This youth ministry/discipleship thing is no joke. It’s really hard! Sometimes, I would rather carry heavy baskets on my head up a volcano all day than try to sort out someone’s emotional problems and persuade them to do the right thing.
We have so many amazing young people that we work with every week. One day we are bursting with pride at what they have become (and feeling like what we are doing is making a difference) and then the next we are embarrassed for them and the mistakes they made (and blaming ourselves for those as well).
This has been that kind of month….A couple of our best students went to a seminary conference last month and one of them will be preaching for the first time this coming week while the other leads worship. An extremely young student of ours is lying to her parents and sneaking around with a man in his 20s who is known to be part of a violent gang. Another has pulled herself out of a very bad place and is seeking Jesus with all of her heart and learning how to weave hammocks in order to support her family. Another ended up in jail for a few days after getting intoxicated and fighting with his gang. Another has recently given up her addictions to drugs and is seeking God earnestly with her life while she studies at the university and considers a future in ministry.
This is a roller coaster! I don’t know if I would have signed up for this if I had known how much work it would involve. I was warned that discipleship would involve all of my strength, mind, and heart. It’s true and now that these kids all hold a piece of my heart and I love them too much to give up on any one of them.
The one underlying theme we’ve uncovered in all of their problems is this: unforgiveness. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing or a generational thing, but it weighs so heavy on my heart. I hear it over and over among them, “I don’t talk to that person anymore.” “That person is on my list of people who I don’t speak to.” How can they serve Jesus and maintain this attitude? Where in the Bible does it say that it is ok to ignore the people we don’t like? They can give up the drugs, pornography, gangs, but they can’t forgive and reconcile relationships?
I know that these kids have had a hard life and overcome some big challenges already, but I think the Jewish people to whom Jesus was speaking had a difficult life too. He asks that we live in peace with those around us. (Hebrews 12:14-15) He tells us that we will be forgiven as we forgive others. (Matthew 6:14) I definitely wouldn’t want God to not be speaking to me. Even Jesus spoke to the men who were nailing him to the cross, forgiving them for what they did! There is no room in the church for silence and unforgiveness. We have been forgiven and are ordered to be kind and compassionate to others. (Ephesians 4:32).
Many of you ask us how you can pray for us. Pray for THIS! Pray that we can show love and forgiveness to these kids and teach them how to do the same. Pray for all of them in their individual struggles to do what is right and to follow God daily. Pray for us that we will be able to do this job that we don’t feel fully equipped to do. Pray that God will use each of these kids to do big things one day.