Saturday, December 1, 2012

Reflection of Ministry

From spring semester of junior year at PLNU, I reflected on my ministry, particularly with Younglife:

This semester as an intern for Younglife has been a continued lesson of being humbled. God has been showing me how little I actually know, but in the midst of that how I can still be used in this state just simply by being present. Through various classes this semester, books I’ve read, and the events life has thrown at me, I have learned an incredible amount about what it means to have an enduring resilience when it feels like the whole world wants me to fail.

My views of what ministry is have changed somewhat dramatically over the course of just a few months. My previous ideas of ministry have grown and have been added on to, while I have also gained new perspectives. Before, ministry to me was an organization; while this can be true, it is not limited to that. I have learned how I can apply myself in the most impactful way to an organized ministry, and I have also learned the beauty of being a “walking” ministry.

Being part of Younglife has given me a deeper sense of the endurance needed in ministry. There is a serious delay of gratification that comes along with it, especially when you are just starting out. Even though I grew up in Younglife, coming back as a leader and trying to hang out with big crowds of high schooler’s was very intimidating for me. It took longer than I wanted for me to start feeling comfortable and for me to form the relationships that I wanted with the high school students. I have learned that sometimes, feeling uncomfortable, tired, and annoying doesn’t mean that I’m in the wrong place or doing the wrong thing, but is actually part of the job description. I have learned that more times than not, I don’t feel like going or being involved, and could come up with one hundred excuses not to; but I have also learned that there isn’t a single time I have regretted my decision to go anyways. Through my participation in Younglife I have created a community with high schoolers as well as fellow leaders, and with community, comes passion.
 Community has always been my passion, but being a part of Younglife has helped me to define the details of what that looks like. A rich community is the result of intentionality. There is something to be said for pursuing each relationship and making it a point to create an environment where everyone feels welcome, wanted, and like they can be themselves. Younglife has shown me the importance of this intentionality and the hard work it takes. For example, texting high school girls every day, or meeting them before school—these are not my first choice activities to do, but without them the relationship between me and them would not exist. There is also a certain sense of accountability that is applied when you start to be more intentional. I have found how I am an example and a leader in every facet of life, and not just from one aspect of it. This is where living incarnationally really comes into play. I want my whole life to be an example of how to live a Christ centered life, not just bits and pieces of it. The people I’m leading shouldn’t have to rely on me to have the right words; to the best of my ability as a flawed human, I should be a walking example
I have learned how my gifting’s of hospitality, encouragement and helps all work together to brew up my passion for community. Knowing my own gifts, passions and strengths better has helped me to see ministry outside the organization. There is something so much bigger going on than just doing a nice thing for someone else, or “paying it forward”. When I am doing something that is JUST for someone else, I see myself get warn down after a short time. But I have learned to change my perspective; I am not in a ministry of doing nice things for other people, but rather a ministry of serving Jesus, Lord of all. There are times when I am doing something nice for someone else, but instead of having a loving heart about it, I catch myself holding a grudge inside, as if I am keeping tabs in a sense of all the good things that I do compared to others. This is the point at which doing nice things becomes draining. However, I have been learning to change that entire mindset. For example, I do not do my roommates dishes because she deserves for me to be doing them, but because it is a way in which I can be serving God. That is the point of which doing dishes goes from a seemingly big hassle, to instead the very simplest way I can glorify God. My perspective changed drastically when I compared doing dishes for someone else as a nice act, and Jesus innocently dying of the cross for me as His nice act. This comparison can almost be laughed at it is so absurd! This new perspective has enriched so many of my relationships and has even helped me to become a much more joyful person.
Throughout this semester my relationships have been a key factor in helping me to get though some particularly hard times. It has been interesting and humbling for me to see the two very different sides of relationships. On one hand, I have been very broken, and in low places where I have needed people to come and see me at my lowest in order to help me get back up. On the other hand, I have become a leader to girls who look up to me. The people that I surround myself on a daily basis have an incredible influence on me, and I am so blessed to have women of faith who can encourage me in my life.
Throughout this internship, I have come to learn that you can expect almost nothing in terms of what the journey of ministry will look like. We may have ideas, and thoughts, and goals for places we want to go, and more often than not God will step up and redirect our plans, reminding us that our view of where we are going is almost blind compared to what God can see as the bigger picture. God is outside of time and is really good at looking past what we can get stuck in seeing. In reading Henri Nouwen’s books, I have learned how our ministry really isn’t an act. Sometimes we can see ourselves as up on a tight rope, performing an act for everyone and expected to be applauded and praised when we get to the other side without falling. Get down. This isn’t about you. Why should I be expecting so much praise for myself? What I am but a mere instrument in God’s glorious master plan?! I have experienced so much grace from the people who surround me in ministry. Learning that I am going to fail sometimes, but that doesn’t make me a complete disappointment. There have been many times when I haven’t been able live up to my own expectations, and in turn I become very hard on myself, but I have been so blessed to be surrounded my people who remind me that it’s OKAY, and that I am still doing a good job simply because of how much I love. This has been vital, as sometimes I feel so inadequate that I want to quit, but the encouragement from those around me reminds me of the grace I receive every day. We are all “inadequate” in some way, but God still chooses to give us jobs that He trusts us with. I feel so blessed to be surrounded by the people I am in ministry with, and how my relationship with those people has grown exponentially since joining Younglife.
As I look back in reflection over this past semester and the ministry I have been involved in, it is very apparent to me how much growth occurred. I feel like I have gotten to know myself so much better, and along with that I have been able to apply myself places where I can be most impactful. I am able to feel so much more joy than I feel like I ever have before; I have also gained a new perspective on ministry, community, relationships, myself, and life in general. While I would never choose to go through the journey I have been on this past semester again, I am so, so grateful that I have experienced what I have. The future in ministry is one I can honestly picture myself in, and is one that I feel I am being prepared for every day. I feel better equipped than I ever have, and that makes me excited for the future, but I also know that I have so much to learn. I want to continue to learn, but not let the knowledge of what I learn get in the way of the relationships that develop out of a real open heart passion.

