Tuesday—White Water Adventure
What is the best thing to do after a long day and emotionally charged night? Make Jr. High students get up extra early for breakfast, of course! Ok, in reality, that makes no sense, but that is what we do on Tuesday morning after commitment night. Breakfast is extra early so people can eat and get on the road to their activity day festivities. It is worth the early morning.
Everyone was up and ready to go on time for breakfast and we shuffled through the lines to get our food. After a brisk walk down the hill, we loaded the bus and headed to Atlanta for our day at White Water Adventures, the Six Flags water park. However, before we could enjoy the water, we had a stop to make.
It was once said that Krispy Kreme donuts are proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. Ok, I think the famous quote was about a different potable but you get the point. If you have never had a fresh, hot Krispy Kreme donut, you are missing out. They literally melt in your mouth. Fortunately for us, there is a Krispy Kreme store just a couple minutes from the water park, so our annual tradition is to stop for fresh donuts before the water park. We crushed 6 dozen donuts and some drinks. One of the fun parts about this stop is that it is a store where the donuts are actually made. You can watch as they go around the conveyor belt and get cooked and make their way through the process. This process ends with a pass through the glaze waterfall. I have heard students in the past say their only desire is to lay on their back on the belt with their mouth open and pass under the glazing waterfall. Of course, they fail to recognize the fact that the glaze has to be nearly boiling hot to stay in liquid form and it would be a very painful not enjoyable experience. But anyway.
The other part of Krispy Kreme stop is that I get to see one of my best friends David. This year I also got to see his lovely wife and his daughter. What a treat for me! The kids were quite smitten by Clara too…toddlers have an amazing power over students.
Once we got to the park it was a great day with lots of fun. We continued our annual tradition of taking a lap around the lazy river with the entire team. The thing that I appreciated the most was how our groups just meshed and people spent the day in clumps, having a blast. There were no problems with people being left out or excluded. Everyone was able to just enjoy time together. One highlight for me was getting to talk with Richard, one of the Edge photographers who was at the park filming. I was waiting for the rest of my group to come down the cliffhanger and he and I got a chance to stand around and talk about videography stuff, edge history, testimonies of God’s power and work in kid’s lives, and stuff like that. It was a nice treat for me as I waited for my kiddos to zip down the slide.
One of the best parts of the trip happened on the way home from the water park on the bus. Many of us were very tired and needed to nap, but the back of the bus was alive and focused. One of the students started talking and began to open up to the others about their struggles in life and their family and their life. Many of the things that were shared were not previously known by the other students and they aren’t things that this student talks much about. It was wonderful to see how God had worked to open this student up and give them the boldness and faith to share with their peers. It was a very important conversation as it set the stage for the rest of the night.
When we got back to Covenant and went to dinner, it was clear that the transformation for our group was complete. Looking around at the various tables and seating groups, I noticed completely new friend groups. People were all mixed up and sitting with different people. It was awesome. On top of that, the conversations and deep sharing that happened on the bus continued at dinner. God was obviously still working in our group…at the time we didn’t realize how much.
After dinner and an uneventful lawn party, we headed into the chapel for our final evening of worship. As we walked in the doors, I said “pray that we got seats up front tonight.” Sure enough, we were right near the front in great seats. The last night of worship was a powerful one. We sang several songs and being right in the front makes you feel that much more engaged. On top of that, God was at work in other ways.
