Ok, so I had a night tonight that I cannot not write about. But I have to warn you that I am not at all sure what to think—much less say—about it yet…other than the fact that it was absolutely beautiful.
I have a friend named Tony that is a youth director at a very large Independent Baptist church in my community. Tony and I have known each other for about a year and during that time I have really grown to love and respect him. I have also become incredibly grateful for who he is and what he does. As a part of his job at the church he runs something called Teens for Christ bible clubs in each of the high schools and middle schools in the entire county! A monumental task! But one he does with such great energy and care; as well as an incredibly positive and passionate spirit. Well tonight Tony and his church had a Teens for Christ Crusade in the auditorium at our high school and Tony asked me to come. As I said, I really love and admire Tony and wanted to go and support my friend…and I am so glad I did.
I have another friend named Justin, who is one of my dearest friends in the world. Justin and I have known each other for about 10 years and walked a lot of life, and faith, and ministry together. Justin is a brother, an intimate friend, a partner, and so much more. As a matter of fact I’m not sure I have enough words to tell you about our relationship…suffice it to say he is a true gift to me! Well Justin was speaking at a Young Life club for 4-5 high schools in our part of town tonight as well. It was the kick off for the camp sign-ups for these five schools and the hope was that it would provide some life and momentum to the ministry in each of these schools as they try to get kids signed up for summer camp—which it certainly did!!! It was an absolutely wonderful YL club, and an absolutely wonderful message as well.
Luckily for me, Tony’s crusade started at 6:30 and was over by 8:10 and the YL club Justin was speaking at was about ¼ of a mile away from the high school and started at 8:00…which was perfect, I could make it to both. I had braced myself for the differences in the two…and they were indeed different in significant ways. As a matter of fact, on the surface, they were worlds different. But what I wasn’t particularly prepared for was how similar they were.
As I parked my car and walked to the Teens for Christ Crusade I was met in the parking lot by incredibly kind people that were genuinely glad that I was there. And as I approached the school to enter the auditorium I met wave after wave of more incredibly kind and genuinely glad people that made it obvious to me that this event was being put together by an entire community— a purposeful and passionate community. Everything was thought through and set up with vision, purpose, and intention. Once inside the meeting, the thing that captured me most was not the difference in style or flavor compared to what I was used to, but the passion. The people, both on the stage and on the floor (with the kids) were passionate about these kids hearing the incredible news of God’s great love for them in Christ. And as I sat in my seat and watched it all unfold; as I heard the message, and saw kids giving their hearts to Jesus, tears streamed down my cheeks. It was so beautiful…so very different than what I was used to…and so beautiful. I went up afterward and told my friend Tony how proud I was of him and how grateful I was for who he was and how he is giving his life away. And as I went to my car the gratitude continued to overflow…so grateful that I had gotten to share a wonderful night with a wonderful friend.
So I got in my car, and I drove less than 2 minutes down the road to the Barn, where, by now, the YL club was in full swing. I got there at about 8:15 and saw that all of the kids were already inside—as I thought they would be—and in the middle of club. As I walked to the door I was captured by what I saw outside, and had to stop to drink it all in. Just outside the Barn doors, on the tennis court and the grassy lawn, was an intricate set-up of wonderful activities that had obviously just been abandoned as everyone rushed in to begin club. There were cornhole boards, games, balls, Frisbees, refreshments, sign-up tables…things that just moments before had been in full use by various groups of kids and leaders. It was everything you needed, or could imagine necessary, for the perfect atmosphere; wonderfully and intentionally set up to provide just the right space for kids to feel safe, cared for, and at home. And as I looked in the doors of club I saw a very different looking room, in some ways, from the one I had seen just moments earlier, but with some striking similarities. It was a room full of kids dressed a little differently than the ones before and engaged in activities that were a little different than the ones before, but I couldn’t get past what was the same. Sitting beside these kids were their YL leaders—and entire community of them—all of whom were intentionally passionate about their high school friends hearing the incredible news of God’s great love for them in Christ. I pulled up a rocking chair just outside the open back door and took it all in….and it was simply beautiful. And as Justin spoke to them about the amazing love of Jesus, once again tears began to stream down my cheeks…and once again I began to overflow with gratitude, that in one night I had the privilege of seeing two different mission communities, led by two different wonderful friends, loving Jesus and loving high school kids in two very different, but beautifully similar ways. Thanks be to God!