Monday, February 15, 2010

Loving people to Christ

This Valentines weekend we spent with 20-some of our youth groups finest teens and leaders in MN, at Ironwood Spring Christian Ranch. While we wished everyone could come... God knew who HE wanted there, and I am so filled with hope after watching Him change lives! We had a fantastic time and the above picture shows just how much beautiful snow we had. Perfect for a snow tubing!
I'm still kind of in a state of awe at how God allows us this ministry opportunity. How I'm allowed to be married to Brad and serve at this church with him. The fact that I get to witness these kinds of events blows my mind... like Levii, who is learning how to read her bible. She bought tons of mini-post it notes to make a mark on every page of stuff she's learning. Did I mention she's in 6th grade?! And while she is still very much in the beginning stages of growth - she's eager for it and it challenges my socks off!

I'm overwhelmed with the responsibility of praying for these teens and loving them and teaching them. It's a GOOD overwhelming.

Saturday was filled with games and activities and tons of opportunity to build relationships. There's something about getting away from the "norm" and getting to know people...
like, these guys -->
They may look like a bunch of normal teen guys ;) - but let me tell you... GOD IS AT WORK! (even if they don't know it yet...)

And these precious to me. I loved hanging out with them on the freezing cold tubing hill. They are sweet and thoughtful and encouraging. My junior high girls who will soon enough be our leaders... I just want to trap them forever at this age. Tender and open to what God is doing.

But not all teens are open to God. The deeper we get into this ministry life...the more I see it. It's painful to watch. I've seen rejection of salvation plenty of times before from working at youth camps, being a public school student and even just being a human...but, seeing it now, on this side of life - rips me apart. Much of my Saturday night was spent in tears as I wept for our youth. Our speaker, EJ Swanson, challenged them about "The 3 chairs" - the first being one where you know about God but you just don't care. The second is the "lukewarm" chair... you know the facts, you love God, but... you are usually just really good at putting on the "sunday act" and then being someone else after that. And third was the chair of those soaring... growing and seeking God continually. My heart was so challenged and so were many others. I found myself frustrated at the 1st and 2nd chairs. It's easy to understand the lukewarm, comphy chair - as it seems to be a place where I end up resting more often then not (sigh). But, the first chair is a mystery to me. And as we ended our session and EJ encouraged the kids to evaluate their lives something interesting happened...

GOD MOVED. HE MOVED LOUDLY. I watched some of them squirm... some of them cried, some tried to hide their faces, others didn't care who saw. A few hearts hardened even more and some broke. Hands raised to acknowledge what "chair" they were in and then there was an opportunity to pray with leaders. GOD MOVED. I stood in the back and just cried out to God to keep moving... I felt warm tears start to fall as hands went up. Thank you Jesus!
But, as it has to happen, the session ended...and it was time to move on to the next thing on the schedule. God, of course, isn't bound by our routines and He continued to work throughout the weekend - and moved me on, too. There were more opportunities to talk and interact with the teens. But something I learned this weekend - above any other lesson - was, we LOVE these teens to Christ. We can preach and pray and talk till our heads pop off...but what they SEE is our love for them and our love for Christ.

So, as we tubed down the 90 degree angled "hill" and ate the cafeteria food and sang songs and jousted with Nerf swords... we loved them. As we chatted in our bunk beds, played telephone and got ready in the morning... we loved them. When we Dodge-balled, hockey sticked and smored with them...we loved them. And though we may not see the fruit of the seeds planted for YEARS {gulp}...we've loved them.

I'm totally biased to this ministry, I know that. But, PRAY FOR TEENS! PRAY FOR CHANGE! PRAY FOR WISDOM AND BRAVERY. And if you can think of nothing else to pray for... pray for that man and his wife and those strange, volunteer leaders who are loving your teen to Christ and choosing a weekend of snow tubing with 7th graders over a valentines date at a fancy restaurant. :)


Amy@My Front Porch said...

I'm glad it went so well -- I was praying for you!

And though I'm not directly involved in youth ministry, I have to echo what you said, "Pray for teens!" We desperately need the next generation to be sold out for Christ.

Thanks for all the work and love you and Brad are putting into your ministry!

becky said...

Doesn't it just take you back to our Skyview days?! The cool thing about youth ministry is we get to stay with them and watch them grow...we don't have to leave them at the end of the week. Thanks for the reminder about the awesome responsibility of praying for my teens. :)

The Sneaky Mommy said...

Mandi--there are so many familiar faces in your youth group right now at Saylorville! These are kids Cody and I worked with in Cubbies during our college days and many more are students I taught at Grandview. Many of them have a seriously special place in my heart! Thank you for being such an awesome support to your husband and a passionate, loving follower of Christ that loves students!! These students are so blessed to have you and Brad! (Totally makes me miss being with all the Pausleys, too!)