Monday, August 20, 2012

Thank you, youth ministry: A tribute to St. Michael's youth group.

Oh youth ministry, what would I have done without you? But really. I have no idea where in this crazy world I would be if it weren't for years and years of GIFT, Flock, AP Flock, Camp Tekakwitha, Prayer and Action, Kairos, etc.

This particular post is a tribute to the place that got me started with making faith a priority in my life: St. Michael the Archangel.

I met Sara at GET REAL going into 5th grade and to this day I can call her one of my greatest role models. So what am I walking away with from eight years of fantastic SMA youth ministry? Here's just a few things:

1. I've learned that dodgeball is not just a fun game. It's basically like a friendly war, that isn't always so friendly... St. Michael, defend us in battle. Please.

2. I've learned that the more ridiculous you look, the better. I mean, how can you not just laugh in amazement of these fantastic shirts??

3. I've learned that everyone looks way tougher when wearing a "fire-fightering" suit. Watch out world.  "If you are who God made you to be, you'll set the world on fire." - St. Catherine of Siena. 

4. I've learned that it's imperative to have a good fake laugh. They make situations so much more awkward. ETA. Embrace the awkward.

5. I've learned that if you bring a dozen high schoolers to work at Harvesters, they'll actually get a lot done, despite the craziness (i.e. hiding in giant boxes, looking ridiculous in hair nets, etc).

6. I've learned that rocking up is WAY cooler than holding hands during prayer. Pretty soon everybody will be doing it. Total hipster move, St. Michaels.

7. I've learned that if Sara and Michael let Evelyn, Olivia, Annelise, and I design their house, it would be the coolest living space in history. And it would include a nice moat, with Aaron floating around in there with a nice sea monster. 

8. I've learned that yoga is definitely the best way to de-stress... Or the best way to break your back... Thank you, "Yoga with Tara Stiles." 

9. I've learned that Chris and Sara get ABSOLUTELY NO work done when I'm in town... I mean, how can you actually work when there are so many cups that are just perrrrfect for cup stacking? Cup pyramids > work.

10. And finally, I've learned that despite our absolute ridiculousness, everything we do is for the Big Man upstairs. Everything relates back to the cross and to His love for each of us.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

LIVIN' FOR THE STORY — Camp Tekakwitha 2012

It was the end of my senior year in high school. Everybody was hugging at graduation, saying, "Let's hang out this summer!" or "I'll see you up at the pool, right?" Right. Actually, not.

Five days after graduation, I, along with 60 some other college kids, made the drive down to Williamsburg, Kansas to begin the best summer of my life. That summer would consist of days jam packed with action. Praying, singing, building, dancing, talking, climbing, riding, canoeing, swimming, jumping, laughing — we did it all. 

The theme for camp this summer was "Open the Door to Faith," and that's what Camp Tekakwitha is all about. God, our King and Creator, is always passing by the door of each of our hearts, knocking, waiting for us to let Him in. All we have to do is Trust — trust in our God that He has everything under control, that He has a plan for us, and that He wants to walk through this whole journey right by our side. 

But opening the door to faith isn't just a personal challenge for each of us, it's a world-wide mission. Once we know that Christ is knocking at the doors of our hearts, it's our duty to go out into the world — into our schools, families, parishes, and sports teams — and let everyone know that Jesus is waiting outside the doors of their hearts, too. 

One of my favorite praise and worship songs that we sing at camp is "Overcome" by Jeremy Camp. There's one line that gets me every time: "We will overcome by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of our testimony." This means that if we wish to truly change the world and carry out God's will, we must share our testimonies, tell our stories. Each of us has a story, there's no doubt about that. And each of our stories is a witness to Christ's love, and each of our stories can touch others in such a profound way because we carry similar crosses in life. So I'm telling you, yes YOU, that your story is important. 

We're all livin' for the story. Because our stories intertwine. Our stories are related. Our stories all make up a huge "tapestry" (as Debbie Nearmyer would say) that makes us who we are as the people of God. All of our stories lead back to the cross. 

So all of the crazy stories I have from camp this summer relate back to Jesus, because it's all for Him. The day when some other sweepers and I worked through the 107 degree heat to rebuilt the amphitheater stage for the Mikey Needleman concert — just livin' for the story... The day when we sang "Old McDonald" over and over on a hayride with VBS kids for family camp — just livin' for the story... The day hundreds of past and present campers and staffers reunited at PSR for the 15th anniversary of Camp Tekakwitha — just livin' for the story. 

Someday when we're all saints up in Heaven (because we're ALL called to be saints), we can look back on these beautiful memories that brought us closer to Christ and closer to each other, and we'll realize that this whole time we were just LIVIN' FOR THE STORY.