Friday, April 30, 2004

Reflections On A Spring Afternoon

Jasper Speaks:

I guess that title sounds like a poem from the romantic period in literature but that is not my intent. I am just sitting in my office thinking about life. It is a beautiful day in New England. It is about eighty degrees which is not the norm for our area in April. I have tried to stay more positive lately. I felt like I was getting into a rut with my negativity. Today, I am thinking a lot about the privilege it is to be a Youth Pastor.

I have been reflecting on my career since I had a heart to heart with our Associate Pastor on Wednesday. He asked if I thought there was a significant change spiritually in our students since I arrived here four years ago. I had to ponder the point and then said I believe so.

Now he has a stake in the answer to that question because he has three kids in our ministry. But I thought of all God has done here in our four years of service. I have seen salvations, rededications, and a slew of "a-ha" moments. Those are the ones I live for. I love to see a student "get" something for the first time. Whether it is a biblical truth like things of the world really do pass away or a life lesson like there are people who are poor and hurting in the world in worse ways than you had ever imagined.

One of my favorite a-ha moments ever comes from our trip to Mission Raleigh two years ago. Our kids had never really seen inner city poverty. Actually they had never really seen the inner city (they actually took pictures of billboards and street signs! What can I say we are from a state that is 90% forestry). Our students were forever changed on that trip. For the first time they saw poverty up close and personal. They also experienced what it feels like to offer (and receive in return) unconditional love. The "a-has" were ever present with us that week. Around every corner students were bursting from their suburban shells and experiencing life differently than ever before.

As we were leaving our mission site for the last time. Many students were in tears as they were leaving behind children who had captured their hearts. Their eyes had been opened and they longed to stay with these wonderful kids who came from not so wonderful homes. I held one student (the Associate Pastor's Daughter Joni) in my arms as she sobbed and asked me why people had to live like this. Of course I didn't have a great theological answer. I assured her God would protect the children and that he had a plan for their lives that we may never understand. She continued to cry and I said, "never forget how you feel at this moment". She looked at me with understanding eyes and we got into the van to prepare to leave. Not forgetting was going to be her a-ha moment.

In three weeks Joni leaves to spend her entire summer in Raleigh as a missionary. She can hardly wait as she has a great burden for the children that we serve there. She hasn't forgotten her a-ha moment and she understands how that moment forever changed her life. I am proud of her. My father instincts kick in and I get a little lump in my throat when I think she is going to be gone there all summer doing what our ministry has trained her to do.

I could go on about how this church had never done a ministry oriented mission trip before we came. I could toot my own horn for hours. But on this beautiful spring day, I can only dwell on my own a-ha moment. The a-ha for me is that God loves me in an incredible way. Now of course I knew that before now but today, as I think on all he allows me to do, I am especially touched. I get to work in the most wonderful profession in the world. I get to be there for the a-has. God has allowed me to be a part of his great plan in people's lives. I can affect people for God and I get to hang out with kids and never really have to grow up.

Somedays ministry is overwhelming and I feel like I need to pack up my bags and leave it all behind. Then God sends me a beautiful spring day that reminds me I am not thankful enough that I have the best job on the planet. Thanks God. You are mighty cool!