Monday, June 29, 2009

for the least of these

I'm not sure but it's quite possible that this past week was the most amazing experience I've ever had in my life...ever...

During the course of last week, I got to watch 4o high school students be the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus to 36 kids from the Franklin projects. It's completely impossible to communicate what happened. And I think it's flat out because it wasn't of us. It was something so much bigger than us...and therefore cannot be explained.

But I'll try to give an idea of what the week looked like...
Sunday was simply a day for the HCC youth to do some team building activities and prepare for the week at Deer Run. Little did we know how much there was to learn...

Monday was rough...and I do mean, rough. At 9:00, the bus arrived with 36 kids ranging from kindergarten through 5th grade. And they were ready to test their limits with us. Our problem was that we didn't have much of a plan as far as how to handle discipline, etc besides just to keep loving on them. The kids were fairly close to out-of-control and had very little respect for us. A few comments I remember hearing from the first day:
  • "I hate you."
  • "I hate this camp."
  • "I'm never coming back"
  • "Y'all (the HCC youth) are just here to get mad at us and tell us what to do"
Here's what was amazing...our students didn't retaliate. They didn't get angry. They just kept loving...unconditionally, relentlessly. The kids left at 3:00, and we were completely wiped out by Monday night. We encouraged everyone to not give up on these understand why they are acting the way they are acting. And to keep loving.

Day 2 was so much better than Day 1, and by Day 3, we started witnessing miracles...

One of the miracles was just watching how God so faithfully supplied us with everything we needed for the day, hour, minute ahead. We prayed a lot this week...and He so lovingly gave us more than we asked or imagined.

The other miracle was watching the hearts of these kids from the projects start softening. The love that our students was so unconditionally pouring out every day allowed the walls to start breaking down. The kids started letting down their guard and letting us into their lives. There were so many times when I had to just step back and soak in what was happening around me. It was truly a foretaste of heaven. I COULD NOT wipe the smile off my face by Day 3. It was truly unbelievable.

What was so amazing this week was just watching the power of love. It was seeing 40 students completely taken over by the Spirit and loving in ways that were not of them! They were loving like Jesus loved. They loved without expecting anything in return. They started to understand what Mother Theresa meant when she said to "love until it hurts. And then love some more".

One of my favorite parts of the week was during the morning and afternoon "YoHoHo Shows" when we would have our students go up on stage and bring up a specific kid and speak words of affirmation and encouragement to him/her in front of the whole group. These kids, who are rarely recognized for anything good, got to stand in front of 75 people and have someone talk about the GOOD that they see in them. I had to walk behind stage the first morning we did it because I couldn't control the tears.

There are countless stories to tell about last week. One of our students told me in all honesty yesterday that he thought JP and I should write a book about it. We probably could. But one of my favorite parts about camp is this: these kids live right down the street from us. They have already been calling our students and our students have already been hanging out with them...just in the past couple of days! Our students are already talking about their future plans for hanging out with these kids and deepening these relationships. As one of our girls said at the banquet on Friday night, our family just got a whole lot bigger.

I believe eternity was changed last week. The unconditional and relentless love of Christ is so very powerful. And it is humbling to think that He chooses to use us to show that love to a broken and hurting world. That's crazy. But if everyone in the world loved like those 40 students loved last week...who knows what would happen...

I'll leave you with a few of my favorites from the 980 photos I have from the week!


jackie said...

I love hearing about God working through your youth group. It looks like you have a group of special kids! Only one more month before I get to see you!

ewall said...

incredible. :) thanks for sharing mel! much love to you--

Katrina Hope said...

I am so glad I got to hear the testimonies of this trip- I LOVE that you all give yourselves in this way and I'm looking forward to talking to our youth leaders in Washington about it!

PS, It was great to see you again for a few minutes.

(kim's little sister).

Jamie Vance said...

I am sooooo sad that I could not be there to be apart of the awesome power of God working in our community! I watched the video yesterday at a hostel computer in Galway and was completely in tears as I watched it. Some German college-age kids were giving me funny looks, but I didn't care! UGH! GOD IS AMAZING!

PS Miss you guys!
PPS And yes, I am blogging once a week, so check it out! Another to come tomorrow!

Matthew C said...

Melanie - You, JP and the whole Youth Group are setting a great example for the rest of us. We all have a lot to learn and I think you and the group are on the cutting edge of that. Thanks, everyone, for your courage and your commitment to the Kingdom!