Friday, July 27, 2012

It's a Younglife Thing

            After car-washes, rummage sales, flocking, and hounding everyone I knew for financial support, we finally made it to Younglife camp. I learned so much, and had the most amazing time building relationships with the high schoolers and fellow leaders. I would love to share some of my experience...
This year we went to Lost Canyon Younglife camp which is located in the high elevation of Williams, Arizona. After a 7 hour bus ride, we emerged from the trees and into an oasis which made the kids eyes go wide! We were greeted by music, summer staff cruising down the zip-line into the huge lake, people flying off the blob high into the air before splashing in the water, and two grown men dressed up like they were cowboys from the wild west. From the moment we stepped off the bus, we knew we were in for the week of a lifetime.
The list of our activities is a long one; there is rarely a still moment at camp, but none of us would have it any other way! On a regular basis there was the option to go on the zip line, launch off the blob, go down two different water slides, go on a 100 foot swing, rock climb, play Frisbee golf and other field games including soccer and football, play basketball (on the inside or outdoor court), cool off with an ice cream treat, create jewelry from what seemed like an endless supply of beads, and that’s just to name a few! We also had assigned days to go horseback riding, mountain biking, and make our way through a ropes course 70 feet in the air. The activities provided endless fun, as well has valuable life lessons as the girls accomplished things they never thought they could.
My cabin had 5 high school girls in it. The typical schedule for Younglife camp includes a camp speaker followed by what’s called “cabin-time”, or just a time to all get on the same level in your cabin, eat yummy snacks, and talk about what the speaker had just gone over. Usually, the first night is pretty surface level, progressively getting deeper and more vulnerable as the week goes on. However, in the case of our cabin, the girls opened up right off the bat on the first night, proving just how bad they needed someone to listen.
I have had a lot of experience with Younglife as I have grown up with it in Wilsonville…but let me tell you, leading in San Diego is a whole different ballpark than leading in the small suburb I was in.  I was in awe as I sat and listened to how much each of these girls had gone through already in their lives. It brought me to tears listening to the hurt and pain that they had endured in their lives at only 16. Not one of them came from a family in which their parents were still married; one girl met her dad for the first time earlier in the year, and broke down talking about how poorly her time with him had gone and how unloved she felt. One girl didn’t have a home to go back to as they had just been evicted right before she left for camp. One girl wept as she described the horrible rumors that were flying around the school directed at her. One girl talked about how she felt more at home when she went to school than when she went to her house (and considering their school, that’s saying a lot). One girl confessed to having an abortion. I could go on and on about the painful confessions but needless to say, these girls needed this week away from home and all their pain and had definitely come to the right place.
As the week went on, we (me and the other leaders) continued to develop close relationships with these girls. The truth and the love of God were starting to penetrate into their hearts. The further into the week we got, the more questions they would ask. There was a longing desperately crying out from a void in their heart they had been living with this whole time. They were so curious about the bible and about Jesus and all the stories—it was amazing to watch their curiosity! There was one night when two of the girls stayed up until 4am reading the bible in the bathroom. They woke up excited the next morning to tell us about Abraham and what he did in the Old Testament. Their longing for the Lord was apparent, and by the end of the week, they were excited and eager to accept Christ into their hearts and start living a life for Him.
On the night of the last cabin time, we snuck off into the darkness of camp to a secluded area, the stars brighter than any of these city kids had ever seen. We sat in a circle and after repeating the words I provided them with, 4 of the 5 girls accepted Christ into their hearts to rule their lives. They confessed their sins and acknowledged that they believed He died and rose again three days later. After they each had their turn saying the pray themselves, I explained how all the multitudes of angels were having a party in their honor, welcoming them into the family! We all sat there and wept, overcome with the love that we felt surrounded by. It was by far, one of the most beautiful and powerful moments I have ever experienced.
The one girl that chose to wait a little longer to accept Christ into her life has a very large seed planted in her. She was given a bible, the first she ever owned, and has since been digging through it. We have been reading through Matthew together, and it is amazing being able to answer some questions for her.
I have been so humbled. Sometimes being called a “leader” gives off the impression that we will be doing the teaching. But over and over again I have found that I learn way more from the girls I lead than I ever expected. I went into camp with a lot of insecurities, and left feeling strong and empowered. I have been so blessed by this incredible opportunity that I had the honor of being a part of. How amazing and how BIG is our God, eh?!

Psalm 95:2—Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise.