Today's guest post is written by Eric Decker, a volunteer leader in Milwaukee, WI and a first-year student at Marquette University. You can follow him on Twitter @edecks. Sorry, ladies, but Eric does NOT play professional football for the Denver Broncos.
Two summers ago, right before I was set to start my senior year of high school, I accepted Christ at Young Life camp at Saranac Village. There is no way to perfectly describe the kind of week I had. It blew me away. God blew me away. I formed great friendships at camp (many of which are still prevalent in my life today) and more importantly, I discovered what a relationship with God looks like and the magnitude of the impact Jesus Christ had dying on the cross.
While that part of my story may sound similar to other testimonies you may have heard, the story of how I got to camp might not be something you regularly come across.
Prior to camp, I had never been to any Young Life event before. Nothing. My experiences with Christianity were bare to none as well. My family went to church sometimes when I was much younger, but it had no impact on my life. However, one of my friends invited me to a winter retreat for our local church’s youth group about six months before I ended up going to camp. The weekend retreat was my first real experience hearing the gospel and being in the presence of God. The retreat didn’t strike gold within me, but I left interested, wanting more.
After that, I began praying at night before I went to bed, if I remembered to. It wasn’t a significant part of my life, but it was something I wanted to do. I wouldn’t say I had a legitimate relationship with God, but I was talking with him, right? After that retreat, I knew I wanted more of God and deep down, I knew I wanted God to become a more important part of my life. The thing is: I knew I couldn’t do it alone.
So you know what I did? I prayed about it. I prayed that God could bring someone into my life that could lead me closer to Him. I prayed this over and over again, even though when I prayed, I often felt like I was talking with no one. Well, it turns out I was talking with someone and He was listening.
God began to answer my prayers before I even knew it. My friend Ashley, who was involved with Young Life, whom I had only met that year because we were in the same math class, noticed I had gone on the retreat. We discussed the retreat in the hallway a couple of times and within a short while, Ashley began inviting me to Young Life.
In hindsight, I don’t know why I ever said no, but I never made it to a Young Life Club that semester. Ashley didn’t stop there though. Ashley also invited me to camp! The first two times I was invited to camp by her, I never showed a ton of interest, but I never flat out said no to her either. It wasn’t until five days (Yes, you read that right!) before camp that God finally opened my heart up to Young Life.
The funny thing is… it was mostly money that opened my eyes to Young Life. Ashley had $400 to give to someone to go to camp. My dad had lost his job earlier that summer, so hearing that I could get my hands on that kind of money to go to some week-long camp in upstate New York suddenly had me interested.
The thing that’s not so funny is the kind of struggles I had been experiencing that same summer. In June, I had said my final (metaphorical) farewell to my best friends that I had had all of high school to that point. Drugs had taken over their lives, I wanted no part of it and because of that, we grew apart. Also, just about a week before we departed for New York, things with my family had pretty much hit rock bottom. When I least expected it, depression had taken over me. I had no one to talk to and no hope things would ever get better.
So thanks to Ashley and Young Life, I was able to pay for camp and get on that bus. Even though I barely knew five people on the bus to start with, I made friends quickly. At camp, God gave me the strength to open up to my cabin, I was moved by the club talks from Glenn Cook, and the rest is history.
So what does this all mean for you? What does a story of a high school kid getting another high school kid to go to camp have anything to do with you?
Well, my message to you is this: Never give up on God. He is not done working in the lives of your high school friends. Things in my life turned upside down when I least expected it, and as you read, God couldn’t have intervened at a better time.
And most importantly, never… stop… praying. Even though my faith was the size of a mustard seed, I prayed. And even though she didn’t have to, I later found out that Ashley was praying for me all along.
So for this summer, expect the unexpected and pray until that bus leaves the parking lot because who knows what God will do next!
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