I mentioned the other night the challenge of a night like commitment night when not all the students “feel it.” As a youth pastor the longing of your heart is to see students come to a saving and intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ. The whole reason why we have youth ministry is to be able to show the love of Christ to students and to equip them to show that love to others. So when you invest in a student’s life and you see them learning and growing, you get excited. But what that growth hits a wall and something keeps them from being able to fully trust the Lord, it can be discouraging. Your heart breaks for students who have that experience. I’ve seen it many times. It is like the rich young ruler who came to Jesus asking what he needed to do to gain heaven. Jesus told him to keep the law and he said he had. Then Jesus, knowing his heart, told him that he needed to sell all his possessions and give them to the poor. The rich young ruler went away sad because he had great wealth. When he finally understood exactly what it meant to follow Christ and to give his ENTIRE life to Him, he wasn’t able to make that leap. This happens a lot with students. They get interested in Christ and faith and want to learn more. When it is easy and popular and simple, following Jesus sounds great. But when things begin to get more challenging and sacrifice is required, they realize that there is a much more strenuous obstacle to overcome. Some are up for the challenge but many hit that wall and can’t progress. When you see this as a youth pastor, it breaks your heart. As I sat in worship that night, I knew some of our students were at that crossroads. I knew that they were “on the edge” and that they would soon walk down the path one way or the other. That night in worship I sat directly behind one of those students. As the music played and everyone around us worshiped, I sat with my head in my hands on the seat in front of me. We were singing the song White Flag from the Passion album of the same name. The song sings about waving our white flag and giving up the battle and surrendering everything to Christ. I wave my white flag, I surrender, all to you, all to you. I wave my white flag, the war is over, love has come, love has won. As we sang that song I knew that the student in front of me wanted that to be the case in their life, but they just hadn’t been able to surrender all. Something was holding them back and it just hadn’t clicked. I cried out to God in my heart to let that chorus be true for this student. Then we sang the song Sinking Deep (Wide Awake) by Hillsong. The song talks about sinking deep into the love of Christ and leaning into his love. I’m wide awake, drawing close stirred by grace and all my heart is yours. All fear removed I breathe you in I lean into your love, your love. My heart was desperate for my students to have that be the prayer of their hearts.
As we got to the bridge of the song, the music swelled down. That is a little odd as the bridge in many praise songs “takes off” and really makes the song “soar.” That wasn’t the case tonight. The music swelled down and seemed to pause. Then, out of nowhere, a huge thump hit my heart. It was the kick drum. It was beating almost like a knocking at the door or a heartbeat. Thump, thump. Your love so deep. Thump, thump. Is washing over me. Thump, thump. Your face is all I seek. Thump, thump. You are my everything. Thump, thump. Jesus Christ you are my one desire. Thump, thump. Lord hear my only cry. Thump, thump. To know you all my life. Thump, thump.
With every thump it felt like God was standing at a door, pounding to be let in. My heart exploded in a wave of emotion. Each time the beat hit, I felt more and more broken. I just wept for my students. I could feel the love of God wash over me. It was an incredible experience. I just kept asking God why. Why haven’t you heard these prayers? Why haven’t you called some of these students to you? Why is it not their time yet?
I know God is sovereign. I know He has a plan and His plan is perfect. Sometimes, it is still hard to believe that in the midst of life. In that moment, it was hard for me. As the bridge repeated several times and the intensity of the music and the beats built with each passing beat, I felt God wrap His arms around me and remind me of His goodness. He reminded me that His promises are trustworthy. He reminded me that He loves my students way more than I do. He reminded me of the sacrifice He made and the lengths He went to to pursue them. As I wept, I leaned into God’s love, stirred by His grace and was reminded of just how beautiful it is to give him your whole heart.
As the time of worship ended, I had found a new peace. My heart still longed for all my students to know Christ as Savior and Lord. But I no longer felt the burden and pain I had felt before. I had a peace. In particular, I knew that the student I had been praying for was in God’s hands. I had seen the evidence of His Spirit working in their life. I knew the promises God had made. I was able to fully trust in His plan and His perfect timing for this student. Little did I know what that would mean.
