Panama City Beach with 56 amazing students & adult volunteers.
And the verdict is in: St. Paul Youth had an Ahhhhhmazing week. I can't say enough about our adult leaders that pour into our students. Truly stellar. Witnessing high school students stepping up and leading middle school small groups & shepherding our fun size sweeties. My heart is so full I just about can't stand it. Hearing circles of students continue to hash and rehash points they heard (& remembered) in the main sessions. Life-changing. And old fashioned fun! Card games & tricks, hours of pool pyramids and flips, basketball, volleyball, more seaweed in the shower than you would care to have, but evidence of beach fun.
And then it happened. Thursday late night worship, the BigStuf band plays that eerily familiar intro and in the flash of a moment I am grasped with absolute, heart breaking poverty of spirit. I melt. The full weight of the loss crashes in. "Oh, How He Loves Us" was our BigStuf 2010 jam. We came home and David Dorn, our summer intern now turned Preposterous YouTube super star, led our youth singing it in worship the following Sunday.
In that breath of a single moment my heart clutched so tightly I didn't think I would be able to take another breath. The floor under me felt like it couldn't hold the weight of my pain. Hot tears poured down my face. As I was slipping through a crack in the floor into an abyss of darkness and loss, I felt a strong arm wrap around me. It was Deuce! Deuce, who himself is wrestling with brokenness and loss. And my mind suddenly let go of my personal pain, and all I kept thinking was "This is the most courageous kid I know."
Deuce was set to be the Gulf Coast's next great ball player. Goodness knows he was a local Little League Legend. Baseball? Basketball? Take his pick. This kid IS a baller! But Deuce had to let go of the starring role in his Little League Legend story. And in that moment, as awful as that is to imagine and how devastating it is for him & his family to endure, I couldn't help but believe that Deuce was actually trading a starring role in his story for a supporting role in the Story of God! God can take our brokenness--be it mind, body or spirit--and use it in an extraordinary, God way! The truth is Deuce is going to rock out whatever it is he does! His courageous, CAN DO spirit is going to take him places. His Christlike, selfless care for others is intoxicating! Can't wait to see where he lands!
That goes for all of us. We, who are broken in our own ways, CAN do all things through Christ that strengthens us! Living out stories that really shouldn't be (thought creds. Brooklyn Lindsey), navigating life's disappointments, learning to fly with broken wings, overcoming the painful twists and turns of our personal stories, and awakening to realize we are a part of a greater story--the never ending, earth bending, kingdom coming, glorious story of God & us!
At times like these I'm reminded that I, too, am included in that "all of us." God's redemptive story is working out in even little ole me...4 summers later. Still doing this Youth Pastor thing (sporting the vintage BigStuf 2010 tee I might add) & running into Dee & friends from Biloxi First--testimony that seeds that were planted there are continuing to bear kingdom fruit...This is AMAZING Grace! This IS Hope Eternal! This is big, BIG stuff.