It wasn't always lollipops and rainbows.
When we came back to HOPAC in 2005, Gil took the chaplain role. He was going to teach all the jr. high and high school Bible classes, but he also was going to invest heavily in discipleship. Because back then, there was none.
There were no youth groups or youth pastors at any of the international churches. Some students had formed their own youth group which was being led by an 11th grader. No adults. There were no Christian counselors in the city, no youth camps, no mentoring programs. There were a lot of teachers at HOPAC who really cared about the students, but they were busy with teaching their own subjects. A lot of kids fell through the cracks.
So we took on all of it: chaplain, Bible teacher, youth pastor, camp leader, discipler, counselor, mentor, coach. The students couldn't really get away from us! What's ironic about all of this is that we had never really felt called to work with teenagers. But we knew we really, really loved HOPAC students, and we knew God had prepared and equipped us for this.
But there were many times we were in way over our heads.
Once we had two girls who were so anorexic that both eventually had to go back to their home countries for treatment. One of them even lived with us for a while.
A parent called us late one night and asked us to come to her house: Her teenager had just swallowed 40 ibuprofen tablets.
A student once admitted to me that her Dad was beating up her Mom, and sometimes the kids too. The hardest part was realizing that because of certain circumstances, there was nothing I could do.
Once a parent called us because their daughter had cut up her arms and had locked herself in her bedroom. Another year we had at least 5 kids cutting.
We had a student admit to date rape. Another we highly suspected had had an abortion. We had students who were held up at gun point while their homes were robbed. We had four students who lost a parent to tragedy.
Somewhere in there I started to take counseling classes through distance learning. The burdens were overwhelming.
When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. (I Cor. 2)
Once we had a parent get really, really angry at us and then shun us from their family. There was a year we went through really sharp criticism from an administrator. Another time there was a teacher who seriously hated my guts.
There were disagreements, and big, big disappointments. There were times when nothing went right. There were times when I knew I had blown it with a student--totally said the wrong thing at the wrong time. I often asked myself what the heck I was doing here.
I learned so much about perseverance.
I learned so much about giving out of my weakness and seeing God work in spite of myself.
And it did get easier. God brought us more people. He brought HOPAC a full-time, fully trained counselor. He brought Young Life leaders to HOPAC who have taken over the youth group and a lot of the discipleship. And as any youth leader knows, if you hang out with young people long enough, they start to grow up.....and you get to see the fruit of your labor.
Are you willing to say to God that He can have whatever He wants? Do you believe that wholehearted commitment to Him is more important than any other thing or person in your life? Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter unless it is about loving God and loving the people He has made? (Francis Chan)