|Bob in Spanish Wells, 1997|
"Most folks these days don't have enough faith to see that God's magic is happening all around them..."
I have a dear friend named Jennifer Kuramochi. Some of you know her her Jennifer Minnigan; still others simply as Bob. You can read about her days in the youth ministries of the First United Methodist Church of Kissimmee in many posts on this site, including The Legend of Bob, which is her entry into my Hall of Fame! So anyway...Jen and I are still friends. We were talking a few weeks back and she was telling me that whenever she recounts stories from her youth group days people are often in disbelief of all that we were able to do. Her husband Jun just shakes his head in wonder at the fact that a church youth group was able to go places like Spanish Wells, New York City and Myrtle Beach- not to mention the speakers, the concerts, the mission trips and the day trips. We got a lot of that same reaction at the FUMC-K reunion last year. Jennifer told me that once when asked how we were able to do all that we did, she thought for moment and responded, "I'm not sure. I think maybe Carl was part Wizard!"
One of my favorite places on Walt Disney World property was The Beaches and Cream Soda Shoppe. I remember not only the great meals and the oh-so-decadent banana split pictured here, but also all the times times we were there with so many old friends and youth groups. This, after all, was the home of the Disney Dash Ice Cream Bash! One of those memories concerns the time in 1993 a group of us from Springfield Friends Meeting headed over mid-afternoon one day to get an ice cream fix and wound up singing Hopelessly Devoted to the other patrons of the restaurant (click But Now for the whole story!). That memory got me thinking more about that amazing '93 trip to WDW, stories of which were told here on this blog under the label Magic Tour back in 2010- and it took me 20 posts! Each of the nearly 50 participants had a 5-day park hopper pass. We stayed at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort. We ate at some of the finest restaurants on property, and saw both the Hoop-de-doo Musical Revue and Polynesian Luau dinner shows. We were special (and featured!) guests at Pleasure Island's Comedy Warehouse. Every day was amazing, and as Marilyn I sat talking on Saturday the words of Bob came ringing back to me. How did we do all that stuff? Maybe I was part Wizard...
Of course we know the truth. We were able to do all that we did and accomplish all that we accomplished because we were blessed by God to do these things in Jesus' name. All of the churches I served had the resources and gave us the freedom to dream, to be creative, and yes- to be MAGICAL with our youth ministry programming! But the adult leadership in each of those ministries deserves credit for this one thing- we believed the magic could happen! We had faith that amazing things could happen. We had the audacity to believe in the biblical directive to pray big prayers and dream big dreams. I learned early on from some brilliant mentors that youth ministry thrives when you live in the Possimpible (thank you, Barney Stinson)- that place where the possible and the impossible meet. There was no doubt in my mind that if we did those things, God could provide the supernatural- the MAGIC. I suppose you could say I attended the Hogwarts School of Youth Ministry! What I lacked in theological training I made up for in faith. I believed in what we were doing and never allowed nay-saying Muggles to steal our dreams. If I were indeed part Wizard, it was only in the sense that I never ruled anything out just because it seemed to be out of our reach or impractical. Big churches or small, we believed in trusting God to take us to places beyond our grasp- but firmly in His. There was never any doubt in my mind that God had great things in store for the churches I served a youth pastor. That's how we did great mission trips over my 28 years to places like DC, Chicago, Nashville, Tijuana and Spanish Wells. It's how we did ski trips, amazing weekend retreats, over a dozen NYC trips, took trips to see the Braves play baseball, spent weeks at Myrtle Beach and had
|New York Trip in the early 1990s|
Looking back now, I still can't explain how it all came together. I don't know how we paid for everything, I don't know how the plans came together so well, and I don't know why God blessed us in so many ways- other than we believed God would! I just know that for 28 years God kept sending waves, and instead of ducking and hiding we kept yelling SURF'S UP!!! It was indeed magical. And if that makes me part Wizard- probably more like the foul-up Mickey the Sorcerer than Harry Potter- so be it. The abiding lesson of the Hogwarts School of Youth Ministry? Never underestimate the awesome power of God to do things that are far beyond your reach. So tell me, fellow Christians- do you believe in that kind of magic? The church so often seems to be full of Muggles...
Because of Jesus,