The Summer of 2006. I had finished 2 tracks of the Fire In the Night internship at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City and made the decision to move there and go on staff with the ministry. However, my parents were in need of help around their property that summer, so I headed back to the Omaha area to work a summer job and to be with my family.
During those few short months I sought to serve the church that they were attending, and the greatest need that they had over the summer was for someone to lead the Wednesday night Children’s program. Insert 19 year old, vivacious, passionate me and about 10 children ranging in age from 6 -12. It was an interesting program.
We played games, had snacks, and in the simplest way that I could communicate, we talked about prayer, lifestyles based in the bible, radical devotion to Christ, and had a prayer and worship time every week. All that I can say about the short time that I spent with those children is that every single one of us was on a fast-track to collide with God that summer. He had all of us set up to meet Him, together. All that they needed was for someone to tell them that He wanted to speak to them for them to utterly believe it, and all that I needed was to see it happen in the lives of children, for me to believe it.
And we all did. They began to have powerful dreams where the Lord revealed His word in prophetic images that only an 8 year old would understand. They began to really fellowship with the Holy Spirit and learn to be His friend, and to let Him be their friend. They began to truly receive burdens from the Lord in the place of prayer, in ways that I never could have imparted to them, or convinced them to care and feel about. It changed my life in the most powerful way.
Among that group of children were 3 siblings whose family had recently moved back to the area after spending some time in the South where their father was a part of the massive clean up project left from Hurricane Katrina. During that time the family had regularly attending the Ramp and the parents were being very impacted by the ministry, as well as the children. They arrived in my Wednesday night group, Hungry to meet with God and were SUCH an encouragement to my heart!
Over the years I tried to stay in touch with the family, visiting them when I was in town and giving time in phone calls every few months. My heart was knit together with the parents and just in love with the 3 children. Since then the family has relocated to KC and now, they are no longer children. The oldest recently enlisted with the Navy, the youngest is taller than me and can drive, and I can’t fathom how that’s even possible.
This week I took the mom and daughter, Lucy and Emily, to one of my favorite local joints – an all natural snow cone place called Little Freshie. It was my first real connect with them in over 3 years and we all soaked up the time. At one point, Lucy looked at me with tears in her eyes and began to tell me how that summer had affected their family. It’s amazing to me when I look back and see myself, so weak, so young, and with so little knowledge of things that I was saying, and see how God used me and my weak messages. He is so faithful to us! All three of us cried and I listened in wonder. When she was done Emily looked at me and said,
Nobody saw us the way that you did. Nobody believed in us like you. And that meant so much, it changed us. Thank you for believing in us.
Those words have rung in my ears all week. The unfortunate truth is that I’ve been in youth ministry long enough to learn how to peg teens early on, label them in my mind, treat them through that label, and at times, write them off. Not all the time, and not dramatically. I love teens and I love youth ministry, but it happens internally and I have felt it at times, and felt the effect of it in the way that I minister. Honestly, it hinders the love of God flowing through me. I’ve been so moved this week considering that statement, repenting to the Lord for the times that I can remember where I chose not to see a teenager or young adult the way that God does, I chose not to hope all things for them, not to believe all things, not to believe IN them.
I want to be a woman who loves like the Father, a friend who loves like the Father, a youth minister who loves like the Father. And this week I’ve been praying this over my heart, over the youth ministries in KC and in America, and over the Pastors of the church of America. I’ve been praying that the Lord would raise up Shepherds who would look at the flock the way that Jesus does, to see the people as the Bride of Christ. To see the youth who are floundering in this nation, and to be moved with compassion. To believe in them.
“Nobody saw us the way that you did.” I am thankful for that powerful testimony from my teens, but I want to always see like Jesus.