For several years, I begged three or four of the young men in our church youth group to go to camp with us. Their excuses were creative and varied, but bottom line was, they didn’t think camp was “for” them. Now, these are good kids, every one. They have grown up in church, attend a Christian school, are active in sports, have jobs. These fellas competed in Bible Drill competitions and constantly came away winners—good kids.
In my heart, I felt that if they could be removed from their comfortable environments, where they were admired and loved by everyone (no kidding—they are), that they might possibly be challenged to stretch beyond that boredom. So, I never quit begging. Finally, in January this year, they all agreed to go to camp this ONE time, just for me (so I’d shut up!). I didn’t care what their reason was. I didn’t care that their moms had possibly ganged up on them. I just didn’t care why–I was ecstatic that they were going. I began praying immediately. I constantly reminded them how happy I was they were going to camp. “It’s going to be such a great time,” I told them.
Camp came, and the first three days of camp, the guys played along, but I could sense they weren’t really getting into it. God was at work, of course, and things were going on in the background that I didn’t know about. One of the guys made fun of his counselor, how he was so silly and “out there.” However, during their Bible study time early in the week, this counselor had shared his testimony with his group, and my guy heard about a life of pain and abuse that he could only imagine in his perfect world. It began to work on his soul.
One of the fellas stepped out of his comfort zone and reached out to one of the shy-est kids in our group. It was not something he might do in another world, but he acted in the moment, and came away a better person for having done so.
In addition, these young men watched how we chaperones treated all our kids, regardless of economic standing or position in the world of teenager-dom . They watched as my husband–their pastor and a man they truly admire–cried through worship hymns one evening as he experienced God’s touch on his heart. And they began to think– but not out loud; I doubt one of the fellas knew what the other three were thinking about at all–that would have been way too “wussy” to talk about.
On Thursday evening, when I entered the auditorium a few minutes early to find our seats and spend a few minutes praying for our kids, I felt a huge difference in the air. I knew something was up. So I began to pray. I prayed for every single seat of our group and for the young life that would be sitting in that chair that evening. And sure enough, when the service began, I knew, I knew, I knew God had been at work that day.
The praise leader came onto the stage, and it was clear he had been crying. He told the kids, “I’m not going to tell you how to worship tonight–if you want to stand, you stand. If you want to sit, you sit. Hands up or down, you do what God leads you to do. I only ask this. Do just one thing differently than you would normally do. Step out of your comfort zone for just a bit, and ask God to meet you there.” Wow, wow, wow. After about a half hour (me crying most of that), it was clear that God was working and the Holy Spirit was moving. The guys were two rows behind me, and when I happened to glance back to check on everyone, I noticed they were visibly touched by what was happening around them and in them.
We never had a sermon that evening. The speaker told us to just continue worshipping as we were and then go to our group study. As we finished singing and headed out the door, all the girls were in front of me. I counted them all and then turned around to find the guys. They caught up with me, clearly touched, having been convicted by the Holy Spirit and with greater emotion than I’d witnessed in them as long as I’d know them. We walked to the room where our group met each evening and spent the next two hours talking, praying, repenting, and encouraging each other. God got hold of those young men that night. It’s been several weeks since that evening, and I still feel as if my heart will burst with the memory.
Next day, one of the guys went to the campus bookstore and bought a new Bible. Another of the fellas called Dave from the bookstore the next week with questions about Bibles. He ended up buying a new Bible, a young man’s study and a couple other things. A couple of the young men took their iPods to the youth minister and asked him to take off the music they didn’t need and put some of his Christian music on for them. All of them have a look in their eyes that tells of the change God has made in their hearts. They were all good kids to begin with—no question in my mind about that. Now, they are good kids who love Jesus, for real. It shows in their eyes, in their words, and in their actions.
God is so good.