by Lori Dressel
We had barely parked when twenty-five youth poured out of the vans into the driving rain, eager to find their place in a Friday night workshop for Mission ConneXion 2016. A few weeks ago we had handed out brochures for MC 2016 to our high school AWANA group, which averages about fifteen on a Wednesday night. With four hotel rooms secured, we were fairly confident there would be plenty of room to host. Then the calls came in. “I’m not part of AWANA, but I want to come too. What can I do to come?” Less than a week before we were to leave, we realized we had more bodies than rooms and set about to secure more.
Post-millennials, iGen, Generation Z, are some of the names today’s youth has been labeled with. Having been born into a post 9-11 world, they are undulated with news of terror at home and abroad. It’s no wonder they are also labeled as “risk adverse.” Yet Mission ConneXion is all about risk. They came, soaking in what it means to risk all for the sake of the Gospel; whether that meant inviting a refugee into their life or going to the hurting far away. Later in the weekend, Emma said, “I thought God makes us suffer when we serve Him, but He blesses us when we do His work. We (will) have problems, but overall it will be a blessing.”
Another trait of iGen, is they have been raised in a society where homosexuality is openly embraced. Even in our small conservative town, the youth in our community have had to wrestle with this issue. So it was no surprise to see them packed into Gerry Breshears workshop on the very subject. Joy, a young lady in our group, said she learned that the Bible does not address every sexual issue, but it, “gives us a clear view of what is right”.
Mission ConneXion 2016 was a weekend that challenged us as chaperons. We were learning alongside of our younger brothers and sisters in Christ; we were learning from them as well. “If someone asked me who the happiest man on earth is, I’d say ‘Bob Goff’…it makes him so happy to love on others…and I want that. I want to be the happiest man on earth!” exclaimed Ty.
It was Sunday morning. Our group of 29 people was packed into a conference room, sharing what we had learned at Mission ConneXion. It had been an exhausting, wonderful weekend. The youth were seated, notebooks in hand and ready to share:
- In the front row Allysa offered, “I saw…if they are Iranian, ISIS, or refugees, they’re still people.”
- Faeryn learned she could “do for a few what you wish you could do for many.”
- Of the booths, Lydia said, “The most unique booth I found was Open Doors Library. Since I work in a library, it really caught my eye…it was really cool.”
- Malik, one of the youths in our group with the heart of a servant, contributed, “I feel like I don’t have a lot to offer, but I learned that by just being a compassionate person…that can affect another person and be an outreach to someone else.”
These are just a few quotes heard during an hour-and-forty-five minutes of sharing; no one was finished, but our time was up and it was time to head home.
Whether it was a plenary speaker, workshop leader or someone at a booth sharing their passion, Mission ConneXion is a tool that God has used in the lives of a generation typified as unwilling to take risks. Just imagine what God could do with these young people. Perhaps they will one day be described as the book of Acts described Peter and John when it was said, “…when they saw the boldness…they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13 NKJV)