Meeting Kids at their Turf

Teenagers need support.  They need an adult in their life pointing them to the only thing that will satisfy them….a relationship with Jesus.  For most teenagers, no one in their life fills that role.  As they face daily pressures from peers, parents, and culture, often nothing encourages them to grow in their faith.  Some simply feel unsatisfied with what the world has to offer.  Many feel hopeless which leads to depression.

Here in Bellevue, there is a group of young adults (and some who act and feel young!) that build friendships with students to point them to Jesus.  They are groups of Young Life leaders at Interlake HS, Bellevue HS, Newport HS, as well as at many of our middle schools.  They go where kids are…to their turf…and build the friendship and trust of teenagers with the hope of introducing them to Jesus.  Whether a kid wants to follow Jesus or isn’t interested, they keep caring for them.

One of those kids recently graduated from Bellevue HS.  Outwardly, you would think Alicia had it all:  a nice home, nice clothes, good grades and even a boyfriend.  On the inside, Alicia was lost.  Her parents were fighting and eventually divorced.  Her boyfriend made her feel pressured and judged.  Her friends were all getting straight A’s.  It seemed impossible to keep up.  She felt like a failure while watching her family fall apart.

Alicia came to Young Life camp after her 8th-grade year.  It was the first time she had heard the gospel shared that made sense to her.  She says now that it was the “bridge” she needed from hearing about Jesus as a small kid in bible stories to making Jesus matter in her life now.  Along the way, she met a Young Life leader who befriended her at camp.  That leader wasn’t just in Alicia’s life for a week in the summer.  They both came home from camp and the leader started to text Alicia, call her and invite Alicia out for coffee or to just hang out.  As their friendship grew, so did Alicia’s understanding of who Jesus really is.  That happened because her leader modeled the love, caring, compassion and pursuit that Jesus offers all of us.

As Alicia went through the challenges of high school, she had a Young Life leader by her side.  Wrestling with anxiety in school and the heartbreak of divorce, there was someone pointing her back to God’s Word and her relationship with Christ.  That long-term friendship of a Young Life leader was the difference between Alicia having a great week at camp, versus having a meaningful relationship with Jesus that sustained her life.

Young Life is a Christian organization that introduces teenagers to Jesus Christ and helps them to develop a Christian way of life through activities that contribute to their academic, physical, social, and spiritual growth. Young Life offers summer camps which are often a teenager’s first experiences hearing the word of God.  Young Life is in need of more volunteer camp leaders due to the popularity of their camps. 

The Final Project

From various churches and denominations, 17-35 year-old Christian leaders study together weekly for the yearlong DOVE’s Onyx leadership program. In December, the Phnom Penh Onyx students presented what they learned in their final graduation requirement from the program using skits and games.
To celebrate their accomplishment, the students from Phnom Penh and Kampong Chhang campuses went on year-end retreat. The retreat was an opportunity for students to reflect on their spiritual and emotional growth, and apply what they learned. The Onyx students faced a real-life “final project” challenge during the retreat.
Ms. Khantey was one of a Phnom Penh student who shared her testimony. Her difficult relationship with her mom made her believe she didn’t love her. The Onyx Five Love Languages program helped her see her mom’s love and care for her. Khantey also learned much from the leadership lessons. Khantey’s teacher who had originally told her she had no ability to lead, later praised her for the great job leading worship music and saw God work through her.

Khantey didn’t get enough sleep so she was tired the next day when we visited a scenic campground 12 miles from the city. We continued to On Long Khiav and hiked the ¾ mile uphill to a waterfall. The others told Khantey that she should rest but she wanted to go with the group. With the help of another Phnom Penh student, she was able to reach the waterfall but felt too weak to swim. Khantey headed back down the trail first with some of the Kampong Chhnang students. She fainted halfway down but they couldn’t revive her. A student and two DOVE staff carried her down as there is no ambulance service in rural Cambodia. They took a motorcycle taxi while a student held her to the nearest doctor 2 miles away. That doctor wasn’t equipped to help her, so we took her to a private hospital 10 miles further where an Onyx student, Mrs. Houng had a relative.

When everyone else got back to the bus, they were worried so they prayed for her. On the way, we stopped at a government health center, where the doctor gave her oxygen, reviving her somewhat and confirmed the need to take her to the hospital. DOVE Kampong Chhnang Coordinator borrowed a truck from the campground owner to take Khantey from the health center to the hospital. Several students also wanted to accompany her. Since it was 5pm on a Saturday, staff had already left the hospital. Fortunately, Mrs. Houng’s relative and two other doctors were still there. We thought Khantey might have to stay overnight. But after we prayed and she received IV electrolytes, she was alert and talking. She rejoined the students at the campground for the evening BBQ.

