, and invest in their lives, reading and praying together. Plus, they have made incredible friends with the cool group of leaders in the junior high ministry. They all hang out together investing their time in such healthy lifestyles at this age. I feel like a proud mommy.
As I am writing down these memories, part of me hopes someone might read this and think to themselves that they might be interested in volunteering with you ministry. You literally don’t have to know anything about what to do, just be there, and love. I read stories like this from ABC news and just wish there were more people that would be willing to invest in some youth, even for just 2 hours a week, even if they don’t like high schoolers (Like I didn’t! 😉
I am going to share something with you that is very special to me. Recently, they were at a retreat with the junior highers at church and they wrote me: “Amy, you are so cute! We both love you and we both agreed that we don’t know where we would be without you. You are our role model and we want to be like you and have a family like yours. You mean the world to us. You changed us for the better and we would be so lost without you.”
Pass a tissue. It was all worth it.
If I can do it, anyone can. I did it as sacrifice, but I walked away the most blessed.
|Roasting marshmallows outside and listening to African music, sharing about every part of our lives. God is good.
Plus, I and all my friends have all the best childcare in the world now. Seriously.
I love you girls! You bless me everyday, and God cherishes you, and made you so special.