and ramblings on everything in between
Last week I traveled 775 miles with 200 middle and high school students to attend BigStuf, a church camp in Panama City Beach. My goal was to write down a narrative of the week while in the midst of it all, but that didn’t happen. Instead of trying to turn the moments into a story, I wanted to turn the moments into just that – moments. All I managed to write down were a few funny things I caught along the way. Like,
“What should I do with my wet clothes? Can I microwave them?” Yes, she felt this was a legitimate question.
“Eww! I hate sand.” Hello, we’re at the beach.
“Stop brushing your chest with my toothbrush!” Turns out Freshman girls are just as disgusting as Freshman boys.
“I’m quitting student ministry as soon as we get back!” A tired leader during hour 12 of 17 on the bus ride home.
And now that I’m home and trying to remember exactly what I wanted to share, I’m at a loss for a blog. It was one of those experiences that you can’t put into words. Any attempt would barely scratch the surface. How can you capture the feeling of being around 1,400 people who are just as excited about God as you are? How can you describe how it felt to hear 1,400 voices singing as one in worship? How can you relay the holy disaster our room was with five barely-out-of-middle-school girls in it? I can’t even begin.
So instead, I’ll tell you the story of a chance meeting two months ago. I was attempting to give blood again and the phlebotomist saw that I had on a student ministry shirt. She mentioned that her kids were a part of the ministry and we began chatting about our church. She shared that she recently started getting involved and the kids were struggling to make friends. They were showing up at youth group each week, but they complained about going and weren’t connecting with other students. I told her I would be praying for her and her kids and then went on about my day.
Fast forward to last week and the lady’s daughter was one of the girls in my room. I didn’t find out who I would be bunking with until we got to Panama (the youth pastor’s clever way of making certain we couldn’t run the other way since it was too late at that point). I had no idea I would be spending the week with her. She, of course, had no idea who I was, and it was interesting connecting with her knowing that I had already spoken of her once before.
I love getting little glimpses like this into the big stuff God is doing behind the scenes. The threads we don’t get to untangle. The seeds we don’t realize are planted. The happiness we don’t know has already begun. God knew I would be with her soon and He used a t-shirt to make sure I understood how I could help her. I know now that she’ll be the one I take under my wing (if she’ll let me). Either way, she’ll definitely be on my heart and in my prayers in the coming months.
“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)
I see that verse a little more clearly than ever before. I never wanted to help with the student ministry in the first place. If you asked me two years ago if it would ever be a possibility for me, I don’t know what I would have said, but it wouldn’t have been yes. I never dreamed I would sacrifice a week of vacation to travel across the country with a bunch of teenagers, but my plan was to serve and God determined where I would go with it. And as I’ve taken those steps in the direction He wants me to go, He has seized opportunities for me to grow in my faith alongside the kids.
My big take away from BigStuf was advice we received from Perry Noble, the author of Unleash! Breaking Free from Normalcy. “Students don’t care about your ability; they care about your availability,” he reminded us. While I still don’t feel 100% qualified for this ministry, I keep showing up. My willingness to chaperone this trip allowed the five girls in my room to be in a place where they could learn about God and be in fellowship with other Christians for a week. I trust that when I make myself available, God steps in and makes me capable. Just like a superhero sweeping into a fight saying, “I’ll take it from here.”