Impact and the Kingdom of God…

This week I have been home for a week, and it is nice! Jen took our girls to meet my parents, a couple of weeks ago, and this past Saturday we got to see them. Three weeks of youth group travels is tough on a daddy’s heart! So, glad to be reunited with family. However, the summer has been good. Our trip to Impact Church in Houston was once again an amazing trip.

I was worried with some of the travel plans, and just my general travel stress that is always nerve-racking for me. That was until we got to the Impact building, and then I saw this banner hanging in the back:

I was reminded of how God was “in this place,” and I didn’t know it. Jacob had a similar moment in Gen. 28 as he is feeling the wrath and revenge of Esau. While, I didn’t see a stairway to heaven, I did see God throughout the week in the kindness of the Impact staff, in the service of our teens, in the many ways our adults took care of things on the trip, and they way our adults cared for Jen and I. I saw God throughout the week in the children that come to VBS. My heart melted as these little people would come and love on us. You know, we went to Houston thinking we were going to make an impact on the children, I believe we did! However, they children made as much or a bigger impact on us.

Three stories I need to share:

1. One little girl at the end of the week was torn up that our group had to leave. She asked Mr. Tim and I for our name tags as a reminder of our presence there. Then as she was getting off the bus on Thursday she did two things that broke my heart. She hugged Mr. Tim, and then walked away, and came back for a second hug. She also asked me for my Ohio State hat. I wanted to say no. Surely she didn’t need a hat, especially a stinky old Buckeyes hat. But, her request was bigger than any old hat. Little Maribel taught me about hospitality and possessions. Nothing we have, or think we possess is really ours. Christ calls us to be open handed. So, I have her my hat. Watching her walk off the bus was neat, she clung to that hat like it was Christmas. I saw Christ in the love of a little child!

2. One of our teen guys wasn’t real excited about being forced to go on the Impact trip. To be honest, I wasn’t real excited about his attitude, especially since he assured me once he got there, he was going to undermine the whole week. “Thou shall not kill,” kept running through my head, so I did the next best thing. I began praying for this young man to have an awesome week, and not ruin it, or make our church group look bad. We got there Saturday, by Sunday night at bedtime I thought I was going to have to send him home. Monday morning at breakfast, one of our other teen boys told me that he heard this other kid say, that “he was glad he came, and loves little children.” What? I was dumbfounded. I went and found the kid who threatened to ruin the week, and once he realized that we would be ministering to little children he was in his sweet spot. It was cool watching him interact with children. They adored him, and he them! The director of the VBS told me at the end of the week, that of all our kids, she enjoyed watching him work the most and invited him to come intern there when he was older. I did think about offering to let them have him for the rest of the year, but realized I needed to bring him home! (just kidding!) You know, God does show up in weird ways.

3. Monday night while there in Houston, our group was invited to go to Liberty Island and help put on a devotional/worship experience for the residents at the Adult Daycare facility. I was honored to have been invited. I was weary at first, for I didn’t know how our kids would respond around the patients there. It was awesome watching our kids shake hands, and hug on the residents. The absolute joy of the evening was watching the residents sing to God without any constraints. They weren’t worried about how they sounded or what others thought of them. They raised their hands, they clapped, stomped, stood, and sat or whatever else they felt like they should do. It was powerful.

In all of this I learned or re-learned that the kingdom of God is not about what’s prim and proper, but its about righteousness and joy in the Holy Spirit, it’s about becoming like a little child and letting God have the reigns. I was reminded that teens can and do make a difference. I was reminded that race is an artificial barrier to God’s kingdom coming. In the kingdom of God there is no white, black, Hispanic or whatever — there is only God’s family made up of all people from every tongue, nation, etc. (Rev. 7:1-12) united in Christ! Prejudice, racial stereotypes do not belong in the church. I believe that the church is to be glimpse of God’s future, and may it never be so that encounters with Christians will ever lead anyone to conclude that those who claim to walk with Christ are racist!

” ‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven…” (Matthew 6:9-10)

About Jason Retherford

The random musings of a youth minister.
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