The members of Christ Life Young Adults, during the Fall of 2014, were given the opportunity to participate in 1 of 3 Evangelical Missions in the surrounding community. The three choices were: Discovering Christ (DC) at UMBC, assisting in forming a Young Adult group in Dundalk MD or Teen Discovering Christ (TDC) at St. Louis Parish in Clarksville MD.
Of the 3, I chose to assist with TDC at Saint Louis. In the past, I have helped out with Youth Groups before and had helped St. Louis youth ministry earlier in the year and thought it would be fun to help out again. As part of this mission, the young adult team was tasked with doing music ministry, facilitating small groups and other administrative tasks for the TDC course. I was given the role of leading a small group of about 6 teens.
Going into the mission, I thought that this would be entirely a “giving” mission; I would give them my time, share my experiences and perhaps some wisdom given to me by the Holy Spirit. This had become my modus operandi when working with teens; to give and not expect much, if anything, in return. This was my approach to youth ministry because in the past this is how most of the events played out. I would give and not really get anything meaningful in return from the teens or from the activities we did. As such, I had no reason to think I would get anything out of this TDC course.
I was wrong.
The first session started out rocky; the teens were quiet and the discussions were all from the third person and not personal. A few group members seemed more interested in chatting with their friends at another table then the topic at hand. When trying to get the group to go deeper, the other small group leader and I would talk about some of our personal experiences. This had mixed results.
As the weeks went on, the small group sessions did improve but it was nothing to stop the presses about. It was also about this time, that I had begun asking myself, “Why am I doing this? What good am I doing?”. It wasn’t until the TDC retreat, that God provided me with answers.
When the retreat portion of TDC came around, I had hopes that this would be a powerful experience for them but kept my expectations low. The retreat is broken into two portions; the first half plays out much like a normal TDC session and the second half could be called the “Holy Spirit” session. During the Holy Spirit portion, the retreat participants had the opportunity to commit or recommit themselves to Christ and be open to receiving His Love into their lives. Again, I had low expectations in how many of the teens would participate in this because a few weeks before the retreat I had taken part in a similar prayer service with some of the same teens and participation was low.
As we started the prayer service, no one came up right way. A minute past and no one came up. Another minute and no one. Perhaps about 5 minutes past and still no one came up t. I began praying with my prayer partner, James, that God to open their hearts.
After finishing our prayer, I looked out at the teens and I made eye contact with one of them. I looked at him and nodded at him to come up and give it a try. He did a double take and looked around to see if I was looking at someone else. I gave him a “I’m looking at you” face and nodded for him to come up. He shrugged, mouthed “okay”, and came up to do the commitment prayer. After he stood up, almost immediately, 12 out of the 16 participants stood up and got in line to commit/recommit themselves to Jesus Christ and personally open themselves to his Holy Spirit.
I was blown away. Just weeks before these teens weren’t too apt to sharing and seemingly unwilling to dive deeper. But once that one kid got up, it seemed to remove some stigma or fear that the teens had which was keeping them from taking this step in faith. My prayers had been answered. Eventually, 14 out of 16 participants publicly did the commitment prayer and the retreat moved on and concluded with testimonies.
At this point, I thought I was done seeing the Holy Spirit move in these teens. I was mistaken.
Below you will find a testimony, that I paraphrased, that Matthew, a Freshmen in high schoo,l gave in front of the entire group:
“I don’t entirely know what I want to say but I’ll leave it up to the Holy Spirit. I am in Marching band, and that takes up a lot of my time. I can’t do homework on fridays because of band practice and I can’t do anything on Saturdays because of football games. Because of these and coming into a new school, my faith would have been downgraded because of how busy I am. But because of Teen Discovering Christ, it hasn’t been downgraded. Through this course and this retreat, I now know that Jesus will love me no matter what I have done or will do. And because of all this, I think I have taken a few steps closer to my vocation”.
Again, I was blown away.
After coming into this retreat with low expectations and seeing God making His presence known in such a powerful way, I left the retreat truly feeling blessed. Blessed because God allowed me to play a part in this very moving and powerful retreat experience. Blessed because, it isn’t every day that one’s prayers are answered almost immediately. Blessed because I know that even though I may not expect much, God is always willing to give in abundance.
I came way from that retreat with a new conviction and energy for the mission. God allowed me to see the fruit of TDC right before my eyes. I got answers to the questions I had been asking myself earlier and I learned that even though, I may expect little, Christ is always willing to give in abundance.