Dean was contacted by Ralph Thompson, of Emergency Chaplains, to be a guest speaker at the Durham Youth Alliance Camp being held at Braggtown Baptist Church. Due to work interviews that week, Dean was unable to be the guest speaker. So he asked me if I would do it instead.
Now I've known Ralph for many years. We went to Bethesda Baptist Church together. I was in the youth group and Ralph was an active church member. Let's just say that Ralph knew me when I was a terrible teenager. For him to even have half an inch of respect for me, and allow me to come and speak to a group of teenagers, is a testimony to Jesus Christ all in itself.
I had less than a week's notice, but I prayed about it and I knew that God wanted me to take this opportunity. The Bible tells us to be ready in and out of season....and 1 Peter tells us to always be ready to give the reason for the hope that we have. Well the reason for the hope I have is Jesus and I should ALWAYS be ready to tell about Him and what He did for me.
I didn't prepare too much for the speaking because I prayed that the Holy Spirit would give me the words to speak. I briefly reviewed some material I had used in the past and went ready and prayed up on Thursday morning.
I was scheduled to speak from 11 to 12. I had 15-20 minutes with the younger group (ages 4 to 10) and 30 minutes with the older group (ages 11 to 16). This camp is a summer camp for mostly inner-city kids. I was told ahead of time many of these kids did not have a dad or mom at home and were from "underprivileged" areas. That just made it all the better! I have a serious soft spot in my heart for these "types" of kids.
I walked into the gym at 11 and there were almost 30 little ones! WOW what a large group! I had them make a circle and sit on the gym floor. I went around and got everyone's name and age. Although I obviously can't remember all of their names, I think it's important for each one to get to introduce themselves. It lets them know that I care about each one. I introduced myself and tried to get everyone as calm as possible. I talked to them about aliens. Aliens? Yes, aliens. (Look back at our summer VBS from last year.) They were able to tell me what they knew about aliens, and then I turned it around and explained how the Bible tells us to live as aliens and strangers, and how Jesus told His disciples that they were "not of this world" as He was not of this world. (John and Hebrews) I explained to them that when we give our lives to Jesus and decide to follow Him, that we are suppose to live like Jesus and not be of this world anymore. I gave them some real time examples of how they can live like Jesus and not like the rest of the world. When we were done I lined them up and shook hands with all of them and told them all that it was nice to meet them and I hoped to see them again soon. Next time I will definitely have a hands on activity to keep them more interested and involved, although I felt they did a really good job considering the large number of kids and the big age differences.
Next I went over to the pre-teens and teenagers. This is the group I was most excited about. I told God a few years ago that I would never be able to work with teenagers....that He could put me anywhere else, but I just couldn't work with them because I remember the attitude I used to have and how sneaky I was, and I just didn't want to deal with it. Well - that was a mistake.....NEVER tell God what you won't be doing. He might just equip you and send you right to it :)
The teens were looking through hymnals and song books when I came in the room. They were in small groups at different tables in what looked like a Sunday School room. They were obviously bored out of their minds and just making the best of their time while they waited on me. I introduced myself and had them put their chairs in a circle in the room. Two of the kids, a brother and sister, remembered me from McDougald Terrace Apartments Street Church from last year. It's always so nice to see familiar faces in a group....especially welcoming, familiar faces. I started off my testimony time by giving them a little of my childhood history. The very first question I was asked was "Have you ever even lived in the projects?" Praise God that I was able to have the kids look directly out the window of the church, right across Roxboro Road, in between Biscuitville and Pelican Snowballs, and show them that YES, in fact I had lived RIGHT THERE. I lived on Brittania Avenue when I was 16 and one street over was Channing Court....and the siding of our duplex had bullet holes. Just because I looked like a "well-to-do white girl" didn't mean that I didn't have a clue. I wanted these kids to immediately know that I wasn't just some stranger who had nothing in common with them and didn't have a clue what they might be going through. I was able to further relate to them by letting them know that I grew up without my dad in my house, and that he was, and still is, a drug addict that isn't there for me. By this point they were relaxed and wanted to hear more. I took them through my high school years.....the honor roll, the constant church attendance, the need to fit in, the partying, the dropping out of high school, and slipping deeper and deeper into sin. I told them from the beginning that I was going to be blunt and honest with them. I know these kids hear worse on the school bus and with their friends at school, and I knew the way to reach them was to truly open up and be honest with them. They couldn't realize the depths of my redemption without seeing the depths of my pit of sin. And they can spot a phony from a mile away, someone who's just there to tell them what to do. I took them through the teen pregnancy, the sexual promiscuity, and on and on and even worse. We discussed in detail how I incorrectly thought the whole time that I was okay with God since I had been to church and even been baptized as a kid. I took them through my 20s and my emotional mess and how I finally turned away from that lifestyle and starting looking to fill my God-void with other things.....like worldly success and having a nice looking outer shell, and how I even started back to church thinking Sunday social club with lots of activities would make me happy and whole. I was able to let these kids see that I had tried everything, but nothing would ever fill that whole in my heart except for a real, living relationship with the Lord. I related it to them and how they feel and what they deal with and how I knew that God had created each one of them with a longing for Him and that no amount of money, partying, friends, sex, drugs, success, cars, houses, etc. would ever be able to satisfy them. I was able to bring them full circle and I told them of how I finally understood what Jesus did for me and how I could have a relationship with God by the indwelling Holy Spirit. I ended with some great scriptures (good/bad tree and its fruit) and a visual representation of the woman caught in the act of adultery. The circle of students were the Pharisees and law givers, one girl was the woman, and I was Jesus (since I had the name of JESUS written on my shirt). I explained Jesus' authority as the sinless judge and His love and forgiveness for the woman/sinner, but also stressed Jesus' directive to her to "Go and sin no more". I didn't want to leave these kids where I was at their age....thinking they could just go to church, or say a repetitive sinner's prayer in a strictly emotional or obligatory moment, and leave and live like the world and just be ok. I told them the truth directly from the Word of God. They were able to see my passion....my honesty....my care for them and their situations. I gave our ministry cards to a few interested folks and stayed after for 15 minutes while they asked me personal questions and told me of their own stories. Were all of the kids changed? Probably not. Did I have an effect on a few? Most definitely.
I walked with them to their next destination, which was a speaking presentation with Mayor Bill Bell....fully set up with backdrop and lights and video cameras. Was I important like that? Maybe not in the worlds' eyes. Maybe not in the City of Durham's eyes. But on the way out a few of the students stopped one of the directors and asked them if I could please come back and share again.
WOW.....they actually want me to come back.
I'm in awe.
Not of them....
Not of me....
But of how the Holy Spirit showed up in that room and used my mouth to testify of Jesus. That's always His job and when we yield to it, He's always faithful. He's the power behind our faith....He's the power, the strength, the peace, the comfort, the wisdom, the guidance, the living presence of Jesus Christ in ME!
I left that place and got in my car and felt like I was on top of the world! My heart was so full I couldn't do anything but praise Him and thank Him and smile.
Loving Radically Through Jesus,