Andy had another wonderful message for us and we headed off to team time with a couple of potent and poignant questions to discuss. However, we couldn’t break off into our normal small groups because yet again we were down an adult leader. At the water park, Natalie was playing in the lazy river with some of the other students and caught an elbow to her brow. She got a nice shiner and developed a headache. We had hoped that she could make it through the evening, but the second that the loud music started, her head pounded and she had to leave the auditorium. So Linda ran out after her to make sure she was ok. After a trip to visit the nurses, she was able to go back to her room and grab a nap and recover. But this left us without Linda for team time as she was back in the room caring for Natalie. So rather than being able to break into our 4 groups, we only had 3 adults. So we spent some time as a team talking about things and then decided to give the students the choice of which group they wanted to go to. Each adult spread to a different part of the breezeway where we meet and students were given the option to join whichever discussion they wanted. Challenging and encouraging conversations were had in each group. We asked the question, where in your life do you need to jump? This question came from the final talk when Andy told us about needing to have faith and take a leap of faith in going home. It was great to see students begin to struggle with the idea of taking their faith home and impacting (restoring) the world around them. Even in the midst of those conversations it was evident that God was still at work in the hearts of the students. You could see them processing all they had learned and trying to think about how to take it home. You could also tell that God was still working in hearts of those and drawing them to himself. I think this was another night were we could have talked long into the night, but the schedule didn’t allow. We had to wrap things up and head into the dining hall for our PIZZA PARTY.
There is something unique about seeing 750+ middle school students crammed into a dining hall devouring pizza. Everyone got lots to eat for the late night snack and then we headed back to the chapel for the final evening event of the Edge—The Edge Has Talent. This year it was particularly exciting for us because we had someone to root for! Dylan tried out earlier in the week and was selected as one of the 6 finalists to compete for the title. Dylan got up 2nd and showed off his dance moves, much to the delight of the crowd. He did a great job. It was especially wonderful to see his confidence and joy on the stage. He is truly a ham and loves to perform for people. Dylan was up against some very stiff competition and he didn’t win, but we were all proud of his effort. What a change it was from the beginning of the trip for him. The winner of the Edge has talent solved a rubix cube while reciting pi (accurately) to 50+ decimal places. It was incredible. After he finished and the crowd went wild, Alison turned around and said “I don’t know what just happened, but I know it was incredible!” It was pretty awesome to see. Seeing all the talent at the Edge was a great way to be reminded of God’s goodness and His craftsmanship. We all went to bed tired and ready for some sleep…after all, we had to get up early for the last day of the edge so we could pack and head home…
But sleep was not to be had for the girls. As they showered and packed and headed to bed, some of the other girls in their dorm decided it was time for some wild fun. They had a water war and in the midst of that water war, water dripped down the wall and got behind the fire alarm pull. It must have closed a circuit or something because a WATER FIGHT set off the FIRE ALARM. The girls were evacuated and had to jump out of the shower or throw on more than just pjs as they headed out until they were given the all clear. I’ve been told that the first thing the girls grabbed was their cake. (Yes, they ordered a cake again this year from the cafeteria to have a girl’s party at the end of the week). While they remembered the cake, they forgot the other essential element to a cake party…forks. After much debate and discussion, they decided that breaking into the cafeteria was a bad idea and sneaking back into the dorm to get the forks they had already “borrowed” from the cafeteria was an even worse idea. The final verdict: eat the cake with their hands! Certainly it resulted in a memorable night that won’t soon be forgotten. Eventually they were allowed back into their dorm and went to bed…only to get up early again for breakfast and packing. It is hard to believe that the Edge is, yet again, almost over.
Commitment night (part 2)
Commitment night is always a special night for our group at the Edge. Each year I am amazed at how God works in the hearts of students to draw them to himself. In years past I’ve gone into the night with expectations. I’ve attempted to look at how I see God working and try to be prepared for who might stand up at the end of the night indicating that they had made a first time commitment to Christ. This year, however, in keeping with my new faith in God and trusting Him rather than feeling responsible for making things happen, I went in without any expectations of what to expect. I was certain that God would show up, but I wasn’t at all certain as to how.
We went into the chapel and quickly found our seats easily…that is because we were in the very back! Normally this would be a disappointment…when you end up under the balcony, all the way in the back, it can feel dead or detached from what is happening in the rest of the chapel. However, this was not the case for tonight. The other unique thing about our location was something that only I was aware of. Walking into the chapel that night I was immediately transported back to the first trip for Outbound to the Edge (we were still One Step Closer at that point!). Why was I transported back? Because that first year on commitment night, we sat in the exact same seats. I can vividly remember lifting my head during the prayer that night to see if ANY of the students had stood to commit their lives to Christ and was shocked to see more than half a dozen. I can remember watching students in tears as God moved through their hearts…healing and restoring broken hearts. I can remember being totally overwhelmed at how good God was and how incredible it was to see Him move. There must be something special about those seats because I left this night feeling the same thing.
