“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1).
Spending spring break with 75 middle school students isn’t most people’s idea of a break, but this week was refreshing to my soul. After a week on the beach, complete with clear water, crashing waves, and white sand, the week was brought to a head with a gospel presentation on Thursday night. Dan explained the gospel in the context of the stories of Jesus he had told all week, then students were sent out to the beach to silently contemplate two questions: Where are you with God? Where do you want to be? When they came in, we met with each student individually, before joining the entire Carroll and Maple Creek group for a time of sharing and prayer. Hearing girls express their desire to grow nearer to Jesus energizes the soul. What a privilege it is to be able to invite young students to join the family of God! When we gathered for sharing and prayer, student after student expressed pain, brokeness, hurt, and a desperate need for God. Students were crying, hugging, and praying for each other in one of the most real demonstrations of “church” I have ever seen, let alone formed primarily of middle school students. I was crying with them as we prayed for God to intervene in broken families, identity struggles, and problems with friends. At the end, we stood in a circle and held hands as Byron played a song about God never leaving or forsaking us.
Though I cried with the students as they shared, I lost it as I prayed and listened to the refrain over and over that God’s never ending presence is what gives strength to keep moving forward. In only three months, I am leaving for Papua New Guinea. Instead of a well-paid teaching position here in the U.S., I will be living on mission support in a third world country. For years, I have prided myself in my ability to work and earn my own money. If I stop long enough to consider it, I have to admit that relying on others to give the money to pay for even basic necessities scares me. The only way I can possibly walk confidently into the unknown is the assurance that God will never leave me or forsake me. This seems to be a recurring theme in my life, as my “best” message for a chapel service was one that mentioned Joshua 1:5-6 where God gives that same reassurance to Joshua before commanding him to be strong and courageous. Time and time again I return to this passage for the courage I need to move forward in any situation.
The other passage that serves as a constant reminder to me of God’s grandeur and still intimate love for me is Isaiah 40. I loved being able to walk the beach and pray in the mornings before anyone else was awake. Hearing the fraying waves and pondering the majesty of a God who holds all the waters of the earth in the palms of His hands while still thinking more thoughts about me than the number of sands in the seas is an awe-inspiring experience.
If I have the option of chilling at home or accompanying 75 middle school students, the choice is clear. While I may be returning home as physically exhausted as I left, the joy of sharing Christ and his love with these kids is worth more than any amount of sleep!