The Pluses of Three In A Van

WORDS FROM W.W. August 8, 2010

I’m still recovering, but it’s good.
Just a few days ago a team of five adults and five students returned from a mission trip to Rock Nest Ranch in northern British Columbia.
Two thousand miles up and two thousand miles back. The time at the camp was incredible, but the three days on the trip home were rewarding as well. I love conversing with students, especially after we get to that “comfortable” stage with one another. You know that you’ve reached that point when they start mimicking you in your presence, or razz you about your propensity to walk towards any Starbucks you encounter…even when it means running across six lanes of traffic and jumping a fence.
Young people are mostly misunderstood by adults. Part of that is how networked they are to text messaging, Facebook, cell phones, and iPods. It is not unusual to see two students sitting together sharing a set of ear buds with one another (each person having one ear plugged in) listening to a song of an iPod. But part of their being misunderstood is our tendency as adults to not be with them long enough to hear them.
Three days in a van will give you that opportunity…several times!
I find that with a lot of young people, to use a Young Life phrase, you have to earn the right to be heard. That takes time and risk. Even after risking investment in a listening relationship with them there will be setbacks and stepping back.
It seems to me that young people need to know that you’re willing to laugh with them, to authentically enjoy them, and to allow them into your world. Most of us find it hard to carve out the time to allow that to happen.
It was not an accident that Jesus spent three years with his disciples, investing in them, laughing with the, exhorting them, and even shaking his head in disbelief of them. Read the gospels again. The disciples said some off-the-wall things.
Send some time with a group of students in a van for three days and you will hear some off-the-wall things said. It’s part of the spiritual growth experience.
The best youth leaders aren’t necessarily the ones who look like them, but rather the ones who will ride the storms with them, as well as the roller coasters; the ones who will sit down with them with a cone of ice cream and lick away for a while, but also cry with them when they share about the tragedy in a friend’s life.
Kyle, Asher, Erin, Umar, and Ayah allowed me to be share a few days with them. It was awesome…even through Montana and Wyoming, even when I made noises in the middle of the night (Well, maybe just awesome for me on that one!), even when we were all tired, even when I gingerly tip-toed into the lake and they called me a wimp.
Thanks for touching my heart.
Starbucks, anyone?

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One Comment on “The Pluses of Three In A Van”

  1. Charly Says:

    Bill, Bill, Bill… you never fail to amaze me. You really are an awesome pastor… and no I’m not just saying that because you brought me coffee at camp this summer… Thanks for sharing yourself and your thoughts, it’s very much appreciated!

    Much love,

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