We got to our seats and I could immediately tell that God was working. There was still some conflict in the group but I could feel God softening those hearts. As worship progressed, it was clear that something cool was happening. As I looked around at students worshipping, I was struck by the power of the Spirit and of friendship. Andy Lewis shared a clear presentation of the Gospel and the students were given instructions about commitment night. As they went out to the chapel lawn to spend alone time with God, the counselors remained in the chapel and prayed fervently. Ironically, the only student that kept flashing before my mind was a student who I knew was already a Christian. As I prayed and prayed, God led me to underline a passage in that student’s bible and to share a note with the student. I think part of why God wanted me focused on that particular student was so that I couldn’t take any credit for praying for the other students who were impacted that night. It was just another reminder to me about how God works and is in control and how He has a perfect plan…I just need to get out of the way and let it happen.
After the students returned, Andy asked students to bow their heads and pray. While they were praying he led students who had indicated a commitment on their card to stand. He then asked them to leave the auditorium and go down to the other building with their leaders. As this was happening, I waited with baited breath. Would any chairs near me creak as our students stood up, indicating that they had made a commitment? Slowly I heard a chair. Then another. Then another. As I raised my head and looked around I was shocked to see 7 students boldly standing, indicating their newfound faith and commitment to the Lord. I joyfully and quickly got out of my seat and led them down the hill. As we walked, we were surrounded by a mixture of emotions. Some students were crying. Many leaders were as well. Others were laughing and giddy. It is such an incredible sight to see over 100 junior high students give their lives to Christ for the first time. We went down to the other auditorium to talk about what had just happened and what it meant. It was a time for us to celebrate with our kids and to laugh and cry and hug.
While we were gone, Wayne led the remaining students and leaders in a time of worship. That time of worship culminated as the rest of the camp returned from down the hill with a “Holy Ghost Party.” There aint no party like a holy ghost party cause a holy ghost party don’t stop! As friends returned, they were met with tears of joy and laughter. Heaven was celebrating all these new believers and it was as if the curtain was peeled back and for a brief moment we got to glimpse what it was like. What a high! After worship ended we went to our gathering spot and had time together as a team. It was a mix of emotions, as it always is on commitment night. The most encouraging thing to me, was to see that God was still at work in the hearts of students. We had them bow their heads and raise their hands to indicate what they had written on their card that night. To our surprise, 8 students raised their hand that they had made a first time profession of faith! It turns out that one student didn’t understand that they were supposed to stand and go down the hill! (I’m still not sure how, but that is beside the point). We also realized that there were other students who God was working on and it just hasn’t been time for those students yet.
It can be discouraging to see a student long for something and not get it. They want that emotional and incredible experience that they see their friends having, but the Spirit hasn’t moved in their heart and it just isn’t happening. This can be heartbreaking. However, it is also a reminder that God is in control. We know that He has promised to finish any work that He begins in our hearts and the mere fact that the student is longing so desperately for Jesus is evidence that He is at work. I am eager and excited to see what God does in hearts like these…because I KNOW He is at work and I KNOW He will complete that work, in His time. I (and these students) have to trust in God’s promises and in His goodness. God is not slow to fulfill his promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
The night ended, as it should have, with the unexpected. Right in the middle of making an emotional and heartfelt point, one of the students let one rip. Yep, a loud, noisy fart right as everyone was hanging on my every word. Needless to say, everyone else lost it and started laughing. When you have that much emotion pent up, you need a release and that moment was the release that we were all longing for. Hugs were plentiful and it was great to see how people were encouraging and loving on each other. They gave space when space was needed, gave hugs when support was needed, joked when a laugh was needed, and remained silent when silence was needed. God was powerfully at work in our team and it was an incredible night. Everyone headed off to bed with full hearts and memories that will last a lifetime.
