My weekend started at 4:30 on Friday, in a leader's meeting at church. They're always so kind to feed us for things like this, so we ate and went over plans for the whole weekend. After the meeting, I was on registration duty and stayed there for the next two hours. That was a lot of information that had to be filled out and sorted and signed and checked off. We had around 160 students signed up for the weekend, give or take a few.
When we were sure that nobody else was coming to sign in late, we turned in all of our forms, dealt with just a bit of drama and prayed about it together, and then joined our girls. Every Wednesday night in youth, Jeff & Hannah Gafford lead the students in worship, and they (along with a full band) led worship for the weekend. I am so thankful for these two beautiful souls that pour into our students...they both love Jesus so very much and want to invest in every aspect of their lives. They are not stand offish at all, but they fully participate in all of the service, not just in the worship. A few weeks ago, Jeff led a small group of students in discussion on a Wednesday night. I love that! Our guest speaker was amazing! His name is Jason Curry, and is the founder of Finish Empty. If you want to read more about that, click here.
Here is what I loved about Jason speaking to the students this weekend.
1. He MADE them pay attention, often stopping to tell them to look in his eyes and to not move around anymore being a distraction to others.
2. He did not sugar coat even one word that he said, challenging them from the very beginning and asking questions that were aimed to make them restless that first night. He said to us leaders that his goal was to make them uncomfortable in order to get them to seriously think of some things.
3. He is such a gifted preacher and made many of us cry the entire weekend with his heartfelt words. He got choked up himself on several occasions.
On Friday night after the service, Jason (the youth pastor) called all the seniors up front, and told us that the church was treating all the seniors and leaders to a local dessert shop on our town square, Town Hall Cheesecake. I love this man's heart for students! I truly feel that we have the best of the best in Jason and his family. Here's all of us girls:
And here are all of the seniors together.
I love them.
After this we went to our host home and had a talk back session discussing what Jason said that night, then we went to bed. Another thing that I love about Jason (the youth pastor) is that he has the students fill out forms every year talking about them and where they are in their faith. He asks the leaders to make time that weekend for one on one time to go over them and just to touch base on where they are in their lives. This time is PRECIOUS. And it's one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend. I hope and pray that all of the leaders had this time with their groups, because I would say that except for the preaching, this was one of the most important things we did all weekend.
On Saturday, we woke the girls up around eight thirty and had breakfast at our host homes. Our sweet friend Belinda (where we stayed and where we have community group every Sunday night) made an AMAZING breakfast for us all, and we left filled to the brim. Missy and I woke up way before the girls did to get dressed and to have our quiet time. We were to be at the church by ten fifteen and barely made it on time. Girls are so different than boys, y'all. I don't know how we went from having all the time in the world to having none.
Our first part of the day was crazy and full of laughter and fun as the students all poured in, and then we started with worship and hearing from Jason. Our theme was Mission and each session was Mission 1, Mission 2...you get the drift.
We had lunch at the church and then had a training session by our Missions pastor on staff at church, Chris Clark. He taught us how to share our story and God's story in effective and easy ways, and then we had to practice on each other.
At one point, Chris told us to go find someone we didn't know to do this with. This is Jason's (the youth pastor) daughter S.S. She is PRECIOUS.
I love this girl, and her heart.
After we did this, we were sent out for an afternoon of service. Some groups did some really cool things that, honestly, I wish I had thought of. We went to a nearby park and played soccer with some cute kiddos from another country. While the girls played with the little boys, one of the girls here visiting for the weekend went and talked to their mom. They were from Turkey and sweet Hannah sat and talked with her for about thirty or forty minutes.
After this, we went to visit one of my favorite couples ever, Mr. Frank and Mrs. Audrey. Mr. Frank is in really poor health right now and they don't get out much nowadays. When we took this picture, he was in the other room watching a game in his Florida Gators pajamas.
Mrs. Audrey is full of wisdom and she shared some great things with these girls.
After this, we went to our town square (again) and took a fun picture.
Then we went back to our host home, ate a ton of snacks, and played Family Feud.
We were to be back at church by six fifteen for dinner, then Mission 3 started at seven. This was an incredibly emotional night, and I'll be honest. I started the night in tears and I ended it in tears. My sweet Noah had a really cool moment happen on Saturday during their service afternoon, where he shared his faith and prayed with a couple of Muslim ladies at a park. By the time he was done, one of the ladies was in tears and hugging him. Jason called him on stage to share about it during the evening service. During the service that night, fifteen students gave or recommitted their lives to Jesus, which is a HUGE answer to prayer. One was an atheist visiting from the local middle school.
After the service we went back to our host homes and had our talk back times followed by our one on ones with the girls. I will say that these times were my second favorite part of the weekend. I love connecting with each girl and hearing her heart. I offered to be accountability partners to them if they needed, and I promised to pray for each one of them.
I think it was after one when I finally fell to sleep that night (by the magical lights in the room I was sleeping in).
Why yes, that is a Christmas tree in my room.
The next morning I left bright and early when the girls were just waking up so that I could come home and have coffee before praise team practice at eight thirty.
We sat through the service, I came home and ate and slept for forty minutes, then went back to church for choir at three. Our last session was last night at six, and it was equally amazing.
Here are some random pictures that I have.
Just a few of us at the park. I love these people.
And our theme and all the students and leaders, minus a few.
It was an incredible weekend. If you prayed at all for us, thank you from the bottom of my heart. God heard every single prayer and He answered several things we were praying about, including things the speaker talked about. It was amazing, but more than that, God is amazing and good and wonderful and faithful.
I am so thankful that I get to help out with student ministry at my church. I know this is why God placed us here almost seven years ago.
Thanks for reading! Love to all.