Changing Gears

The Great Escape has come and gone.  While some of us are still catching up on our sleep, others are riding the excitement of the week.  The struggle is real to remember the closeness to each other, the feel of the Holy Spirit right next to us, and thrill of being with 700 other middle school students.

However, for me (Adrian Martin), at least, it is time to change gears.  The High School Mission Trip to Peru departs tomorrow morning, so I am back in the office switching out things that I needed at The Great Escape for the things I will need for Peru.  Do I have all of the medical forms?  Passports?  Will everyone remember to wear their t-shirts?  How many last minute questions will I get from parents?  Did I remember to take my altitude sickness medication?  Have I got everything I need packed away?  Will I remember to leave or check my pocket knife?

So many things to flip from one trip to another, but it is all worth it!  Seeing the middle school students last week on fire and the prospect of opening the eyes to the global mission Sardis is involved in next week is a wonderful feeling!

As a wrap up for The Great Escape, I have been asked to list the songs that we sung in worship all week.  Here they are:

  • Falling Into You – Hillsong, Young, & Free
  • I Can’t Let Go – Alex Sasser
  • Safe Place – Alex Sasser
  • Good, Good Father – Chris Tomlin
  • For the Cross – Bethel
  • Oceans – Hillsong
  • Real Love – Hillsong, Young, & Free
  • Our God – Chris Tomlin
  • Sons & Daughters – Bret Stanfill
  • Close – Hillsong, Young, & Free
  • Holy Spirit – Kari Jobe
  • Worthy of Your Name – Sean Curran

Also, here is the link to the 488 pictures we took with the church camera this past week:

https://www.flickr.com/gp/144727785@N07/eVx903

As the high school youth and adults prepare to depart tomorrow for our mission trip, I ask that you keep us in your prayers.  Pray that God will open our eyes to see how God is working in the world and for us to see how Sardis is making a kingdom difference!

 

Day 5 – To Everything…

Day 5 – To Everything…

All good things must come to an end, including our week at The Great Escape.  The conference was rejuvenating for the soul, with the lively music and worship, the wonderful speakers, and engaging family time with our youth and adults.  Some have made friends they will stay in contact with through various social media.  (Side note, parents, some of you might be asked to take a trip to Dalton, GA in the near future to meet up with some girls from another youth group, but that’s another story for another day….)

Today was Crud Day, a day to play in slime, yuck, guck, shaving cream, and pretty much anything else that is nasty.  Unfortunately, rain and lightning came and forced us inside quicker than we would have liked.  We were able to participate in two games and it was plenty to get us all messy, but it was not nearly enough for most of us.  Everyone got messy, whether they planned to or not.  Even the adult leaders were not safe, as Melinda found out when she was on her way to get the camera and wound up with two large handfuls of yuck in her hair courtesy of Adrian.

Throughout our week, we talked about having freedom in Jesus, hiding from God and from each other, being a part of a Christian community, and how we respond to God’s love in our lives.  Each youth has been touched by this week, whether they are here for the first time or for the third time.  The adult leaders have enjoyed spending this time with the 18 young people, who have kept us energetic, on our toes, full of laughter, and trying new things.  (Adrian was dancing it up at the dance party tonight, which is definitely a new thing for him!)

Ecclesiastes 3 begins:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

     a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
     a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
     a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

As we come to the end of our week, we head home, knowing that there is a time to come to this conference and a time to go home.  Tomorrow it is time to go home.  We now get to figure out how we take what we discussed and what we experienced this week to our lives back home in Charlotte.  Will we be changed?  Will we make a difference?  Will we live a life of gratitude to God?  Only time will tell.

For now, it is a time to pack.  And to clean.  And to sleep so the drivers stay awake on the bus ride home.

It has been a good week and one that was not possible without dedicated adults like Jenny, Melinda, and Harry.  This also would not have been possible without the support of Sardis Presbyterian Church.  Thank you to everyone who makes this week possible!

Day 4 – Exhaustion

Day 4 – Exhaustion

It is getting to be that time of the week: the students don’t fight nearly as much about going to bed.  The leaders are making daily (hourly?) runs to Dunkin’ Donuts to get caffeine.

The week has been great, but it is taking its toll.  The heat, the walking, the playing are all catching up to us.

Today, we had the Ultimate Sports Challenge where Sardis played other churches in a variety of sports.  Needless to say, we did not do too well in any of the sports, but everyone seemed to have a good time!  Our true moment to shine came during the 3v3 basketball challenge tonight where some of our 8th grade guys took home the championship by lasting through 5 games.  Way to go Ethan, Jon, Jarrett, and David!

On a sad note, we had to say good-bye to Jenny as she needed to travel home to be with her family.  Jenny, we love you and are praying for you, Kevin, Emma, and Isabel!  We know you are here with us in spirit and we love what you brought to our discussions, worship, and play.  Thank you for all you have done!  Now, take care of your family!

With the late hour (almost 1 a.m. again), lack of sleep, and physical exhaustion (one of our adult leader’s FitBits registered 10,000 steps BEFORE lunch today!), this is a short post.

Please continue to pray for us as we continue on our spiritual journey and experience God through the keynote, evening speaker, worship, and family time.

Day 3 — They Get It!

Day 3 – They Get It!