Through this experience, the students applied the Onyx lessons of love and sacrificial leadership. We were touched by the Kampong Chhnang students’ willingness to serve since they had only met Khantey once before. We praised God for Khantey’s recovery and for the people who helped along the way. In our leadership journey, regardless of good or bad things, we thank God in all circumstances and have learned this is part of God’s reshaping process.

TRAGEDY AND CELEBRATION

This story is a reprint from King County Youth Chaplaincy.

I couldn’t believe the text from one of our youth: Eve got killed last night.  I tried to convince myself that this was not true. I was in shock and denial. How could this be?! God wouldn’t allow this to happen!

Eve* was only 19. She was smart, compassionate, and beautiful. She had been through many trials and difficulties in her young life, yet she held on to her faith.
She was shy and hardly spoke when we met, but after a while, Eve opened up and we shared many smiles and laughs. She was close to another youth I knew from the detention center and would join us when we got together. We shared many meals and talks about life issues. We talked about her upbringing and spiritual journey and she began joining us when we presented our ministry at various churches. Soon after, she became bold enough to publicly share her experiences and perspectives. Eve would often express her appreciation for being in positive settings where she could grow in her relationship with God.
It has been a few weeks and I still can’t believe she’s gone and really miss her. We continue to pray for her family and loved ones.
The day after I got the tragic news, I had the privilege of witnessing a graduation ceremony of one of our young men. It was such a joy to see Gerald* receive his certificate for completing his program at a local technical college.
Gerald’s life hadn’t always been so hopeful. When I first met him in the detention center, he described himself as angry and at rock bottom. “My life was all about bad things: fighting, drinking, smoking, crimes…,” Gerald once explained to me. Things began to change as he got to know Jesus. He started to attend church in juvy and talked with the chaplains as much as he could. Gerald would encourage the guys in his hall to pray and get closer to God. He became known as “The Holy Kid,” a label he wore proudly.
I felt very honored to celebrate with his family at his graduation. When Gerald and I got together for lunch the following week, he expressed his gratitude. “Thank you for always being there for me. You’re helping me change my life,” he stated with sincerity.
Mourning and joy. The two are always parts of life, and once in a while, we experience them simultaneously. Yet through it all, we know from Scripture that God’s comfort and peace is available. According to Psalm 116, in our deepest distress and sorrow, even when we feel “the anguish of the grave,” we can call on God and have our souls comforted, and somehow, we can say, “The Lord has been good.”
We are extremely grateful for your dedication to our mission! We praise God for your support and prayers. Thank you!
*Names of youth sometimes altered.  To help Eve’s family, see their gofundme page.

Praying for Muslims during Ramadan

The evening of May 15 marks the beginning of Ramadan, a holy month for all Muslims.  Every year, Muslims look forward to Ramadan with great excitement.  It’s a time characterized by religious zeal and deeper community with other Muslims.

The word “Ramadan” comes from the Arabic root word for “parched thirst”.  It is expressive of the hunger and thirst Muslims feel while they fast from all food, drink and other physical desires from dawn to sunset for 30 days.  Muslims consider fasting as an act of faith and worship towards Allah and as atonement for sins.

A typical day starts with getting up early and sharing a meal together before the fast begins at dawn. Prayers are offered throughout the day until the fast is finally broken at sunset.  Then, participants will eat together and go to the Mosque, where a part of the Qur’an will be read and a final prayer offered.

The last ten days of Ramadan are particularly significant, especially the 27th night called the ‘Night of Power’ or the ‘Night of Destiny.’ This is when Muslims believe the prophet Muhammad received the first revelation of the Qur’an.

Ramadan is a time for Muslims to purify the soul, refocus attention on God and practice self-discipline and sacrifice. Through fasting, a Muslim sympathizes with those who are hungry and have very little to eat every day. Through increased devotion, Muslims seek to draw closer to their Creator.  Through increased charity, Muslims foster generosity toward others.

For 12 years, Belpres has joined with Christians around the world in praying for Muslims during Ramadan using the “30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World” guide.  Each day, the guide introduces you to specific Muslim people and places where they live, like Cairo, Egypt.  You’ll read the stories of Muslims who have encountered Jesus during this holy month and learn specific things to pray.

“We are in the midst of the greatest turning of Muslims to Christ in 14 centuries of Muslim-Christian interaction.  More than 80% of all the Muslim movements to Christ in history have occurred in the past two to three decades, a time period that coincides with the modern prayer movement for Muslims.  At the heart of this modern prayer movement is 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World.” David Garrison, author of ‘A Wind in the House of Islam.’

 

Feel free to pick up a copy of the “30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World” on the info-walls around BelPres today or download a PDF version at www.30daysprayer.com.   Join the great movement of Christians who are praying throughout Ramadan.