Is it possible to experience The Good Life while sleeping on a tile floor on a deflated air mattress in the basement of a church, leading a group of middle school students 24/7 for a whole week? I stand to confess that yes, it is possible–not easy–but possible. Let me explain.
I spent the last week in Duluth on a YouthWorks mission trip with eleven middle schoolers from our church and one other adult leader. Our group was one of three groups for a grand total of forty people, mostly middle school students. We served in the community during the day, then had our own fun and learning activities in the evening. We arrived on Sunday afternoon. Then the youthworks staff kept us busy from 7:00am to 10:30pm Monday – Thursday. The week ended Friday morning. We spent Friday playing in Duluth and Gooseberry Falls.
The best way I can describe the week is darkness and light. Monday and Tuesday were dark. I’m the new pastor and I am a stranger to everyone. There are certain types of students who feel the need to test the boundaries of the new guy. Oh, they did. I had to be the disciplinarian most of the time for those two days. It came to a head on Tuesday night and our group had to have a little “come to Jesus” meeting. The details of our issues are not important, but we brainstormed on ways that the students could make things right and start fresh on Wednesday. We categorized their responses into good, better, and best options. I hoped they would at least choose the good, and encouraged them to choose the best.
Then the light dawned. Wednesday morning greeted me with news that our group had chosen the best option before they went to bed Tuesday night. The attitude of our group was like night and day on Wednesday and the rest of the week. We served with intentionality and got along peaceably with our neighboring groups. It was truly delightful.
The theme for the week was The Good Life. In fact, that is where our worship series title originated this summer. We lived this theme out this week. The Good Life is not a life of ease, comfort, and luxury. The Good Life is a life that is centered in the reality that God is Good and has made all things to live in truth and love. The Good Life, the abundant life that Jesus invites us to enter, happens when we follow his example and give up our own need to be the center of attention and live our lives for the good of others. This requires hard work, self-sacrifice, and a willingness to speak the truth in love, even when it is uncomfortable.
Our little band of middle schoolers began the week as a group of strangers. We muddled through some awkward moments, then gelled as a group at the end. It is my prayer that this experience will be a seed of hope in these young lives that will sprout and grow and become part of each person’s DNA as they become adults. I pray that they will experience the Good Life that God intends for them.
Here are some photos from the week.
These are the notes I took during the week.