In youth ministry, there are some times that really stand out as “Ah-ha!” moments for the youth.  Tonight was one of those nights.  At The Great Escape, this night is commonly known as commitment night, where the youth are invited to continue their journey with Jesus by simply making it a conscience decision.

From time to time, people ask me when I’ve been saved.  They are usually looking for specific time and place when I made a decision to be a Christian.  For example, after I was once asked this question, the person proceeded to tell me that they were saved when they were nine years old in their closet at their house.  As a reformed Presbyterian, I, Adrian Martin, usually have a different answer to that question.  “When were you saved?”  “About two thousand years ago,” I say.

I believe that God does the saving and there is nothing that we can do about it.  Through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are saved.  One of my favorite Bible verses is Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  In the Gospel According to Adrian, the phrase, “…including me…” right after “…nor anything else in all creation…”  In my mind and heart, there is not a thing I can do to attain salvation or lost it.  It is a God thing and not a me thing.  Thank God for that!

Tonight, we talked a lot about those verses as we talked about God as the save agent, and not us.  We commit our lives to following Jesus, but we need to continually do so.  “Take up your cross daily and follow me,” Jesus says in Luke 9:23.  This is not a one and done.  It is on-going.

Tonight, as we gathered a group and discussed the gift God gave us in God’s Son Jesus, someone asked the important question: How should we respond?  How do we say thank you to our Creator for such an amazing gift?  What could we possibly give that compares?

That’s when I knew they were getting it.  We talked about ways in which we can live a life of gratitude to God in all that we do.  One of the youth blew me away with his answer.  He said that he feels called to make others laugh.  We talked about why laughing was important and came to the conclusion that laughter helps to break down the walls we create, the walls we hide behind.  Laughter heals.  Laughter brings us together.  This amazing youth felt called by God to share the gift of laughter with others.  That is his response to God’s amazing gift!

He got it.  He understood tonight what it means to live a life in gratitude to God.

My prayer is that he, and all of the youth that have attended this conference, remember this when we arrive home and are back in the midst of everything that makes us put up our walls and hide from each other.

May God bless you in all that you do and may you find a way to live a life of gratitude to God!

Day 2: Hiding from God!

In our evening program, we talked about what it means to hide who we truly are, either from those around us or from God.  We talked about how hiding creates distance between people and therefore strains relationships.

We all have reason to hide.  We might be having a strained relationship with someone and are trying not to interact with them.  We might see them coming and duck down a side hall or avoid answering their calls or texts.  We might be trying to fit in with the “cool” crowd and therefore hide a part of who we are thinking they will not accept us as we are.  “To fit in, I need to act this way and I think I can be that person…”

Our discussion after this session was lively, with our students knowing all too well what it means to hide a part of who you are.  We talked about how some of us act differently at church than at home than at school, but if we were true to the person who God created, then we would not need to be acting different throughout.

During the afternoon, we went whitewater rafting, which is a great exercise in pushing personal fear boundaries and a wonderful way to cool off.  Some folks were very nervous about rafting, but everyone loved it and came out smiling and laughing about how they almost fell out (or actually did fall out – during the picture taking time, no less!).

So far, this conference has opened some of our youth up to new ideas and new thinking.  We cannot hide from God, no matter where we go or what we do.  God who created us, knows us, and loves us, accepting us for the wonderful person we were created to be, all unique but uniquely created in the image of God!

We Arrived!

We Arrived!

After seven hours in the church buses, we finally arrived at The Great Escape!  As soon as we pulled into Lee University, camp counselors and work crew hoped on our buses to usher our youth off to play games while the adults registered the group.

Our dorms seem to be the farthest from most of the action, so we are promised lots of walking this week!  That might prove to be difficult for the guy with crutches, but he will survive.

We settled in and then had a wonderful BBQ dinner before joining almost 700 other middle school students for the evening program.  When the lights went off and the count down finished, the music started.  And this was music you could feel as well as hear!  The bass vibrated around you and through you.  The lights are professional, concert quality lights, adding mood to the worship songs being sung.  Most of the middle school students in the room rushed the stage to be closer to the action.  It is pretty inspiring seeing young people get that excited to sing praise songs!  You would think Taylor Swift was on stage with how fast our young people got there!

The music faded and we were treated to a skit about a fictional cleaning company.  They laid out the theme in a nice, three word phrase: “Keep it clean.”  We heard from Chris Sasser who talked about how some of us are escaping from things in our lives by coming to The Great Escape.  He touched on sin and how each and every one of us is a slave to sin, born into it and not being able to get out from under it by ourselves.  It appears we will follow this thread of conversation throughout the week.

As a group, we processed what it means to live in sin and how that affects our lives.  We talked about the need to escape from things in our lives, even for a little bit.  We discussed how sin has a hold of us but most were very reluctant to name that sin before others.  It is a point of shame and burden that we carry with us.

Finally, after a long day of driving, walking, and playing, we are ready to settle down for the night.  But of course, knowing middle school students, lights out is just a “suggestion!”

Please pray for us this week that we allow the Holy Spirit into our lives, even those dark parts of our lives that we don’t want to name.  Pray that we are strong enough to lean on each other, to ask for help when we need it.  Pray that we listen for God’s still, small voice in our lives.

We are excited that our week has begun!  Eighteen youth and four adults are ready to experience God through The Great Escape!