Youth Unlimited has the purpose of sharing Jesus to see lives transformed. This central purpose flows into everything we do. Every program, activity, coffee with a youth...it’s all to share Jesus to see their lives changed. Often we’ll see little changes, sometimes big changes, but what happens when it feels like there are NO changes at all? This Summer I had a very humbling, well-timed reminder that God is the one doing the transforming work- not me.
I was having a tough week working at camp, feeling as if I was failing as a camp leader. The girls I was working with were more challenging than any group I’d had in previous camp weeks. For a couple of days it truly felt like there was backwards momentum rather than forward progress. I was thinking, “What’s this all for? They don’t want to hear any of it. Their ears and their hearts are so closed off.” It was discouraging and disheartening. But then I heard the most beautiful story.
I was on "staybacks" one morning, meaning I helped get the girl cabins up and ready, and I missed the staff devotions. Afterwards another leader came to share with me that I’d missed hearing one of our former campers share her testimony during staff devotions. A couple of years prior, myself and my coworker Aislinn worked together with another camp leader and ended up with a small cabin of 4 girls. It was my first summer working out at Shiloh Youth Ranch and it was an awesome week. 3 out of our 4 campers opened up a lot that week. We had amazing, raw and real campfire talks every evening. We often ended up being the last group at campfire as the girls shared their hearts and fears and desires. I remember that as leaders we did a lot of listening, but we also did a lot of sharing truth and speaking Scripture into their lives and situations. We prayed over the girls and daily reminded them of their value and worth in God’s eyes, since that seemed to be a recurring theme that emerged.
Anyways, fast forward back to this Summer. "H" shared her story with the camp staff with the purpose of encouraging them that God is working behind the scenes even when we don’t see it in the moment. She shared how her first time at camp had been 2 summers earlier, with Aislinn, myself, and Rae as her leaders. She recounted how she had been pretty closed off that week. She rarely shared and didn’t respond to lots of our ‘serious talks’ as a cabin. She found being at camp really tough and wasn’t sure she’d want to come back. Later that year she struggled a lot with her sense of worth and was feeling pretty done with everything. She contemplated taking her life. But then she remembered truths that we had spoken into her life at camp that summer. She thought back to scriptures we had shared and how we had constantly reinforced the fact that she has worth, she has value, and she is created with purpose. This changed the trajectory of her life.
She’s now doing life together with Jesus and learning and growing and it’s so exciting to see how she’s changed. Her smile is contagious and she has such a servant heart to love other people. She doesn’t have that wall up anymore that we saw in her 2 years ago. When I heard that story I gave H a big hug when I saw her next.
So...why do I share this story? Because this story gave me hope and renewed courage for my challenging week at camp. It taught me to turn my eyes away from myself and onto Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. It’s Jesus who speaks to the soul. It’s Jesus who convicts and saves. It’s Jesus who transforms- and He does it on His own timeline. Our piece in H’s story was short. We couldn’t have guessed how Jesus would continue to work in her life over the next 2 years, but we simply did our part for that short week that we got to spend with her. Often we don’t get to see these beautiful victories and transformations that might happen months or years or decades after our time with the youth. But every once in a while we get a small glimpse into the behind-the-scenes work that our Mighty God is doing. It’s awesome that He invites us to be a part of His Kingdom work!