Monday, May 24, 2004

Senior Celebration 2004

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Jasper Speaks:

Well this year's Senior Celebration is behind us. It was a great night though. I was reminded early on that we are always in a spiritual battle. We had put a lot of work into the night. It was daunting as we changed so much this year and then had a big class of students graduating.

We made slideshows with songs as remembrances to show throughout the evening. They were great. We did three and used the songs, Hold On To Jesus by Erin O'Donnell, Good To Be Alive by Geoff Moore And The Distance, and I Wish by Billy Sprauge. They were nicely put together to provoke emotion. The problem was our tech guy's laptop went all funky. It wouldn't play music. It would only show the pictures and make weird cracking noises. So Kendra had thought ahead and asked someone else to bring a backup laptop. They did. Hallelujah! But wait --- their laptop didn't have Windows Media Player and that was the format the presentations were made in. However, it could play the music tracks. So, we ended up using one for the video and the other for the music. There were a couple of other weird issues with the video presentations because we are all learning the new projection unit but mostly the people didn't realize the problems. Go God!

Next, as I got up to use our cordless mic, an unearthly buzz began that scared the blue out of the hair seniors' grandmas it was so loud. So I had to try and just speak loudly as we played our NAME THAT SENIOR Powerpoint game. Not so bad. I had made the presentation and seen those pictures a gazillion times so the fact that I couldn't see the screen very well, wasn't such an issue.

However, during the Responsive Reading time which I was supposed to lead, it was a lot more frightening. I am a great upside down reader but try reading backwards at the same speed as a whole congregation reading forwards using words like opportunity and omnipotent. Not easy. Usually I would start a sentence and by word three I would just mumble. Too funny!

There were plenty of poignant moments as well. We did a Christianized version of the Sunscreen Song as a choral reading from the youth leaders and it went over well. My favorite part was when I inserted a HUGE inside joke for my Guy's Small Group. It got the desired looks of terror from the boys and no one else even questioned it.

By the time I was supposed to deliver a message, I had spoken so much already trying to be a filler while the video stuff was working out that I didn't want to say too much. I ended up saying,"you're not going to remember what I say to you tonight anyway. If I haven't instilled the important stuff in you in the last four years you aren't suddenly going to get it now."

This was an exceptional class. Fourteen seniors who all stayed very active in the ministry all four years. They are still at every mid-week service, small group meeting and event we have. It is awesome and they will be severely missed. They are also the first class Kendra and I have seen through all four years of High School since we came to Maine. They are truly "our kids" and I said again last night that for the parents they are losing one kid to adulthood, we are losing fourteen all at once!

So I did stop the sermon and spoke to each of them individually. I called them by name and told them something unique about each of them. I was glad I wrote these out before the service because every time I looked up, I would get a lump in my throat the size of Toledo, Ohio. I made it through and then we had a beautiful candle light commissioning service. Each student gave their parents a rose and as Kendra sang, Carry Your Candle, each student came to me and I gave them a freshly lit candle. They stood in front of the stage for the best "Kodak moment" of the night. Then I prayed for each of them by name.

Next, came a surprise for me in the evening. One of the parents came onto the stage and read a note thanking Kendra and me for all the time we had put into this class. Then he called us onto the stage as he and the Senior class sang Thank You to us. Now that song is pure sap to be sure but man, it gets you in the gut when 14 kids you have discipled and loved for four years are singing it to you from their hearts. Kendra didn't well up until the line "sacrifices made" when she thought about our move to this distant land 1200 miles away and all the things we have missed in our families while we have been here. It struck her that at that moment, we knew it was worth it because we are here because of a higher calling.

For me, I did fine until almost the end when I looked down and Ben, one of the guys I have mentored for these four years, was sobbing as he was singing to us. I mean, here was this eighteen year old guy who meant it from his heart when he sang, "Thank you for giving to the Lord. I am a life that was changed. Thank you for giving to the Lord. I am so glad you gave." At that point I was pretty spent and began to tear up. I mean I don't have a heart of stone!

After the song the church gave us a standing ovation. I kept crying. It was so humbling. We went and hugged every senior. We cried together and it was very touching. One of our youth leaders was on the program to close in prayer. I was glad I didn't have to try and talk after that. He said some really great things that I can't remember now.

After the service one of our church members had a room set up for pictures. She is an excellent photographer and should do it full time. She had been the one who took most of the kid's senior pictures. She is awesome. The room was beautiful and she had Sparkling Cider for the students and their families. She is giving the pictures to us all for free. Kendra and I got a couple with the whole group. I will cherish those pictures I am sure. I am not certain we will ever have a class like this again as long as we are in ministry.

All in all, despite the several malfunctions, it was a beautiful night. I think it was pretty special for the students. I know it was for me. This is often a thankless profession but nights like this are what keep us going. I pray that I will continue to affect teenagers to live godly lives. I am humbled that God wants to use someone like me to do something so important. I pray that I will remain faithful to the task.

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