The night is Thursday. The place is Hardin Simmons University. The occasion is Super Summer. Zach Randles is preaching on thankfulness. I sit and watch as hundreds of students are taking notes on how to pray and how to be more thankful. I hold a book in my hand with guided questions to share with my family group. We’ve been thru the routine before – sit, lesson, notes, questions, conversation, and then inevitably food lol. My attempt to break up routine leads my other team leader to remind me the questions are important and allowing others to answer is even more important. Trust the process. And yet, my rebellious nature couldn’t allow for a normal night to take place. I had to push my family group’s limits and an idea sparked.
Everyone had a pen and notebook. We were all accustomed to writing. So I had them write. The assignment? Fill as many pages as one was able finishing this sentence: I am thankful to God for ________. Pretty simple, really. But God chose to bless it.
During the next 20 minutes I watched as students filled pages full of things to which they are thankful. Youth who had complained about family relations all week set that aside and thanked God for their crazy complicated family. Work problems and boyfriend/girlfriend problems were set aside as our group realized anything could be overcome with a thankful heart. Of course, I was distracted. I fielded a phone call from a concerned parent and wasn’t able to complete my list. When I did finally sit down my mind was consumed with thoughts of the arrangements for home. Would the bus arrive on time? Would my group be packed? Who would I want to leave behind? I’m hungry again…
Going nowhere fast I decided the best thing to do was pray to God and be thankful in my heart for a great week. As I prayed it dawned on me that I knew more about each person in my group from a week together than I realized and although I could pray for them in silence it would be awesome to pray for them in a way they could hear me. So, I got up and sat by my first victim, Kelsey. Caught off guard I knew it would take her a moment to warm up to me. Then to my second, Michaela. My third, Audra Beth. I was supposed to be leading them in conversation as a group – what I saw instead shocked my heart and filled my soul with joy.
Several of the students, all who are supposed to be leaders, began praying with other students by the time I made it to my fourth. A few individually and a few more in a group. Prayers were prayed, tears spilled, and together a glimpse of the spectacular – students engaged in each others lives. One of my favorite guys confessed that he missed an opportunity to invest in his friend because he was afraid – I prayed for confidence. Another said she didn’t know exactly how to love her parents right now – I prayed for wisdom. Another struggles with a relationship not built on the Word – I prayed for clarity. Another needed courage to engage his teammates with the Gospel – I prayed for boldness. Another battles depression – I prayed for peace that passes all understanding.
And the prayers went on and on. Golf carts drove by alerting with a flash light that it was time to leave. No one cared. I looked at my watch and realized we would be late to our next activity. I didn’t care. We missed an opportunity for dollar burritos during break time. We got over that one eventually… Finally a gentleman came by and informed me that we didn’t have an option, we needed to join the rest of the students.
A lot happened at Super Summer from June 13-17. I was placed way outside my comfort zone by not interacting much with my church youth group. Many of my students were completely unprepared for the setup of Super Summer. The food was not comforting. I sang karaoke with 4 other guys to the tune of the Backstreet Boys. We all painted ourselves and went crazy on the rec field.
The memory that will stick, however, happened among a group of students willing to confront their issues, give them over to God, and accept a thankful heart. My prayer today is the night not be wasted – may each in my family group remember the impact of a heart set on Christ. “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15