Working with our college-and-career aged youth since returning to Chile has been a brand-new experience for us. Prior to this year, youth ministry was not a part of our "job description" since our colleagues Hugo and Alejandro had much more experience in that area and our deacon Juan was doing a fabulous job directing a weekly teen time on Friday nights.
|Pedro teaching on our battle for purity and integrity|
On any given Friday for the past couple of years, there would often be upwards of 40 teens enjoying Bible study, games, food and friendship at the church. Each summer for the past few years, a 40-passenger bus was sacrificially rented and filled to capacity with students eager to travel the 24+ hours to Santiago for a week of Christian camp, resulting in even greater enthusiasm and numerical growth.
|playing a fun game that teaches the value of listening to the right voices|
We had energy and momentum, but also an increasing age gap. Our original group of teens graduated and moved on to college. New, younger teens joined the group. The needs of each end of the spectrum were vastly different, and after sitting down with Juan to hear about last year's experiences, it was mutually agreed that creating an older teen group would be ideal. To make that happen, however, the buck would have to stop here (ie., with us as the leaders!)
|a night of "bubble basketball"|
We were nervous, but excited. Having each experienced significant spiritual growth and challenges during our college years, Pedro and I felt we could genuinely relate to the stage of life in which our "jovenes mayores" found themselves. However, we also recognized that our cultural expectations might differ, and that even within our group we would be addressing young adults with a wide variety of issues and backgrounds.
|one of our occasional game nights (Pit is a crowd favorite!)|
In age, our jovenes mayores range from 18 years old (just graduated) to mid-20's. In spiritual upbringing, we have only a few from Christian homes with the majority having been recently saved. We have college students, working adults, a young adult obtaining his GED after dropping out of high school, and a new believer recently released from prison. At one of our first meetings, we had two pregnant students (one recently gave birth, both are unmarried.)
|Dutch Blitz has also made its way to Iquique|
In other words, there was a lot of ground to cover! Where to begin? After prayer and discussion, we took the plunge to begin with a topic that was sure to grab the group's attention and to address an issue they would all be facing in this stage of life: sexual purity.
|Pedro getting to know the guys around a game of Blokus|
All apprehensions aside, after several months with this new ministry we can honestly say these young people have become a highlight of our time here! While admittedly some individuals are still "fringe" participants, others have thrown themselves fully into ministry not only as part of this group but also in leadership with teaching the younger teens; music ministry; individual discipleships; and even preparing devotionals for Thursday night prayer meeting. Jaime (pictured in the turquoise shirt on the left) is one of those who has wholeheartedly dedicated himself to serving God in our church. I will share more about his ministry goals in a future post.
God is so good and faithful. Adding yet another ministry commitment to our plate this year was a step of faith, but the reward has been great. This morning I read 3 John in my devotions and was reminded again of John's affirmation in verse 4: "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." The same could be said of us as well, as we play a small role in guiding these lives towards that Truth which can shape their daily decisions and eternal future!