I’m feeling a bit sad and sentimental today. Last night was the finale for the end of the program year at the Spring Valley Salvation Army, and in two weeks is the final party for the mentoring program I’ve been volunteering at with the Spring Valley High School.
Last year at this time, I was saying goodbye to the church and the after school program that my husband and I attended and volunteered at in Brooklyn. I was feeling heartbroken, lost, and uncertain about out next steps. I didn’t want to find a new church, and I especially didn’t want to attend the specific one that God kept on leading us back to as the most logical choice. But the drive and the tolls were becoming too much of a burden on our finances, and everyone was supportive of our move away from our church and to the next. I was so stubborn with God–I felt like it was His job to give us a new solution, since I was so unhappy with the one He was proposing.
Instead, God didn’t give us another “solution.” Instead, God prompted me to listen to the needs and act when the mentoring program was introduced with the High School, and God lead me to tell our new pastor that I wanted to lead Bible Bowl should there be enough kids for a team. I had taught a different bible study program the year before at our church in Brooklyn, but I felt that God wanted me to begin something different. My new pastor was open to what I wanted to do and she was supportive of my wish to be a leader. And then, despite there not being enough kids for a Bible Bowl team in the church the year before, we had a team.
Since September, I’ve been leading a group of 5 teenagers in Bible Bowl. It’s essentially Bible Quizzing, where different churches form teams of at least 4 players and we compete in Bible knowledge of a predetermined book. The 2016-2017 season concentrated on Luke, so we’ve spent the past 9 months meeting weekly to study and quiz together. And as you can imagine, when you meet weekly with the same group of kids, you can’t help but get attached, especially when those kids are as great as the 5 I’ve worked with this past year.
The year has had it’s ups and downs. One of the biggest “ups” is that we’ll be going to the territorial Bible Bowl playoffs. We were invited as the representatives from our division, Greater New York. There will be eight other teams representing other divisions across the eastern territory, from as far west and south as Ohio and Kentucky, and as far North and East as Maine. It will be a great weekend, with 4 scrimmages before the final, and a dinner boat cruise to celebrate the hard work of the teams. But one of the “downs” of our season has been our lack of competition. There were no other teams in the division to play against, and the one team we had the opportunity to scrimmage against wasn’t as far along in their studying of Luke as our team was.
Part of me is worried that playing against 8 other teams, my kids will get discouraged. Maybe they won’t be as fast to the buzzer, maybe they’ll be nervous in front of a crowd and not remember the answers that I KNOW they know. I don’t care if they win or lose, but I want them to feel that they did the best they could and honored their commitments to learn the book of Luke. I’m praying that the Lord would give me the right words to say no matter the situation, and show me how to encourage those kids in our last weekend together to continue studying the scripture, for nothing else than to improve their relationship with Him (the TRUE reason for Bible Bowl).
The saddest part for me though is that I won’t have any of them on the team next year. The oldest just turned 18, and she’ll be starting college and no longer eligible to play. The other 4 are all children of the pastors-in-training that attend the church and will all be moving away next year as their parent’s finish seminary and are assigned a church in the territory. As I told them at the finale, they have a unique opportunity to keep sharing Bible Bowl and spreading the program throughout the territory. I pray that they enjoyed the program enough this year to want to start a team, or join a team should their new churches already participate.
Most on my mind is a young woman, and I’ll call her “J.” She is amazing: sweet and smart–dedicated. I have seen her potential all year long and her vigor. She has an adorable habit of memorizing answers the wrong way (which I cringe as a coach to hear, but hey, she’s still got it memorized). She’s said things like, “I don’t like Chapter 18. It’s too hard.” My response was, “Then God wants you to study it extra hard because there is a special promise in there for you.” She was the one who would run up to me to say hi; she was the one who asked me 5 times if I would come watch her piano solo; she is the one I’ve felt a special connection to and an overwhelming love for. Not that I haven’t connected with all the kids, but I know you can identify with what I feel: God draws our hearts to specific situations. She is about the age I was when my own parent’s went through seminary and were assigned a church, and I know the path she will face. If you think of her, say a prayer for “J.” She will be on my heart as she makes this transition in life.
So with uncertainty in the air, I’ll just keep following God’s leading. I have learned to love those kids, and they join a growing list of kids and teens that I’ve had the privilege to work with and pray for over the years. No matter what is in store for next program year, I know that the Lord will be guiding each step, and I am happily waiting on His leading (I’ll try not to ask for new “solutions” again!).