Monday—Commitment Night (Part 1)
Usually when you write a blog to capture the highlights of a trip, you start at the beginning of the day and work towards the end…that way your readers can see and feel how the trip unfolded. But I want to start with a glimpse at the end of the day before chronicling the day.
During our team time, after commitment night, one of the students made a comment about something that happened that morning. The student sitting next to him retorts “that wasn’t this morning, that was yesterday. Wasn’t it? Wait?! It was this morning?!? It seems like so long ago!” The something that happened that morning was referencing how our day hadn’t started out so hot…and was contrasted by the high we were experiencing as a team. To say that Monday was a day of extreme contrasts might not be doing justice to the rollercoaster of a day we had.
We woke up for breakfast and were supposed to meet in the lobby to gather before heading in to eat. However, several members of our team were late. Not only that, but we also found out that the night before, one of our students was left behind as the rest of the students went back to their dorm. You never want to leave a student to walk back alone…but when that student is hobbled because of a sore foot and required assistance to easily walk, that just puts the cherry on top. When you add in the fact that our team time had focused on team care and making sure everyone was valued and included and cared for, it wasn’t a good start to the day. (just to wrap up the story about the night before, the adults realized what happened, quickly assisted the student and everything was fine…but the damage was done, so to speak). We ended up going in to breakfast over 10 minutes late because we were waiting on people. When you only have a 30 minute window to eat because another group of students is coming afterwards and needs your seats, 10 minutes late isn’t good. So after breakfast we sat as a team for 10 minutes before heading off to morning free time. It was a frustrating and challenging experience for our team. After most of the students left, I was able to spend a little time with our returning Edge campers to encourage them and challenge them to lead their team well. We finished with a time of prayer and it was exactly the reset button that we needed to hit. From that point in the day, things started to shift…but we had no idea just how much.
Waking up with Wayne and our small group and devotional times went well. The team started to gel more and more. It was especially cool to watch as students paired up with someone they didn’t know as well and filled out a questionnaire to get to know each other. Then they shared what they had learned with our group. I think this was evidence of the work that God was doing, but we hadn’t realized it yet.
After lunch we headed off to waterfest and a new addition this year, colorfest. Waterfest was awesome as it usually is with the giant slide, relay race, and counselor wrestling. We had a great time playing in the water and the kids really enjoyed goofing around and playing around in the water and the mud. From there we moved to colorfest. This involved games with colored powder. The first game had 4 teams, each with a scoring zone in the corner of a soccer field. There were 4 bags filled with colored chalk-like powder. On go, everyone ran from their zone to the center of the field where the bags were located. Once your team had a bag, you had to pass it back to your scoring zone and toss it to a “goalie” standing in the zone. You got a point for each time you got a bag back to your zone. Then the goalie would throw the bag back to the center of the field and it would start all over again. Of course, with 150+ students, this was chaos. Chalk was flying everywhere and whenever the bag would hit the ground, it would kick up a cloud. By the end of the 5 minute play period, our team had scored 30 points and had won! It was a blast. The next challenge involved a relay race scooping the color and putting it into a bucket at the far end of the field. Students were hit with color as they tried to make the run, adding to the fun. Finally, all the students lined up on one end of the field while the counselors made a red-rover-like line at the far end. All the powder the students had just transferred to buckets was waiting behind the wall. The students had to break through the wall of adults in order to get to the powder to then throw at their leaders. The whistle sounded and the hoard of students came charging across the field like warriors heading to battle. What they didn’t know was that each of the adults in our arm to arm linked wall was holding 2 fist-fulls of color. When the first wave of students got in range, the adults dropped arms, took aim and flung the color at the charging students. The result was a color cloud that covered the students and many of the leaders. From there it was chaos. Students grabbed handfuls of color and threw it at adults, they threw it on themselves, they found the cameras filming it all and threw it at the cameras. In the midst of the chaos I kept hearing “find Joe, get Joe!” Well, they did. I ended up covered in color from head to toe. One side of my body was orange and the other side was purple (go Clemson!). It was a blast. However, it wasn’t the fun that made this such a memorable activity. It was watching our group come together and play together and laugh together in a way that they had yet to do on the trip. I think this was the first tangible evidence of the shift that had begun that morning, but there was more to come.
