Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ohana Means Family

It was early in my time (2002) at Wesley Memorial UMC that Walt Disney Animation released the movie Lilo & Stitch.  It quickly became one of my son Will's favorite movies, and once we got it on VHS we watched it a lot- A LOT!  It's a great movie with wonderful music (much of it from Elvis!) and a tremendous story with a great deal of heart.  But for me, the more I watched it, the more I saw our student ministry in it.  Let me explain.

In the film, Lilo is a little girl ( somewhat of a wild child) who has lost her mom and dad and is being raised by her older sister.  Despite this, she has a strong idea of what family is.  She is Hawaiian, and her word for family is Ohana.  As is said several times in the movie, "Ohana means family.  And family means no one gets left behind.  Or forgotten."  As I have mentioned here before, when I looked at our youth group family at WMUMC I saw a lot of kids from broken families, and a lot of students who felt like they had been left behind and forgotten.  There were families dealing with sickness and loss.  There were families where abuse was taking place.  There were Sunday afternoons when over half of our group came from families who had no connection to the church.  There were weeks when teenagers stayed at the church or my home (right next door) from the end of the last worship service (around noon) until Graceland started at 5 PM- because if they went home no one would bring them back.  There were times (and this is true for almost every youth pastor I have ever known) when I would pay for supper or a movie for a dozen youth, because there was no other way they could be part of an outing.  We used our youth ministry budget to keep costs low for trips and offer scholarships so everyone had opportunities to share in all of our "family" activities.   It was crucial for so many of these teens to be included in our Ohana, because their families had indeed left them behind.  We gave them opportunities they had never had before.  We were simply seeking to show them love in the name of Jesus, because in the end that is the Ohana that matters most- the family of God.

We were far from perfect.  There were times students felt left out and inadequate.  We had to deal with cliques, prejudices and all of the other things that make the teenage world such a caste system.  But the one thing we could always make sure of is that each and every one of them knew they were loved.  The old saying, "We may not be much, but we're all they've got" was often in my prayers.  In the movie, Stitch (an alien creature, for the uneducated) become part of Lilo's Ohana.  At one point he describes being part of that family like this:  "This is my family.  I found it, all on my own.  Is little, and broken, but still good.  Yeah, still good."   I have heard students describe our youth ministry family with that exact same sentiment.  We were often seen as odd by the rest of the church.  We didn't always manage to keep students in the family.  But our Youth Ministry Team always did their best to make sure that no one ever felt left behind or forgotten.  I had a WMUMC student recently tell me (and leave a comment here on the blog) that Graceland saved her life.  And that was what our Ohana was really all about.- offering hope, community and the life-saving love of Jesus to all who "found us." we see with our own federal government, where and on whom we spend our money can be a sensitive (and often nasty) issue.  And so it was at WMUMC.  That story next Monday.  Tomorrow, get ready to read and write- on other blogs.  It's Comment Day!

Because of Jesus,


  1. Anonymous4/06/2011

    i friggin love you carl friggin jones!!!!!!

  2. Anonymous4/06/2011

    You are so right about youth pastors trying desperately not to leave kids behind and spending all their own money to make sure it doesn't happen. And so many churches never understand that part of our ministry. Thank you again for your insights. - Chris C.

  3. Anonymous4/06/2011

    Bring out your dead!


Thanks for reading,and thanks for your comment!