Beginning in 1995 and continuing for 12 consecutive years, my roommate and I were members of a mission team which returned each year to work in a ministry in Ecuador. After the first year’s trip, I told my pastor it was wonderful but God had impressed on me on the return flight that I should take a youth with me the following year. He agreed but said, “That should be two.” And thus began my ministry to the young people of our church.
This past week, that same missionary with whom we worked those years came for a short afternoon visit. One question she asked was, “Where are the kids now?” Thinking she meant two whom I took there just a few years ago, I began to answer.”No, not those. The kids you always brought with you.”
I had to answer, “I’ve lost track of most of them but when I do see one, that one always speaks of what their trip to the Ecuador mission field meant to them.”
That conversation sparked my interest in just where those kids are today and I’ve been thinking about it from time to time ever since. Over the years, the total number of kids I took with me was 30, I believe. Indeed, where are they today?
Many of them went to college and thus began the next phase of their lives – their careers as adults. Some married and some didn’t. Some have had to rely on the God they serve when faced with critical physical needs. Though some have chosen relationships I do not agree with, they still love their Lord and Savior as they did as teens.
This past Sunday, we were blessed in our church service to hear from this year’s campers their first-hand reports of church camp experiences and how their lives were changed. What lies ahead for them? Already most of them attend other churches and get into the camping program through a regular evening youth meeting from our church.
When it came time for the children’s message, our pastor was surrounded by nine (yes, nine!) children ranging in age from toddlers to early elementary. One can only be impressed with that number in a small, rural church. Yet, we have to ask ourselves where, when and why will the time come when they no longer attend worship services.
Instead of basking in the sunshine of success at having sent seven young people to church camp, we must be looking ahead to the time these nine little ones are ready for camp. Will they still be a vital part of our church? Or will we look around and have to say, “We’ve lost track of them.”
This must be a time of soul searching for each camper and for each congregant who truly cares about them.
We MUST take this question seriously if the Savior these campers proclaim today is to remain at the top of their list of “important persons.”
It’s soul-searching time for these young people. But it is also soul-searching time for each of us adults in their lives, too.
Do you know Jesus? Find a way to stay in touch with children and young people, as well as others, who need encouragement to continue in their walk with Him. Then, in the years ahead, we won’t have to ask “Where are they now?”