After getting hosed off and cleaning up, people headed down for tournaments. The girls didn’t enter anything but the guys entered basketball. A couple of the guys also entered ping pong. Seth Hartman made it to the semifinals of ping pong before being ousted. Way to go Seth! Most everyone went to the gym to support the guys basketball team. Truth be told, most of the girls were happier to guy-watch than to support our guys who were playing. However, conversations quickly changed from frivolous to serious. Discussions were had about the upcoming commitment night and what to expect. Lots of kids had questions about their faith and what they were learning and how God was working in them. After the guys were eliminated from the tournament (the guys won a couple of games but were eliminated before the finals) a group of us were hanging out outside of the gym. The conversation turned to issues of faith and questions and it was a great time of sharing and questioning and going deep. In fact, we talked so long, that we had to end the conversation early in order to get to dinner on time. We hustled up the hill (after all, we had already been late once to a meal and didn’t want it to happen again) for dinner. As the team sat and ate, conversations continued about faith, truth, and living a Christian life. It was great to see how much the groups had morphed during the day. New friendships were evident and God was really opening people up. We still didn’t realize just how much.
After dinner the students headed off to the lawn party and the adults headed to the counselor’s meeting. When we walked into the counselor’s meeting, everything was great. By the time we walked out, Satan had shown up and there was chaos. The first domino to fall was Paula. In the craziness of getting to dinner on time, we weren’t sure who was were and she ended up running from the girls down, half-way down the hill, all the way to the dining hall on top of the hill. She started to feel light headed and nauseas. She went back to the room during the leaders meeting and made a brave effort to rejoin us for the evening meeting, but she was still not feeling well. Immediately I knew that she needed to go back to her room and rest for the remainder of the night and told her to do so. She did. From there we walked up the hill to the lawn where the students were. I was greeted by two students who were deeply concerned. They said “everyone is scattered and everything has blown up.” One student was mad at another, this student was fighting with that student. She had said this and he had done that. I just asked her a question and she went off. He threw the Frisbee at me. And on and on and on. It was clear that there was a major amount of stress and anxiety that had worked its way into the group. We put out a couple of fires, called everyone together and took a moment to regroup. Everyone seemed to be feeling pressure and anxiety over commitment night and what to do. We were able to pray as a group and get things settled down. I told the group that I knew exactly what was happening…Satan was scared and he was trying to disrupt things. I shared with them how evident it was that God was working in hearts in our group and how much the Spirit was alive and at work in their lives. I shared with them how much that scared Satan and how he would do anything he could to keep God from moving…hence the chaos and stress. I also shared with them the fact that God was bigger than Satan and that God was more powerful. We prayed and were able to go into the evening of worship with our hearts focused on God and ready to meet with Him. And we did.
(much more to share, but it will have to come tomorrow. I need sleep.)
Sunday and Monday
I am BEAT. I’ll send a blog about today’s events sometime tomorrow…I hope. Commitment night was incredible tonight. Can’t wait to share all the exciting happenings with everyone tomorrow. Enjoy the update about Sunday.
Sunday & Monday—
Writing a trip blog can be a huge challenge. Not only are time and energy limited, but it can be difficult to capture all the twists and turns and ups and downs that go on in a trip. Often, it is those very swings, those very lows that help to set the scene for the highs. But if you spend time on a trip blog writing about challenges or things that didn’t go well, people who are reading can’t relate. No one wants to hear about the difficult parts of a trip, they want the highlights. Here, I’m reminded of a great theologian who once said “you can’t always get what you want…but you get what you need.” Ok, so I ripped that off a song, tweaked the end slightly, but you get the drift.
Sunday was a great day at the Edge. At least I think it was. Truth be told, I missed the first half of it. My back has been bothering me. I needed Sunday morning to rest and recover so I was physically able to finish the rest of the trip. (I know, the first full day here and I’m out for half of it…that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the trip…but rest assured, this is only the backdrop to a pretty awesome masterpiece that God is creating).
