It’s late August. We have seen teenagers outside all summer, their schools aren’t opening full time this fall, and we can’t bear the thought of not seeing them together. I cry. Our team looks at each other in expectation and willingness.
“How do we get to YES?” I ask.
We get to YES.
It’s September. We launch a ministry initiative that is unlike anything we’ve ever done before. We are inside, we are outside, we are all together, big kids and little kids, we have school inside our building now, two days a week, for teenagers whose schools aren’t open full time. I am now editing English papers and then leading small groups on the book of James three hours later. We provide lunch. We buy snacks. We work out honors geometry and my teammates come to school too, thank God, because I don’t know the maths. They know the maths. We play brain games, we pick kids up whose parents are at work. We meet in big groups outside and small groups inside. We learn to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
And while our team is passionate about studying and relaying the Truths of God’s Word, that verse is suddenly hitting our hearts differently. We are learning with middle schoolers and high schoolers; all sorts of things – english, revolutionary war, the book of James, and that the Fruit Bars from Costco have no sugar and are made of whole ingredients – our new collective favorite snack.
It’s October and the full swing of six small groups, two days of virtual school, and one day of Sunday Funday has become a reality. Our team communicates daily, we sanitize, spray, mask, and pray. We meet with teenagers, we talk to parents, we regularly communicate, and we have a class Halloween party that is a surprise to me. I pick up an Angel from her house to bring her to Virtual School, her Mom is a nurse and is working daily through a global health crisis that is changing her life. Much to our surprise, the Angel isn’t the only one dressed at school that day – there are several others. Including a fish. “It’s our class Halloween party, Megan!” No one told me, but I Uber Eats Munchkins and Coffee to celebrate and we get to our school work. It’s a fun day.
November rolls around and as state health guidelines strengthen everyone becomes nervous about the upcoming holiday. The weather is reasonably warm so we continue to meet outside in big groups, inside in small groups, and we persist. We have kids in mental health crisis’ in which all of my education and years of experience have not prepared me to navigate. I am tired. I work no less than 60 hours a week and our students are still showing up, so we are determined. We crank up the Sunday Fundays and create new memory bank fillers. We have a campfire on the beach in the freezing cold and the Fire Department arrives. Everyone laughs when the middle school girls offer them s’mores. We are so cold. Do we play Manhunt all over town in the dark? Maybe. But I will not confirm or deny. Our team is creative, they are setting up outside, and schlepping supplies anywhere we need them.
Our high school girls are creating a mission project for themselves because they can’t stand the fact that they’re not at the soup kitchen regularly right now. They make toiletry bags for 100 people receiving a Thanksgiving Dinner from church. They order their own supplies, make bags, and write cards during small groups. We’re raising leaders. I go home and cry. They are so good.
We get to Thanksgiving. Some people get to see their families, some do not. The week following in small groups, we take note that there were a lot of tears.
I’m so glad we’re all together so they can figure it out in this space, and not another one.
The anticipation of the holidays in December feels different this year.
We talk about it, but mostly our kids are feeling complacent. They’re “over it.”
We host a huge Christmas party at a park in town, we make bean shooters (“You’ll shoot your eye out!”), cards for the nursing home, play football and spikeball, and hand out individually wrapped chocolate covered pretzels. It is 60 degrees and sunny. It is December 14. Kids play and parents talk and music plays and while our team is cleaning up, we all comment on how much our faces hurt from smiling. The day is so fun.
We did it. We made it through the first season of pandemania ministry – full time, in person, with kids. It was not without bumps, but it was without any spread of virus. Mission accomplished. Memory banks filled. Scripture memorized. Face to face interaction achieved!
We take the holiday week off.
Thank you God, for sending us Jesus, and thank you Jesus for bringing us rest.
