Monday, October 26, 2009

A New Journey

The 1982-83 school year found me working full-time as the youth pastor at New Garden Friends Meeting.  There were a couple of problems with this situation.  New Garden did not want me or anyone else working full-time as a youth pastor, and they were paying me $100 a month.  We were at an impasse.  I had reached a point in my life where I felt a clear calling from God to be a youth ministry lifer.  My experiences with David Stone and the folks at Youth Specialties had shown me the cutting edge of the very young profession of student ministry, and I wanted to take New Garden to that edge.  I was expanding programs, drawing in new kids and trying new things, and I pushed fairly hard to see if the Meeting would at least commit to a full summer ministry in 1983 (very few churches did youth ministry during the summer in those days, which NEVER made any sense to me.  The students are bored and available, so we quit for 3 months!)- but they were not interested in as much change as I wanted to bring about.  But, me being me, I kept pushing the outside of the envelope.  The Youth Council, the committee that oversees student ministry at New Garden, had a budget of $150 for the year.  To do the things I wanted to do took money, and so I wound up paying for things myself with money I really didn't have; this would not be the last time this would happen.  My personal finances soon became a disaster, and it was my own fault.  Anyway, by May of '83 New Garden was ready for me to go, and I needed to go find a paying job.  At the time there were only 4 out of 80+ Friends Meetings in NC who had full-time youth positions, so I knew I was looking at some time off from ministry.  I worked one more summer at Quaker Lake as their first ever Crafts & Special Activities Director, and then it was off into the real world.

I learned a great deal on this "new journey" I was embarking on, and over the next couple of days I will share some of the lessons learned in warehouses and Volkswagon Rabbits.  But perhaps the most important lesson I learned came as I departed New Garden.  My actions, and in some cases my attitude, had given people there reasons to dislike me, and some did.  The vast majority, however, showed me nothing but love and grace at that point and in all my future dealings with them.  They showed me what it means to live out 1 John 4:7-8, which says "Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  If you don't love, you don't know God, for God IS love."  All the ideas and all the gifts and all the education and all the cutting edge programs in the world don't mean anything unless they are covered in love-  God's love! 

I knew what God had called me to do; now I just needed to trust Him to get me there.  The journey would not be easy.  It seldom is.  I remember sitting on a bridge at QLC (pictured) one Saturday afternoon and praying that Jesus would show me the way.  And just like the disciples before me, I had no idea how dangerous that prayer was...

Because of Jesus,

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