"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity." (1 Timothy 4:12)
Occasionally over the years, we would take one teenager, with their parent. The demands of the week were many, and not every student could handle it - or so we thought. Then three years ago, we opened up a trip to parents and youth. We had 7 students join us, most with their parents. The deal was they had to prepare with all the other team members, they had to engage with the other team members and they needed to be able to function with the team in serving the community to whom we were sent.
Since that time, we have (thankfully) been unable to reverse course. The students want to keep coming and now I can't imagine doing this trip without them. They bring wide-eyed innocence, an eagerness to participate and joyful enthusiasm to our teams. In particular this year, each of the five students, made sacrificial commitments to get part time jobs that would help pay their way. There's something about personal sacrifice that readies your heart for an experience like this.
On Friday morning, we celebrated with the community of a rural mountainous village in El Salvador. Together with members of their community we built 14 homes for 14 families of greatest need in a place where no North Americans had been previously. We brought the families up in 3 groups; each group representing the day on which their house was built. The first group was 4 families, the second was 5 and the last was also 5 families. I stood with the last group of five families and invited the five students to join me. They would be the ones to hand the families a Bible and the key to their new home. Why?....great question.
After watching these five grow up from the time they were little, after watching them watch their parents make several trips to El Salvador, after watching them listen to the stories from the older students who have gone before them, after watching them take the preparation for the trip seriously, and after having spent a week humbled and amazed at their teamwork and enthusiastic engagement with the community - this was an occasion to honour them. The Lord is working through them and inviting them to experience the fullness of His purpose in their lives. They are learning to say "YES" to Him. I wanted them to know that their choices over these last number of months were significant not only for their own development, but for that of their family, this El Salvadoran community, our church family and their future choices.
They are learning the eternal significance of sacrifice, generosity, intergenerational team work, hard work and commitment to something greater and beyond self. They are learning to live like Jesus and I am thankful for each of them (Shailah and Taijah Allen, Ben Da Costa, Kayli Dachuna, Quinn Jennings). They are setting an example worth following, as they learn to follow Jesus.
*more stories of our trip can be found at www.semcelsalvador.blogspot.ca