We love the youth here! It is great to have two girls who are apart of this group and to see all of them grow close as they grow in Christ. We are excited to see the youth seek God, change by His truth and show leadership in the church and community. Every Saturday we meet for games and Bible study. So when we were wondering what to do for New Years Eve we decided we wanted to spend it with the youth and give them a fun, safe place to celebrate. In this culture they don't really do anything for New Years Eve and if there is something it is usually something in the center they shouldn't be apart of. We invited the youth to our house in the evening to play games, have a little food and soda (a treat here), and welcome the New Year together.
The porch and yard were full of youth on New Years Eve. Over 50 youth came. We were excited to have some new youth and some youth who are new believers. Everyone was having fun playing games and eating. Josh decided to have a time of testimonies from 2018 and praise God for all He has done. We began with worship and it was full of joy and energy. They didn't want to stop and person after person started a song. We sang, danced, jumped, waved our hands...it was awesome. Eventually we all sat down to give testimonies. One testified of healing, another of help with school, another God providing school fees, another keeping him safe this year... One girl testified of going away from Christ and this year coming back to Him - praise God! (That is a God story in it self. An answer to prayer we got to see.) One of the boys said he use to hate his parents so much that he wanted to join the army so he could kill them. He said he use to tell people he was a Christian but inside he knew he wasn't. God changed him and he now has peace. Our neighbor and pastor, Charles, stood up and testified of God restoring him this year. It was the truth that allowed him to persevere through doubt. He told the youth two things; 1) Remain in Christ and know His truth, 2) Stay away from sin - it is like fire and it will burn you.
I love testimonies and hearing how God has been at work! I was to lead a prayer of thanksgiving for all God did in 2018, but I felt we should not miss the opportunity to invite the youth to receive Christ or return to Him. I spoke to those who tell people they are a Christian but inside you know you are not. You are living a lie. You are holding onto the world and still want Jesus. As we sang a one by one about ten people came forward. There were tears, kneeling down, praying...and worship happening. Some of the leaders prayed with the youth who came forward as everyone else worshiped. It was holy. God was here and doing something powerful. Then Charles invited youth who are casing after and love worldly music and parties to come and repent and give themselves to Jesus. Suddenly, a whole bunch of youth came forward and confessed their sins to God. Now there was weeping, bowing and laying on the ground, repenting and rejecting...all while the rest of us worshiped in the presence of God. There was power. There was a holiness. It was awesome. I stood there praising God for what He was doing in the lives of these youth.
It reminded me of another power time with youth when God's Spirit fell on us and we were never the same again. Probably nineteen years ago in New Orleans in a remote fishing village with the youth from Roosevelt Park Church we experienced the presence of God. You don't forget.
We all prayed over the youth who were before the Lord in repentance and those coming back to God in truth. It is hard to know how to end a time so amazing. Do you end? We allowed those who needed more time to take their time, others wanted to talk to someone, and others began playing games again. One boy shared with us with tears how he wants to walk with Christ even though it is hard. Another boy said he had been deceiving God and was having a hard time receiving forgiveness. Josh assured him he wasn't deceiving God but himself and that God not only forgave him but he cleansed him too. One of the girls was praying for her family to be in Christ. Another girl is struggling with unbelieving parents who can lead her to wrong things. God was working in them.
Then the New Year came and we all shouted, beat on the drums and jeri cans, and shouted some more...it was great! They have so much excitement. I loved it. Then they began to worship again with even more joy than ever! An hour of praise! There was enthusiastic singing, dancing, cheering and jumping. The youth here amaze me sometimes. They choose to worship instead of play a game or whatever. I stood in awe of God. There we were under the canopy of a billion stars from horizon to horizon praising the creator of them all. He was with us and I will never forget the beauty of that moment.
I am sure the youth could have and maybe wanted to go all night long, but Pastor Charles gave us a last worship song and told the youth to go home and rest for church tomorrow. It was hard to depart from each other after a night like that. He made sure all the girls walked home with their brothers and told them all to go straight home.
It was hard for me to fall asleep with my heart so full. My body ached but my heart was thanksful. It was the best New Years Eve I have ever had! There is no comparison. Worldly, meaningless, empty pleasures cannot come close to the joy of the Lord! To His power and holiness. When God works in someones life there is no greater joy. To be in His presence with fellow believers and worship Him is the best. I thank God for allowing us see Him at work and for spending New Years Eve with us!
I just want to add a little about New Years Day. People here don't communicate much or share. Partly a language barrier but mostly cultural. Anyways, it can frustrate me a communicator and lover of sharing what God has done (it's Biblical). So not hearing the youth share on New Years or parents talking to their kids about what happened was a bit hard for me. However, it didn't stop me from giving God glory and from talking to the youth about what God did. We did have a praised filled worship at church and a time of prayer for thanks for 2018 and praying for 2019. What a great way to start the new year. After church we ate (at least those who had given toward food) and then played volleyball again. It was fun as ever to see leaders and parents play against the youth and kids! We had one interruption of a big snake that everyone ran to kill. Yuck! So thankful for brave people who know what to do.
We all stayed until dark playing and being together. At the end of the day they met to thank everyone and account for the money given and food bought. They decided to give the left over money to a family in need. In discussing it was great to hear how much people loved these times together (Christmas and New Years) and the love and unity it brought. They really seemed to appreciate that we stayed with them the whole time - one of them. And someone requested we play volleyball every week not just a couple times a year. So thankful we all enjoying being together!