I can tell you with all honesty that we DID NOT hesitate. Of course we would go ahead. Of course we would eat whatever was accessible (because who doesn’t like pizza) and of course we wouldn’t cancel. Because we love Jesus and we love these youth.
You see, yes, we’re tired. Yes, we’re parents of four and yes they are ridiculously high energy and many nights we just flop into our beds after the obligatory dishes are done, lunches are made and backpacks are packed. Yes, we are preparing for an epic journey as a family. Yes, another night at home to get things done is appealing. Yes, youth is another weekly commitment but NO, it does NOT feel like a burden.
Youth is so much more than something we go to and small groups are so much more than eating, socializing and something more on our calendar.
Since those reading this have likely not been to a youth small group (or at least not a JRCC youth small group), let me give you a small window into what we get to experience at small group. Every few Thursdays, we get together. We gather at someone’s house, we eat food, read the bible, discuss a topic, pray and spend time together. This is an amazing night. A night we have looked forward to every few Thursdays for the past 2 1/2 years. A night that has birthed so many new and meaningful relationships in our lives. A night that has involved a whole lot of Spirit-led discussion. A night that we spend preaching the gospel to ourselves and a group of 10-12 senior high youth who are eager to hear it. A night that God has used to move us to action and a night that has played a significant role in our journey to overseas missions.
You see, every single time, we come away changed. We come away more passionate about God’s word than when we arrived. We come away more sure that God’s words are of utmost importance. We come away more eager to follow them and so we set out to do just that. With these incredible hearts and minds watching and growing alongside us, we try to follow and we pray for grace – from the youth who are watching and from our Saviour who is holding us up.
Leading these youth has led us closer to Jesus and we are grateful. We are grateful for every single youth we have had the privilege of getting to know, not just at Jericho Ridge but at Blue Mountain Baptist as well. We are thankful that God has given us the energy, the passion, the humour (at least the kind that teenagers can roll their eyes at), the sarcasm, and the illogical ability to ignore our actual age in some instances and, in other instances, relish our elderly ‘wisdom’- all of which make up a skill set perfectly suited for youth work. A skill set we have acquired over the years of teaching, coaching and mentoring all while God was pulling us through various character-altering circumstances individually and as a couple. A skill set that have not come together by accident, much in the same way that Jon and I are not sharing this life together by accident.
You see, every single thing about our Thursdays reminds us why we are moving. Reminds us why God has called us to work with youth at Ukarumpa International School. Reminds us that the joy we feel on Thursdays is not by accident but a weekly reminder of His perfect plan for our lives and some of the good things He has prepared in advance for us to do. We have no idea what’s ahead. We don’t know what students we will meet in PNG, what relationships we will form, what journeys they’ll be on and what challenges they will face but we know that we want to be a part of it and we know that God has prepared us to do just that.
We know that we can take the same energy God has given us for the youth here in Langley and Coquitlam and we can offer it back to be used for His glory in PNG. We know that we can continue to walk alongside the amazing youth-turned-friends we have met here thanks to the glories of social media and we can embrace the new relationships that await us on the other side of the world.
We can embrace that joy, that passion and that energy that has grown in us over the past decade of marriage and ask God how we can use it for His Kingdom.
And every single time we meet another Senior High across the world, we will think about Thursdays. We will think about the men and women we have met. We will think about Blue Mountain, New Orleans, Serve and Jericho Ridge. We will think about our seemingly chaotic, disorganized life events and experiences and we will take heart in seeing how just a small number of those disorganized events have been orchestrated to give us this heart for youth and to lead us into the next chapter of our lives.
And, if you just happen to have a heart for youth, a free Thursday night and are looking for an amazing church family, I’d encourage you to check out Jericho Ridge. I don’t know what God has in store for you but I do know that serving in any ministry, youth or otherwise, will change your life.