This week, Drew and I were privileged to help lead our first ever youth retreat for Lusaka Community Church’s youth ministry called ARK. It’s an October tradition for our youth, but we were the newbies planning and assigning duties to our wonderful committees. Everything seemed so organized and well-planned until it actually happened…and then it seemed like a whole different story! Ever had one of those experiences?
Now that it is all said and done, I can say this was one of the most challenging and humbling experiences I have ever had and I thank God that it is over and because of Him we can call it good. God is so much greater than us and was definitely the one sustaining the entire weekend.
In reflecting and resting after 3 days and 2 nights of youth ministry madness, I came across this verse in Psalm 38:
“I am exhausted and completely crushed
My groans come from an anguished heart.
You know what I long for Lord,
You hear my every sigh.”
Okay, not the most uplifting verse, but I found myself resonating with the Psalmist’s emotion – exhaustion! We had such a wonderful youth retreat and I am so thankful, but it wasn’t without stress and anguish along the way, as with most important things worth doing. Volunteers and parents surrounded us throughout the planning and execution of the retreat, but even with the many hands, there was much to do.
Beginning the week before our retreat up until during the retreat itself, we had leaders that needed to back out of their positions, volunteers that got sick and left or had last minute emergencies that kept them home, the sound system didn’t seem like it was going to come together, and there was a time where one person needed to take up the roles of nurse, MC, small group leader, and kitchen manager…all at the same time. Let’s just say that is pretty much impossible!
But the Lord knew what we were longing for. We wanted to bring these students and ourselves closer to Him. In order to do that, we had to surrender. We had to surrender all we thought we knew how to do, the way we thought things were supposed to be run, and let His truth and His glory reign well above our own.
Paul proclaims the frail state of our earthly bodies and their need to be made new that I became so aware of this weekend:
“For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.”
1 Corinthians 15:53
Our bodies are dying and, on our own, they will continue to die. But God came to rescue us, to bring about transformation. All of our efforts to be good enough and to do good enough, especially those motivated by pride and other hidden sins and the thought that we can handle whatever life throws our way, are all in vain. The more we try in our own strength, the more we will feel death begin to take over. But God knows what we long for, he knows what we need, and he is good He will bring about our transformation.
Paul continues to explain,
“For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through or Lord Jesus Christ.
So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know nothing you do for the Lord is never useless.”
1 Corinthians 15:56-58
Sin is ready to catch us off guard and destroy us, but that is not where we have to live, because of Jesus we are victorious. He was victorious in moving in the hearts of leaders and students even when we thought the details surrounding it were crashing to the ground. It had nothing to do with us, but He blessed the work of our hands. He knew our hearts behind the details and where it really mattered for us to be victorious.
Before I knew it, the retreat was over and the students ended it in true youth ministry fashion, by throwing all the leaders into the pool!
Photo Credit: AK Photography
Jesus was victorious, and it is in that truth that we can declare success. We may never know what exactly moved the hearts of the students, but we know the God we serve is faithful, and he is constantly transforming us, and the world around us, into a better reflection of Him. May we embrace His victory through our transformation. Let us enthusiastically work for Him.
Photo Credit: AK Photography