These Are the Days to Remember

I must be honest with you. I feel a bit like this camel looks. There are a few reasons for it. Let’s just say the last few days have been terrific when looking back at the whole picture. There have been some major unexpected situations that caused the whole group to shift our focus. What we thought would happen and the ways we thought things would happen needed to be tweaked quite a bit.

I got behind in my writing merely because my attention needed to be in other places to serve the group in the best ways possible. I make no other excuses and I certainly am not offering any apologies. I have tried to keep up with the photo section of the journal. I have added a few captions to help the viewer navigate through the photos with some idea of what you might be seeing.  Unfortunately, because not everything worked out exactly as planned, I do not have immediate access to as many photos as I had hoped. I especially find myself lacking in pictures of the Youth Rally we did last night. I have been assured there are some out there, I just do not have them, yet. When I get them, I will add them to the photo gallery for your viewing pleasure.

Because of unforeseen circumstances I needed to blow the dust off my creative side and come up with a few last-minute ideas and activities that would, I hoped, lead us to have a seamless and fruitful program for the children of Aboud. This in turn allowed others to fully focus on matters which required their full attention.

In the end everyone worked hard to make the last few days the best days ever. These days saw a fantastic VBS with over forty children participating. The weather even tried to throw us a loop by providing an early morning thunderstorm and continued light rain through much of the morning. This is not the ideal setting for doing outdoor painting. Not to be outwitted by the weather we were able to work around it and still managed to get all the concrete playground painted. The Iron rails and gate crew knocked it out of the park with the work they accomplished.

This brings us to the Youth Rally. The plan is in place. All the needed props and papers are ready. We will need chairs from time to time. Everyone helped and got the chairs out and circled up as requested.  The event was scheduled for 6:00 pm. There are only a few of us that have even seen an example of our Youth Rallies, so there is quite a bit of mystery to what anyone can expect. Mass notifications and invitations were sent out. We have a potential of fifty participants. Our team are all in place. Some encouragement is given to be ready to interact with the youth. Team members sitting together are asked to spread out so youth would need to sit between them. 6:00 pm. comes and goes and there are only about six young people here. These are some of our old friends who have known us from when we were here five years ago. We get a chance to visit and catch up, but the program really has not begun. A small group of young ladies arrives at 6:15 pm. They do not come to sit with us. They go off around the corner and sit by themselves. Team members are beginning to get anxious. I assured them the time had not yet come. Patience is our friend. Around 6:25 another group of young ladies arrived. They greeted the first group and began to pull them over to us. At 6:29 a large group of young men join us, and the party starts.

There are introductions and welcomes given. An explanation of wanting us to all have a good time and be relaxed with each other is shared with the whole group. There are looks of doubt and hesitation from the young adults and team members. We immediately get out of our chairs, pair up, and do an action song that breaks down barriers. This song has never failed me. Laughter, gestures, and controlled chaos have all been put into play. We move on to the next action song. A theme is introduced. A game is played to reinforce the theme and continue to motivate us as a group. I would love to take credit for all of this. None of it was me. I did a lot of praying and listening. Ideas, patterns, progression for what needed to happen took shape over a couple of months. I love how God can work through even one like me. Truly amazing. Once again, God shines through.

We played another couple of games and sang another song. All these things quieted the tone of our group and brought us to a point of deeper thought and conversation. Scripture was read. Our music, activities and the scripture were all centered on our lives. We are challenged to group and individual response to being connected, through Christ, to God to allow the Holy Spirit to fill us with its fruits…love, peace, joy, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, patience, kindness, self-control. We can only bear such fruit when we are intentionally connected to Jesus Christ as living vine of which we are the branches.

We offer up one last song. We share in a challenging activity.  Teams of four are challenged to stay connected to one another while at the same time making their line the longest line possible. They were allowed to use whatever they had with them as long as everything was connected to each other with the line of four people. The winning team managed to make their line go out thirty-six feet. We gathered again in a circle and said a prayer. Night was falling. Everyone was invited to join in a time of fellowship. Food and drink were served. Some of our young adults stayed for a while. Everyone was thanked for coming. I had my doubts that it would all come together, but God had it under control. I always love the fellowship at the end. Knowing these young men and women had so many choices they could have made besides coming to our Youth Rally. Knowing that could bolt as soon as it was officially over. Still, they stay. They take pictures with each other, and with us, to remember this night. Amazing and humbling.

My heart and spirit are full of the joy of the Lord. When I open myself up to the Spirit’s leadership, I find amazing things. People used to ask me about my Sunday morning messages (others call them sermons). I worked on them all week. It wasn’t just scripture study. Yes, that was a big part of building the morning message. But a morning message needs to be something that relates to those with whom it is being addressed. You see, I do not think the morning message is something people just hear. I think the morning message should stir something inside. It should cause one to pause, think, reflect; and it should create some change or cause of action. Much of my week was spent listening to what was going on around me and applying that to the morning message. I would write down just enough to make sure and cover what I felt God wanted shared as key points. I would pray with my worship team on Sunday before worship began. I would use a technique I call breathing prayer all the way through the Service. When it was time for the morning message, I stepped away from the pulpit, opened my heart to the Spirit’s leaning and let it flow.

When I am leading a youth event, I do the exact same thing. I listen for what is going on around these fine young men and women, I gather ideas to cover the main points of what I feel like the Spirit in moving me to share. I breathe a prayer, heart wide open and let it flow. I am exhausted after each, and every, worship. I am exhausted after these youth rallies. It has always been, and I think will always be, when I am most assured to be doing exactly what God wants of me. It leaves me physically and emotionally drained; but, spiritually full.

The question I hope you are asking yourself is what are you doing that leaves you spiritually full? My hope, my wish, and my prayer for you is that you have something like this in your life, too.

Seems strange but we only have a few days left. There are some real highlights to the next few days. I am excited for what lies ahead. I thank God for the experiences our group has shared thus far. I lift prayers for those with whom this experience has taken a toll. I offer praise for those who have help manage and make bearable unforeseen circumstances. I praise God for the work done and the things yet to come. I already miss Aboud. I look with hope at what if yet to come. Amen.


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