Friday, August 14, 2015

7 Things: Growing Up In Youth Group

If you've followed this blog from its inception then you know these stories and have seen all of these names before. Lately they have taken on added significance to me, and so today you hear them again. Much of my time here is spent telling stories of my days as a youth pastor, but I would have never become a youth pastor without my own youth group experience as a teenager. Between 8th grade and the end of high school (1972-77) I was a part of a very special youth ministry at New Garden Friends Meeting. You can read about how that happened in the 2nd post ever made here, called Beginnings. Today is about some of the great people and few of the random events that still stick out in my mind some 40 years later. There are so many memories. Here are 7 of the best...

Becky, Tammy, Lisa & Beth
1)  Our group was never huge, but we did have a fairly large group of people who passed through during those years. My best friends were Steve & Carl Semmler, Beth Vestal, Tammy Doggett, Becky Meredith, Lisa (Ram-It!) Ramos, Tim Vail, Andy Maynard and Martha Ratledge- but there were so many more who made that group special. We were blessed to know them, and Julie Oden, Jeff Vestal, Melissa Meredith, Roy Parkhurst, Jane Reynolds, Joe Willlingham, MaryLynne Burris, the Ossman family and more were all part of the fun. We also had incredible leadership from the Guilford College students who served as our part-time youth pastors- David Brown III, Beth Phillips, Rob Mitchell, Barb Brown and Louise Critz. They all made an impact on my life.
2)  There was this kid named Gurney Kaufman who was also part of the group early on in my time there. On one of my first trips with the group, to Camp Pla-Mor in Myrtle Beach, Gurney shot bottle rockets at unsuspecting civilians and threw a smoke bomb in Jeff Vestal's shower stall. Somehow he was still alive when we returned home.
3)  For reasons I do not remember, at some point DB3 had us making up our own musical version of Julius Caesar, set in Rome, GA. We all used our worst southern accents to say lines like, "Tis I, the sooth sayer!  And the sooth sayer say...Beware the Ides of March!"  At some point a couple of us had a scene where we skipped long singing, "Hanes makes me feel good all under..."  Thank God that there is no video of any of that...
4)  Every autumn we would go up into the mountains and spend a few nights at Sam Levering's apple orchards, just hanging out under the stars together. Those were amazing times. If I recall correctly, the evenings usually ended with us guys giving some of the girls back rubs, with a promise of reciprocation. I am pretty certain I am still owed a TON of back rubs...
5) In addition to Sam's Place, Myrtle Beach and Quaker Lake, a number of us went with a group to New York in November of 1976. I remember 2 things about that trip. One, while we were there the Guyana Jonestown Massacre (in which cult leader Jim Jones poisoned hundreds of his followers with Kool-Aid) took place, and was a major item of concern at the United Nations. Secondly, Lisa Ramos and Dan Moran met for the first time. They are still married today.
6)  Roy Parkhurst had a friend named Annette Wells (I think?) who had an absolutely beautiful singing voice and wrote a haunting song about a female race horse named Ruffian who broke a leg and had to be put down. Always wondered what happened to her...
7)  That group taught me great games like SardinesSecret Documents and Kick-the-Can (in the Graveyard!) from my days in the New Garden youth group. I learned to play guitar from Martha, Rob and Steve. I learned to hold doors (and many other good manners) from Beth, Becky and Tammy. I learned how to be both youth pastor and friend to students from DB3 and Rob. I understood how to make bible study and programs fun and educational because I saw it modeled every week- by college students who were paid next to nothing for their work. The life-lessons were many, and the teachers were the best.

There are so many stories to tell. The night we carried a sleeping Carl Semmler out of a cabin at QLC without waking him up. The afternoon at Sam's when Becky was sleep talking about saving a tree. The New Year's Eve square dances and our wild, very sweaty rendition of the Virginia Reel. So many memories. Outside of my parents, nothing had more impact on my life in those important years than the youth group of New Garden Friends Meeting.  I thank God everyday that they are still such an important part of my life. Love you guys.

Because of Jesus,

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