Monday, June 11, 2012

Jesus in unexpected places

Almost all of the 100 2012 Summer Stretchers

    Often times when I tell people that I get to work with middle schoolers, they laugh, make some sort of an apology, or say something along the lines of "I am glad it is you and not me." Many people detest working with middle schoolers and I can't quite understand why. I know they are middle schoolers, sometimes they smell, sometimes they have an attitude, some times they talk back, sometimes they are rude, sometimes they are hard to understand. Often times middle schoolers are: generous, hospitable, loving, caring, concerned, questioning, confused, open, and willing. There are many adults who I could say sometimes: smell, have an attitude, talk back, are rude, and are hard to understand and there are adults who are:  generous, hospitable, loving, caring, concerned, questioning, confused, open, and willing. It all works out in the end and I love working with middle schoolers.

   Here in the Brainerd Lakes Area there is a ministry known as Summer Stretch. Thursdays middle schoolers from all over the area here do a wide variety of service projects (each church works on their own projects because no one has projects for 100), we eat our brown bag lunch, share in bible study (the summer we are looking at "Living Water"), and then we gather together for fun and games (last week it was games in the yard and ice cream, this week we are playing mini-golf). Together these youth represent five lutheran churches.

  It was amazing to see the kids as we were gathering last Thursday for the first time and they were shocked to see which of their friends were also participating and to realize that they too go to church, just not the same church. The kids are beginning to see that they are a part of something bigger than they are and that God has in fact called them to love and serve in the midst of a community, they have not been sent out into the world to fly solo, rather to live in community.

  The group I get to work alongside (8 boys and 1 girl) went to serve at the middle school here, this was the service project I was most nervous about. I wasn't certain how the kids would view cleaning up a locker room. So as we arrived they met the janitor, Ron, and they all said things along the lines of "we have seen you around but never knew your name" and so they became fast friends. Ron equipped the kids with buckets, rags, and gloves and sent us off to the 7th & 8th grade boys locker room. (Talk about stinky) The task before us was to clean up the lockers: wipe them all down with a special solution and clean out anything that is left in them.

   At first there were a few grumbles about the task ahead but soon the kids saw the ways the lockers were looking and became proud of their work and the work that they were doing. They talked about how they were helping Ron out and all the middle schoolers. They discussed life, upcoming movies, and plans for the summer. In the midst of it they said that they were excited to come back next fall and share with their classmates that they got to clean these lockers. As we walked out of the cleaned locker room the boys pushed the cart of buckets back to in front of the office, they asked about coming back, knowing that there were several more locker rooms that needed cleaned. They held their heads up high knowing that they had made a difference in their middle school community.

   It was there in the locker room with those boys that I met Jesus. I met Jesus as the boys (my 1 girl was not present last Thursday) scrubbed the lockers clean and made them shine. As the boys scrubbed crusty old deodorant out of the lockers, Jesus was there using these middle school hands to help out the community. The Holy Spirit was working in and through the lives of these middle schoolers for the betterment of the world. In the middle school boys who many want to label as less than or not worthy or something else I saw Jesus moving, speaking, working, and continuing to transform the broken world. I have hope for the future - I see good in these middle school boys as well as the other 100 middle schoolers I get to walk alongside this summer.

  Thanks be to God for middle schoolers.
  Thanks be to God who loves and works in the lives of everyone, despite what the world may think of them.
   Thank be to God for the opportunity to journey with these youth.

No comments:

Post a Comment