Most people begin the New Year with promises to self and others: promises to fix what was previously broken, promises to start something new, or promises to change what’s negative to positive. How many of us, though, venture into the New Year promising to simply move forward?
I was fortunate enough to travel to St. Augustine, FL earlier this month for Young Life New Staff Training. For 8 days, I joined 200 peers for a time of intense learning and aggressive pursuit of the Lord. For several months prior to my arrival I had dealt with people pointing out my flaws, telling me why I “can’t” and asking me to start new and to change both my course of action and myself. Needless to say, I was exhausted and defeated. I spent my trip to Florida asking, “God is this it? Is this what I’m supposed to do? Are you sure you want me?”
I arrived in Florida to a hotel filled with 200 of the loudest, most joyful, talented Young Life staffers in the world. All of them, to me, seemed bright-eyed and bushy-tailed; ready to take on the world of Young Life head first. “This,” I said to myself, “is not where I belong.” It took me about 3 days to clear my head and hear what the Lord had in store for me.
Early one morning, I was complaining to God about how I didn’t fit in. “There must be something wrong with me, God,” I said. “Maybe what everyone at home was saying was right. Maybe I’m not prepared to do this. Look at all I have to change. Look at all the ways that I’m different from these people.” Immediately I heard an audible answer from the Lord, “What about all the ways that you’re similar?” God was right. As the rest of the week continued, I learned that we all had similarities. We all really cared about other people, we all had baggage, we all loved kids, we all loved God, and we were all fighting every day to do our very best in our calling to Young Life.
I had the privilege of hearing many of the Young Life “greats” speak from the heart about how God had worked in their lives to lead them up to this point. One night, Nick Palermo spoke. Nick was the person who pioneered into a world of adolescents with special needs. Nick shared a lot from his past, including the pain and hurt that he experienced as a child. In the end, with the help and calling from God, Nick changed YL forever. God used him to develop Capernaum ministries for adolescents with special needs. Nick finished his time of sharing with a word that spoke to me. He said, “Follow your wounds and your weaknesses, and there you’ll find your ministry.”
Despite his past, Nick was one of the most joyful people I’d ever seen. He didn’t hold onto his past, he allowed God to use it to catapult him into the world of adolescents. The devil is a liar and a thief. He lives in our past and uses it to haunt us. If we allow it to happen, we can fall victim to ourselves and believe that we are not suited to do ministry because of our past or our flaws. Christ lives in the present. He has grace for our shortcomings and calls us to move forward and live in the now!
I learned that God shaped me through my past. Who I am isn’t so different, nor does it serve as an impediment to this ministry. My journey (weaknesses and all) has led me to this ministry. It gave me the passion I have for the kids I love, and has shaped how I see things, how I say things, and what I do. While I still have room for growth, God doesn’t condemn me for my faults. I have to embrace who I am, and the challenges that I face trusting that God will use me where I am planted. As this New Year begins, I promise to simply step out and move forward. I am choosing to hear God’s opinions of me, and finding encouragement from those He places in my path. Even when there are days where I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, I can rejoice in the fact that God knows what He’s doing!
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8
We had our first team meeting Sunday to kick off our 2013 semester. We are welcoming one new leader, and saying goodbye to two others. We are still without a regular club “meeting spot,” and are struggling with provision for the needs of our kids. We are restarting our boys and girls Bible study groups next week, and our first club (Valentine Club) will be on February 22nd!
Please continue to hold our team and kids in your prayers. I would also like to say THANK YOU for all of the prayers and the generous gifts that YL KPS received over the holiday season. I feel extremely blessed.
You will find below some pictures of our kids after we wrapped Christmas gifts for a family in need as well as a short video from our leaders!
Blessings to you all!
Link to VIDEO from our leaders HERE: http://youtu.be/5TqJ2QvlnAs