Sunday morning began with a time of encouragement and energizing called waking up with Wayne. Wayne Kerr is the lead singer for the band who leads worship at the Edge. Those guys are phenomenal at engaging with middle school students. In the mornings, they provide energizers and morning worship to get the day started on the right foot. From there it is off to devotional and small group times. I hear the discussions and the morning went well, but I was flat on my back and couldn’t tell you for sure. I rejoined the team at lunch and was excited to see how well our kids were getting along. We have 21 students, many of whom didn’t know each other before the trip. It has been great to watch them form new friendships and deepen others.
After lunch we headed to our designated church time where we spent some time building trust and getting to know one another. It was a challenging time as our group spent a lot of time talking and goofing off and not listening. The afternoon provided some good teachable moments and the cool thing was to see how much the group as a whole grew from the beginning of our time until the end. After a couple of hours of teambuilding challenges and exercises, we headed down to the gym where many of the students entered the dodgeball tournament. The boys and the girls both had teams. It was great to hang out in the gym and support everyone. Both teams fell short of the championships but both teams can say that they won a game and had a good time playing. It was neat to see different students shine at different moments throughout the afternoon. Those who didn’t play or watch the dodgeball went and did some tie-dye shirts, watched a movie in the chapel or played ping pong.
The night worship with Wayne and the band was awesome and our lesson from Andy Lewis was great. He shared about the fall and sin using the story of David and Bathsheba. After the talk we had a time in small groups and discussed several questions. One of the points Andy made was that one of the results of the fall was that everything is broken. In our small groups we asked the question “what in your life is broken?” This question seemed to really hit home for a lot of students who opened up and shared in small groups. After the time was done, students wanted to spend quiet time to reflect or even talk more about their struggles and how God could work in their lives. It was a great time of reflection…but it couldn’t last all night…
That’s because we were off to the Awkward Family Photo dance party. It was a blast. And Hot. But mostly a blast! Everyone had a great time dancing and partying the night away. Everyone left tired, smiling, sweaty, and sore. It was off to bed before another long day.
Monday brought another series of challenges. I’ll give you a full update later as I still need to process some of what God did today and I desperately need sleep and to rest my back. Please rest assured that all the students are doing very well. People are tired but doing great. We have had ZERO behavior issues in terms of problems. (A few silly things here and there and some lack of being on time are the worst we are dealing with! Praise the Lord!) Everyone is making new friends. There is a GREAT mixing between old and new friends, guys and girls, older and younger. It is great to see people come out of their shells and grow and share themselves with the team. Things are going great!
Please be praying for:
· Joe’s Back
· Paula’s head
· Students who committed their lives to Christ tonight.
· Our trip to the water park tomorrow.
· Our continued unity as a team.
· Students who continue to wrestle with God.
· Sleep. J Goodnight from the Edge.
Saturday June 20, 2015—Travel Time
Spending a long time in one place with the same people can be a challenge. When that one place is on a bus and those “same people” are 21 middle school students, 5 minutes can seem like a long time! Over the past 2 days, we’ve spend 11 HOURS in that one place with those same people. Needless to say, I am RELIEVED to finally be AT the Edge. Don’t get me wrong, you can learn a lot about people riding on a bus with them for the better part of two days. We’ve already learned that this year is going to be a unique experience. Let me introduce you to our group, explain where we have been so far and briefly recap our experience at the Edge to this point.
Our “family” consists of 25 people. 21 middle school students and 4 crazy adults. 5 of the students are veterans and that means that 16 of the students are attending the Edge for the first time. One quarter of our adult leadership team (that means one of us!) is also new to the Edge. We have 12 males and 13 females. There are 6 6th graders, 7 7th graders, 6 8th graders, and 2 9th graders. Some of our kids have never been away from home for this long. Many have never been away from home at this distance (650 miles, give or take).
