How lucky am I? I get to live on a Caribbean island and work with teenagers in every moment of my free time. Invite me on a cruise, a trip to Paris, an African safari...I will turn you down each time. None of those could possibly beat my four day vacation at Zanglais with the youth group, playing wild games and doing crazy team cheers, and becoming a family.
We spent hours on the beach, getting slammed by waves and playing in the sand.
And we had our daily sessions of prayer, worship, Bible study, time to write words of encouragement to one another, and plenty of music.
Last year, the kids served themselves so much at meals that by the time we got our plates at the end of the line, there was frequently minimal food left. So this year, we served them. I dished up rice, spaghetti, chicken casserole, more rice, while Marc handed out silverware. Other days, Marc and I got to sit while Jenny and Eric served. And on those days, inevitably, a 17 year old girl named Dieula, would give one of us her plate and then get back in line for herself. We always serve the girls first and on the last evening, they, of their own accord, gave their plates away to the boys until all were served.
We occasionally second-guess ourselves: "Is everything that we do with these kids actually changing their lives? Will any of it stick with them as they move on in life?" At a bonfire on the last day, all doubts were removed.
Blanc and Bernadin, two young men who are graduating high school, shared their testimonies. Blanc used to be the biggest troublemaker in his school, stealing money from younger students, terrorizing teachers, and wreaking havoc in the neighborhood. Now, he spends most of his free time at the church, making music and helping with whatever is happening. He is dirt poor but he loves to "Stop and pray for people who are really poor." Bernadin was your typical TV teenage boy, going to parties, drinking, and rebelling against his parents. But he turned his life around when he realized that his younger brother was leading a better life than he and was losing respect for him. He told us, in tears, how hard it was to leave his old friends, but that God has blessed him through the youth group with new friends who are like brothers. One of our most reliable kids, he is now a serious student, a peer leader, and a model son and older brother.
I'm not kidding. If you haven't considered it already, you should think about becoming a youth leader too!