Saturday, February 11, 2012

My Best Day in Ministry: Tom Zalatnai

Welcome to the 900th consecutive day a post has appeared on this blog!  Our week of themed guest posts takes on an international flavor today as Tom Zalatnai, one of my very favorite Canadians, shares his best day in ministry with us.  He is a Montreal-based Christ-lover, musician, worshipper, foodie, college student and Youth Coordinator at Emmaus Anglican Church. Also he sometimes have a beard. He describes himself as "just another guy who is undeservingly blessed and trying to get a better understanding of the Lord by studying His Word."  I love his heart for youth and for worship, and I know you will too.

When Carl put out a call for guest bloggers to write about their 'best days in ministry' I immediately jumped at the opportunity, because I love taking these chances to reflect on my experiences and just thank God for all the cool things He's made me a part of!

I've been involved in youth & childrens' ministries for a long time now- the first time I worked with kids was when I was 11, wild as that summer was- and I've had so many incredible days. Between day camps, Sunday school, youth group and music ministry, my life has been pretty hectic for the last 7 years. But through all of these adventures, all of these amazing times of serving the Lord and leading His people, there's just too many days that stand out as exceptionally special. Thankfully, one of those days happened just a few weeks ago, so it's fresh in my mind and I figure I might as well take advantage of that for today's post!

At the beginning of January, Emmaus Youth Group had its annual Winter Retreat. The whole weekend was a brilliant testimony to God's provision and grace, but one day in particular stood out for me. The Saturday, which was the longest day of the 3-day event, was slated to be the more packed of the three, with multiple lessons lined up, a few really fantastic games, and the secret surprise of midnight chicken wings, but I had no idea it would be so fantastically full of the Holy Spirit! One thing that's important to understand about this retreat was that we were faced with hundreds of obstacles on the way into it. Our group has always been notoriously bad at finding drivers to transport the teens to events, because most of our leaders either can't drive or don't have cars of their own, and a lot of the parents end up having to chauffeur and can't always make it. This time around, we had prayed for enough drivers to turn up, because we cut it very close last time. God provided, and we had enough drivers lined up that we would have been alright and made it out of the city without struggle!

But then our location cancelled on us about a week before, and we had to scramble at the last minute to find a new place to host it. My co-coordinator and I called around to a number of places and finally ended up booking a retreat center in the city, about five minutes away from my parents' house. Not really much of an escape, but it would have to do. We were hesitant, because part of the magic of youth retreats is the long car rides out into the middle of nowhere, and isolation from the rest of the world for the whole weekend. But with no other options, we forsook the many drivers we had booked, and had everyone drop their kids off in the city instead of carpooling out to the Townships. Thankfully, the teens had an amazing time and actually requested that we go back to the same place next Winter.

That's not where this story ends though, don't worry. Over the weekend, our theme was "Value through Christ" and we talked a little about spiritual gifts and encouragement. On the Saturday in question, we had planned a two hour prayer session called the 'Honoring Chair'- one by one, people would come up and sit on a chair in the middle of the room to receive prayer and encouraging words from whoever felt called to share with them. We had 14 people on the retreat with us, and expected to get all of them done in the two hour period, and had three hours of games planned for afterward. By the time we had gotten through half of the group, we had been there for five straight hours praying for each other! The teens were so encouraged and excited about this that we cancelled the next morning's games and continued with another three hour prayer session to finish things up.

Seeing the teens that we so often pray for- asking God to reveal Himself to them in powerful new ways, asking Him to open their hearts and eyes to see things the way He sees them- seeing them so filled with His Spirit, praying over their closest friends and leaders, was such a powerful experience, and has placed itself in my heart as one of my best ministry experiences. There was not a dry eye in the room by the end of the prayers, and it was just amazing seeing this group of teens so full of the Spirit and loving each other so much.

All that being said, I am so thankful for the ministry God has given me at Emmaus, and am so excited to see how He moves in our hearts in the future!


Tom Zalatnai

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