Last summer I worked with Mission Adventures, a program we offer that facilitates mission trips for youth groups. While the groups are here, they get a lot of love, a ton of truth, and a huge helping of missions training and exposure.
For one particular group last summer, we dedicated an entire evening to presenting the Gospel. We wanted them to know who the Scriptures say Jesus is; He is alive. He is with us today. He communicates with us. He loves us. To begin the evening, several staff members shared testimonies of God's faithfulness. They spoke of His goodness, and how He brought them out of unbelief and into a relationship with Himself.
The room was silent, filled with hearts - each beating to its own rhythm - searching for different parts of God's heart. With the lights dimmed, music began quietly playing, a staff member challenged the kids to process what they had just heard, and pray about what it meant to them. This was an opportunity to ask Jesus into their hearts. This wouldn't be the last opportunity, but there was no better time than that moment. Right there, in that room, with Jesus speaking to them.
The students were encouraged to talk to a YWAM Orlando staff member if they wanted to begin a relationship with Jesus for the first time, or if they just wanted someone to listen. Someone to pray. Someone to understand.
At first no one moved. We waited…and waited…and waited some more. I was starting to wonder if anyone was going to actually move.
Then it happened.
Two sixth-grade girls approached me with tears in their eyes. One of them was Sarah, a quiet girl whose voice I had yet to hear. Even while we stood there, speaking face-to-face, her voice was almost inaudible. I noticed earlier in the week that she tended to shy away from the rest of the group, edging toward the corners of the room. When she came up to me, I was shocked at her boldness. Sarah told me she wasn't sure she had a relationship with Jesus, and that she wanted Him to be a reality in her life.
"I don't know. I just feel like I've never actually known Him," she told me, "I grew up with [Christianity] in my house, but I don't know that I've ever truly known Him."
At that moment I heard God whisper in my heart, "Tell her I've always been there. Tell her I've always been right there." I also felt led to pray that the way she's always known Jesus (intellectually) would become deeply rooted in her heart, and that she would walk with Him in beautiful relationship.
The rest of the week I was completely floored to see Sarah blossom. We were actually seeing the real Sarah! She was funny, outgoing, intelligent, and insightful. She came to life with the other kids and actively participated in everything her youth group was doing. She shared her faith with strangers and developed a heart for India!
Sarah made a decision to follow Jesus last summer because she encountered Him in a real way, and one day she wants to take that Love to India. She is the future of God's Kingdom, we're just thankful to have been part of her journey.