Wow, God is so good. He is the Good Shepherd and we, His flock, rejoice in Him. This past week I was blessed to talk and pray with youth ministers from around the country and even a few from abroad at the Life Teen Training Conference in Houston. I was stunned at the variety of people who showed up. Youth ministers are truly a gift. They were joyful, fun, and eager to learn. Above all, they loved Christ and had a passion for leading teens to Him. The teens I met this week also inspired me, especially the teens of my host family who were so gracious and welcoming. In some of the conversations I had, I learned about people’s backgrounds. I learned about their career histories, their families, their strengths, and their fears. They shared with me some of the struggles they had and the way they saw and felt the Lord’s hand in it all. I spoke with one woman who’s parish has been meeting for Sunday Mass in a high school gymnasium for seven years, and finally early next year their church will be completed and ready for use. The faithfulness of those parishioners through highs and lows is a beautiful witness to me. I also met a man who was so grateful that I was there, meanwhile he taught me more than I thought possible. He was a joyful spirit and loved teens so much that I would see him during the sessions sribbling down as many notes on his pad as he could, because he wanted to give his teens everything he could. We laughed together and prayed together and said we’d keep in touch. The last thing he told me before he left was that everything had to flow from love, and if I continued to do what I loved and what brought me pure joy, I’d never work a day in my life.
So as I stood in the back of the room and saw all of these youth ministers listening intently to the speakers, I felt honored to be with them. To the untrained eye, this could have simply been a large group of people of all different ages, dressed casually, drinking coffee, and sitting on a basketball court. However, when I looked out at the group, I saw warriors. These warriors were preparing for a battle, and many of them had been there before. The world throws all kinds of things at us. They want young people to think we are only worth what we earn, so we have to make everyone like us. We have to make a lot of money when we’re older, we have to be sexually active, and when these things leave us empty and wanting more? The ways of the world will leave you and I in the dumps and move on to the next person. This is why I was brought to tears when I looked out and saw a gymnasium full of adults giving their lives to minister to teens. These warriors are fighting on the front lines in youth rooms around the world. Cool music, ping pong tables and 20 boxes of pizza don’t change lives. What changes lives are youth ministers who love their teens and want desperately for them to know Christ. I don’t remember many of the talks my youth ministers and CORE team members gave when I was in high school. I don’t remember many of the skits they put on or how funny they were. What I do remember is the fact that from the second I walked in the door I felt loved. They knew my name and they asked me how my week was – and they actually cared about my response. They came in early and stayed late. They sacrificed some weeknights, Sundays and even some weekends. They held events during the week, and did everything they could to help me and my peers in our faith walk. They truly cared about us, and that’s what made the difference.
It flows from love. Love, which covers a multitude of sins, filled the church on that Tuesday night at the training conference where confessions were taking place. Seeing so many adults humbly on their knees praying that they might be filled up and restored with the energy to give their teens everything they have. It flows from love; a love I’m not sure I knew much about before this past week; a love that the world just can’t understand or justify. I’d like to thank everyone who was at that conference, everyone who is in the ministry, everyone who works for hours in a closet-sized room in the main hall of parishes around the country and goes unnoticed. Thank you for your service, you inspire me daily, and I’m praying for you.
Teens, thanks for being so awesome and supporting this Life Teen movement! Thanks for the energy and joy you bring to every event, every weekday bible study, every Life Night or EDGE night. Make a special effort this week to pray for your youth minister and CORE team, and thank them for all they do for you.
Christ is triumphant! Holy Spirit, guide us.