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Posts Tagged ‘youth retreat’

I had the privilege of serving as a room leader at Gauntlet 2016.  In my young adult life I was a youth leader at two different churches and I even lead a diocese-wide youth event in Louisiana.  Other life demands took priority as I entered my mid 30’s so my youth leadership became focused upon coaching and a four year stint as a scoutmaster.  Gauntlet is our church’s youth camp, but it is youth camp to the extreme.  There were over 5300 youth at the Gauntlet with another 1700+ room leaders and support staff.  We descended upon Daytona Beach in 129 buses and filled 9 beach-front hotels.  And for the first time we filled the entire Ocean Center auditorium.

I intend on posting several pics and a few highlights from the week in this blog over the next few weeks.  The Gauntlet is an environment where youth and leader alike hear clear teaching on how to become a Christian and what it means to live the life God has created us for.  It provides ample opportunity to speak with caring leaders and fellow sojourners about life’s trials, challenges, failures, and triumphs in a safe place.  Within this context each person is given multiple opportunities to identify and take their next step in the faith journey of life.

This was my second time to serve.  And I almost didn’t go.  My experience the first time was enough of a challenge that I questioned whether the Lord wanted me there.  I left the date open on my calendar and I continued to ask the Lord to make it clear if I was to attend.  About 4 weeks prior the Lord gave me the nudge that I was to go and He provided two very clear instructions.  “Don’t have expectations on how your students are to respond”  and “Trust Me.”  So I signed up.  I am so glad that I did.

That I had chosen the right path was confirmed for me on the bus ride down.  Everyone traveled down in “pods” of three or four buses.  We were the first pod of buses from our campus which also happens to be the furthest from Daytona Beach.  Just outside Jacksonville the bus in front of ours broke down.  The failure on the bus disabled their air conditioning, so our bus leader asked us to make room for the folks from the other bus.  Our boys immediately moved to the back of the bus tripling up in seats or standing in the aisle.  We spent the next 3+ hours waiting on one of the other buses to complete the trip down to Daytona and then return to pick up the passengers from the disabled bus so our pod could continue.

The AC in our bus was stretched to the max with the extra body heat and the lack of air movement over the AC coils, so it was not very comfortable in the back where the boys were all scrunched together.  But during that entire time there was no whining or complaining.  The boys chatted.  I got to know several of the young men like Hawk, CJ, Bernard, Nick, Sean (or maybe Shawn), Drey, Marcelous, Dillon, and others.  For three hours we sweated together, watching bus after bus pass us as we sat on the side of the road with the Florida sun beaming in the windows… and the mood never turned sour with self pity.  I’m chuckling to myself right now because I was, and still am, pumped at how mature the boys handled the situation.

Although I didn’t meet and begin getting to know them until we arrived in Daytona Beach, my two roommates and new friends, Dylan and Greg were among those on the bus who handled the situation so well.  And they proved to be just as mature and good-natured as my initial impression of the other young men on bus 5.  It was truly a blessing to spend the week with these two guys, to get to know them, and to talk about what our next steps in growing closer to Jesus are.

That’s enough of a story for today’s post. So without further ado I share the first of my Gauntlet 2016 pics.

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God changed the trajectory of thousands of lives last week at Gauntlet X.  Over 4500 youth and 1300 volunteers descended upon Daytona Beach, Florida and we celebrated God’s great love in a most amazing way.  As of Thursday afternoon 1062 people had accepted Christ as their savior and 1529 had been baptized in a mass ocean baptism at sunrise Thursday morning.  But it didn’t stop there.  God continued to move on the bus rides home.  In some buses the open mic was used and as young people gave their testimony to what God had done, what He had delivered them from, what He had saved them from, then remaining hold-outs were drawn to accept Christ as their Lord.  I heard of two buses that had nine saved on one and ten saved on another.  Amazing!

This hits near to my heart on a number of fronts.  I came to faith at age 23 at a retreat so I can definitely relate to going away and coming back a changed person.  I then worked as a youth volunteer for about 10 years until my work demands and family obligations became too much and the youth work had to be set aside.  In a way it felt like slipping into something warm and familiar chatting with the young people, hearing the earnestness in their voices, answering questions that as an adult we don’t often spend a lot of time on, but as teenagers they seem all-important.

The Wednesday night service will remain etched in my mind forever.  After a simple, straight-forward message Pastor P gave an altar call.  It appeared like close to 300 responded.  We then began celebrating what God had done.  For 5 – 6 solid minutes the 6000 of us left shouted and clapped and praised the Lord.  And then the miracle began.  Even though the volume was tremendous and constant we heard a burst of shouting above the din.  Another person had stood to go forward.  A few seconds later another stood.  The clamor continued but as we watched every 5 – 15 seconds another person would rise and go forward.  This went on for another 30 minutes. It was the most amazing thing.  There was no prompting from the stage.  No impassioned pleas from Perry.  Just loud, heartfelt, sustained praise of the Most High God… and the Spirit of God moved.  We saw the manifestation of the verse, “The Lord inhabits the praises of His people.”  Someone kept track and said Perry preached for 41 minutes and the altar call then lasted for 52 minutes.  In reality the Holy Spirit continues to move from that event as many more have given their lives to Christ since then.

As I ponder the impact of what God has done and pray for my young friends who have crossed from death to life I am awed.  God has changed the trajectory of so many lives.  Lives that were headed down dead-ends are now turned and heading on the right road, the road of God’s choosing.  In some, self-loathing and destruction has been replaced with life and joy.  In others, a self-centered heart has been made new and is being shaped by the Spirit of God to be God-centered and Others-centered.  I am convinced the changes will be profound.  The ripples of this move of God will impact families, schools, churches (not everyone who comes is from our church), communities, our state, our nation, and the world.  There were four persons who traveled here from Israel to attend.  One, a young man named Israel, gave His life to Christ and became a completed Jew, one of the Jewish faith who now recognizes that Jesus is the Messiah his people have been waiting for all these years.  Halleluiah!!!

As I have prayed about the significance of what God has done, I am thoroughly convinced that this move of God is not a stand-alone, one time event.  It is fit into His plan of rebirth and renewal for His people around the world.  I find it hard to contain my enthusiasm for what God is doing and going to bring forth.  What politicians, governments, advocacy groups, and various well-meaning citizens have tried to do, God, by His Spirit moving in a receptive and obedient people will accomplish.  He may use some of those groups above, but true, lasting change comes from the Spirit of God moving in individual lives, united with other changed lives, becoming a move of God that transforms society.  I believe that course correction is underway.  Please join me in praying for God’s grace to be manifest in lives, families, churches, communities, our state, nation and around the world.

God is SO GOOD!

Be blessed today and be a blessing as the Father uses your love, your gifts, and your obedience to impact the world right where you live.

My new friends as we head to the first session on Monday night.

My new friends as we head to the first session on Monday night.

Over 6100 filled the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach experienced God's grace in a mighty way.

Over 6100 filled the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach experienced God’s grace in a mighty way.

My new friend, Jaylen, heading into the surf for his baptism.

My new friend, Jaylen, heading into the surf for his baptism.

1529 people publically declared their allegiance to Jesus Christ as their Lord in baptism.

1529 people publically declared their allegiance to Jesus Christ as their Lord in baptism.

For over 1500 baptisms it took over 2 hours to coordinate and baptize.  I hearkened back to the Day of Pentecost when 3000 were added to the Church in one day.

For 1500+ baptisms it took over 2 hours to coordinate and baptize. I hearkened back to the Day of Pentecost when 3000 were added to the Church in one day.

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