Teenagers are difficult sometimes. Having worked as a middle school teacher for years, I have had my fair share of dealings with kids who still need structure and discipline, but want that sense of freedom that comes from making their own decisions. They want to make their own way. This week, I was able to spend some time with a group of teenagers who fit this description. They have the knowledge, the charisma and the energy to tackle most anything that comes their way, but they also want the assurance from parents and other adults that someone will be there to catch them if they fall.
I found myself this past week in unfamiliar territory as I participated in the Youth Mission trip to Cairo, Illinois. I had been on similar trips in the past, but I was younger then, and seemed to be less aware of my limitations. Sleeping on the floor and showering at an off-site facility wasn't a big deal back then, but is much less comfortable now. My body doesn't jump out of bed as easily as it used to, and cold locker room showers don’t seem to make me feel as revived as my shower at home. There were many aspects of the trip that were a new challenge for me, but watching our teenagers serve God and the community wasn't one of them. I watched them read and play with children, visit with nursing home patients, pick up garbage, mow grass, have fun with residents of a mental health facility, wash dishes, prepare meals, and learn about the people and history of Cairo. I watched them introduce some new friends from Kansas and Minnesota to examples of our southern dialect and euphemisms. They even taught them all about Chick-Fil-A.
I watched them worship at the end of each day, expressing the highs and lows of all they had seen and done. In the actions of serving, they too were served. We all were. They were able to see a glimpse of someone else’s life, someone else’s struggles. For a few days their focus was not on themselves, and it was a blessing to watch them reach out to others. You would have been proud of our kids. They didn't complain and they didn't stop working until it was finished. They represented Epworth and the kingdom of God with grace and kindness. We found comfort in the uncomfortable places. May we allow God to use us to bring the same comfort to others.