It’s January now. The temperature is bitter cold; yet we persist and continue inside. Virtual School begins a “GOALS FOR TODAY” Initiative because we are losing steam. We achieve daily goals there, continue reading through our third book of the Bible line by line in small groups, and pause Sunday Fundays for a few weeks until the temperatures rise. No one says a word. Because, we’re still together – and that’s the most important. We have a debate about whether an animal is a duck or a penguin on our Instagram story (the only virtual thing we’ve done yet!) which proves to be hilarious. Denguin is now our mascot. We love him. (Notes: Definitely a duck, we just choose to see daily miracles so we are believing in a penguin).
It’s February and we begin looking at the book of Galatians in some small groups, and another group gets invited to be a part of a really cool book launch for teenage girls. They agree to do it. It invigorates us and we are excited to spend time on this team, testing this book out in a small group setting for the author and publisher. It’s so fun. They’re together, learning, growing, and working out the stuff of life. We make Valentine’s Cards for each student with lollipops and Dove chocolates – it’s fun. We take gym class in virtual school. Everyone gets up to do one girl’s workout together and we laugh so hard we’re crying. We lunge, we do jumping jacks, and we clap. We watch high school swim meets online; we can’t go in person, but we cheer in the comment section of a ZOOM all together from Virtual School. I can’t imagine not being with them on days like today. I can’t believe how much time our team gets to spend with kids – we love it. It’s a response to a sad reality, but we’re happy to be the responders. We’re grateful to be with them as much as we are.
It’s March and our team is so dreamy they keep meeting together to make new plans and create new opportunities for kids. There’s music now. Spring sports start. School plays are happening. We’re not the only thing open anymore, and we’re also grateful for that. Our Sunday Fundays are exploding and more kids are coming than we even know. We had to order more pizza than we’ve ever had to order at one time. We play Shark games for Shark night, we play flashlight tag, and we laugh so hard and get so frustrated at our new Anchored Fam game, Tenzis. We are seeing the light. Literally. It’s lighter outside now, and we’re sun people.
April and May bring more sun, less cold, and more activities opening up in addition to our ministry. Our students usually host the sunrise service for Easter, but we have to make a few pivots this year so they get to host an online service and attend the sunrise service in person. Our online service is well received. The students do everything. Read the Scripture, preach, lead the worship, everything. They help vision and create the concept and it was like watching an Easter TV show. I’m so proud I could cry on Easter morning, our team has big smiles and the kids we see at Sunrise Service hug us tight. This is family. We play sharks and minnows on the beach, we host an awesome interactive event on Easter week at the church building and families experience the Journey together. We play kickball, Survivor, and host Water Games on the sand on the hottest day we’ve ever felt.
Our small groups meet through the first week of June and each host their own end-of-the-year party. There’s sandwiches on the beach at one, pizza on the beach at another, and DAYS Ice Cream in the park at the rest. Our masks have come off. Students comment, “oh I haven’t seen your whole face this year, you’re so pretty!” to each other and my teammate and I look at each other with tears in our eyes. We ride bikes in the streets, finish up our bible studies, and host an incredible family Beach Bash to celebrate our year together.
There’s over 115 people on the beach for our bash and we feel such an accomplishment. We’ve been open, in person, all year and have not had one incident. Not one. Our students are adjusting to yet another change in life, this time more positive, and they’re happy to be together, just as they have been all year. Moms hug our team really tight and Dads give us handshakes and high fives. “I can’t believe we did it,” I say. “But we did,” my teammate answered.
But we did.
All it took was some radical obedience and a willingness to say yes.
Outside, inside, masked, unmasked, sanitized, unsanitized, distanced or not – our goal was to be together… and we are… more than ever.
Obedience is better than sacrifice, every single time.
Get to the YES.
Whatever yes you’re trying to get to in your own life is worth all the mountain moving to make it happen.
Was it difficult? Absolutely.
Was it worth it? 100%.
What makes it worth it? Well, that’s for you to measure. For us, it was togetherness, growth, consistency, and for kids and teenagers to experience radical life-changing Love. His love is worth us doing anything so that they know it.
“The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy!” -Psalm 126:3