Tonight we started meeting at our new Campaigners location and quickly filled up the gym downstairs. There were new faces of kids that had been brought by their friends. I met a couple girls in the driveway that walked up and said, "Hi, We heard you need more Juniors to come." Katy, Rachel and Mikaela, girls I've been close to for the past two years, got to come for the first time tonight. It feels like such a reunion and party and celebration all at once.
Everyone was excited about getting the new YL t-shirts tonight and put them on right away. I ran around collecting camp forms, getting names of the new people and taking pictures. Can you spot the girls that followed me to photo bomb every picture?
I'm thankful for this new spot where the boys can play basketball and the girls can spread out and connect. For a room that allows us space to grow because I keep hearing the kids say, "I want everyone at school to come to this."
When I look around at this group that's exactly what I see happening--different groups of friends, people from HSE and Fishers and Cathedral, bigger groups of Sophomores and Juniors showing up. These kids have a heart to include their friends and to make everyone in this space feel welcome.
And heck, it's a whole lot of fun.
We're getting used to singing together. Kids were shouting out requests and making up motions. We didn't expect to grow this quickly so we're lacking a bit on the songbooks but there will be more of those soon. Later someone told me, "Seeing everyone together was my favorite part. Just watching everyone sing together made me tear up."
I agree that there is something so powerful about music and singing those words together. The girls tend to all crowd together as close as they can get but I loved to look back and see this line of guys and leaders sitting together.
A friend asked me a couple weeks ago why I believe in God-- it's times like we had tonight in our small discussion group that show me he is here and now, working in our lives, and that he is a God of healing, reconciliation and new life. There were shining moments tonight of honesty and love and vulnerability. At one point we all, myself including, teared up and I can't even think of the last time I did that. Those moments of relization and openness and trust are why I do Young Life.
Our conversation tonight centered around this quote from Henri Nouwen, "Knowing the heart of Jesus and loving him are the same thing. The knowledge of Jesus' heart is a knowledge of the heart. And when we live in the world with that knowledge, we cannot do other than bring healing, reconciliation, new life and hope wherever we go. The desire to be relevant and successful will gradually disappear, and our only desire will be to say with our whole being to our brothers and sisters of the human race, 'You are loved. There is no reason to be afraid. In love God created your inmost self and knit you together in your mother's womb.'"
This community has formed so quickly. Girls tonight were talking about how they love that at YL everyone can be friends and people listen to you and trust one another. But I pointed out to them that they're the ones making this culture. I can't do it on my own, the other leaders can't make it that way-- the kids have such control over what this group becomes. I love that they have ownership of what we're doing here.
It's about the quirkiness of Mikaela, Katy and Rachel that I love so much. It's people like Helen, Ashley, Brooke, Audrey and Claire coming together.
It's girls like Natalie that share their heart and love for Christ so willingly. When she talks I hear other girls whisper, "She's so nice... That's so cool... I love that girl."
It's goofy friends like Mariah, Natalie, Saba and Sophie that make me laugh and make me so excited to come back next Monday and hopefully see them before then.
2 Corinthians 4 reads, "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." I pray that when kids show up and when we walk through life with them we're showing them more of Christ's light and leading them to the things that matter.