Yesterday we loaded a charter bus, headed down the interstate and ended up in Roanoke, VA. We enjoyed some fabulous pizza for dinner and then took a trip up to Mill Mountain Park to enjoy the view from the Roanoke Star. The Roanoke Star is a giant neon star that sits atop Mill Mountain, overlooking the Roanoke valley. The overlooks at the foot of the star provide wonderful views across the valley of the city of Roanoke as well as the mountains that rise in the distance. We like to stop there, stretch our legs and run out some energy before heading home for the night. There is a small park and a field where the youth can run around and play and get their pent up energy out. Then, it is back through town, up another mountain to my parent’s house. Everyone crams into my old house for the night as we get to know each other and set the expectations for the week. On Saturday, we load up the bus early, and hit the road. After a brief stop to pick up breakfast stuff for the road (yes, we stopped at Kroger’s again) we made our way south through VA into Tennessee. Lunch at Zaxby’s is a favorite part of the trip. They have wonderful chicken fingers. For the last several years, we have made it a point to stop at the same Zaxby’s location in Lenoir City, TN. Every year (for the last several that I can remember) we have been meet with a torrential downpour during that stage in our trip. Today was no different! By the time we were finished with lunch, the rain had subsided and the summer heat was back out in full force. Crazy how it always seems to storm when we go there. From there it is just a hop skip and a jump to Chattanooga. Once there we head up the mountain and before we know it, we are pulling into the parking lot at Covenant college, ready for the Edge to begin.
So what has the Edge been like so far? Well, we are just getting started. But we have already had some free time, settled into our rooms, had dinner, jammed on the lawn during the lawn party, stormed the castle to enter the chapel for worship, jumped, screamed, laughed and praised, listened to a great talk, spent time in a large group as our church, discussed some deeply challenging questions in small groups, masterfully avoided the workcrew as we transported our lights up the hill, eaten ice cream and headed back to the dorms, exhausted! Tomorrow promises to be another full day.
Please be praying for us as we head into our first FULL day at the Edge. Pray for health and energy. Everyone is tired and tomorrow is a long day. Pray that students would engage with the Truth tomorrow as there are several planned times when we will be in the Word. Finally, pray for the unity and cohesion of our group. Friendships are already forming and deepening and we can see God doing some cool things. I look forward to giving you a more in depth look into our trip over the next couple of days, but for now, I am off to bed! Goodnight!
Friday June 19, 2015—Departure Day
It is hard to believe that the time is here to make another trek down to Georgia for the Edge Conference. I am excited and nervous and strangely calm all at the same time. Typically before a big trip I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to take care of last minute details. Something always comes up and I’m always having to put out last minute fires. Thus far, no fire extinguisher needed. Or at least the fires have felt more like candles…easy to extinguish and completely under control. Perhaps this is due to my ever-expanding skills as an administrator (HA!) but I doubt it. I actually think it is evidence of how my faith has grown over the past year. God has been working to show me His faithfulness and teaching me to trust Him on a deeper level. I’ve been learning to believe that He is in control even when I can’t see His plan. I’m learning to sit back and allow Him to work rather than feeling like I have to “make things happen” for His sake. I think this is why the buildup to the Edge this year seems so different. All the planning and logistics and recruiting and craziness that typically accompany a trip have been there. All of the prayer and dreaming and envisioning what might take place have been there—perhaps to a greater extent this year. All of the thinking ahead and trying to navigate upcoming obstacles has been there. The difference this year is that I’m sitting back and waiting for God to lead through things instead of doing it all myself. We will see what this means for the rest of the trip, but for now, I’m loving the fact that I get to sit back, trust my Savior, and enjoy the ride!
Please be praying for our group today. We will be meeting shortly to load up the bus and travel part way on the trip. Today is a day of meeting new people, saying good-bye to loved ones, jr. high students who are hyper and psyched for a big trip, nervousness about being away for home…some for the first time to this degree. This is a big day. We need God’s presence to comfort our team and our families. We need God’s presence to create new friendships and open up shy hearts. We need Him to do some big things today to start this trip off on the “right foot.” Please join me in praying! Tonight we will be staying in Roanoke, VA and then tomorrow we will hit the road for the final 6 hours in the bus and arrive at the Edge to join 800+ middle school students for a week that will change lives!