Tomorrow, I'll be catching a plane for Montreat, NC, where I'll be for the better part of the month. I will be volunteering as a Small Group Leader for two one-week Youth Conferences. I've already arranged for the usual Friday Transformer updates to be posted on their regular schedule. Monday and Wednesday posts will depend, in large part, on two factors: 1) What kind of Internet access I am able to get in this valley within the Blue Ridge Mountains, 2) How much free time I have between my Montreat duties. If I am able, however, I hope to post updates on what the Youth Conferences are like, and possibly some pictures.
Although the Youth Conferences were a very important part of my story while growing up, I've never been a Small Group Leader before, and it's been nearly a decade since I was in Montreat last. I'm simultaneously excited and nervous about the prospect. I'm not entirely sure why I keep finding myself drawn to various kinds of youth work. I never considered myself very much "in tune" with youth culture even when I was a part of it myself, and I have little doubt that the youth of today are quite a bit different than the youth of my time (from 16-20 years ago, depending on how you count! In fact, this year marks the 20th anniversary of my first trip to Montreat.). Also, I still consider my last church job (a part-time youth position in a largely Filipino Methodist church just over five years ago) something less than successful.
But before that job, I did have a couple of reasonably successful internships working with young people (the latter of which was explicitly a youth position, although not with high school students), and I've prepared for this experience by reviewing the Small Group Leader Manual I was provided with—which, I should note, was written by Jeff Peterson-Davis, who was one of the music leaders (along with his wife Kerri) back when I was a Planning Team Member for the Montreat Youth Conferences of 1992—and have found the materials fairly easy to understand.
Perhaps God's trying to tell me something? I don't know. But I have been trying to be fairly intentional (perhaps it's more accurate to say I'm "renewing my efforts") about putting myself in a position where I can find ways to use the gifts I've been given and take advantage of opportunities that arise. I've been concerned about having stayed in the same job so long that I've allowed my church experience to become rusty, but feel that I can't continue to use my (otherwise legitimate) need for a stable income as an excuse to keep me from being more involved in ministry.
Indeed, the timing of this trip to Montreat is rather interesting, coming on the heels of the PC(USA)'s 218th General Assembly, during which Bruce Reyes-Chow (who was kind enough to leave a comment on that blog entry linked in the previous paragraph) was elected to serve as Moderator. On the day that I arrive in Montreat, there will be a reception for Reyes-Chow in Anderson Auditorium that will be open to the public. I've never met him personally, but several of my Facebook friends have indicated that his election is a hopeful sign as the PC(USA) navigates some fairly troubled waters in the months and years ahead, and perhaps I'll get a chance to thank him personally for the words of encouragement he gave me. (OFF-TOPIC NOTE: No doubt some of my readers are curious as to my position on certain of those "troubled water" issues. All I'll say for right now is, whatever side you're on, don't assume that I agree or disagree with you fully. I think both sides of these debates have stuff to answer for, not the least of which is an apparent inability to take the other side seriously.)
But as far what God's doing with me and Montreat... well, it's fairly solid Presbyterian theology to assert that God can (and does) work through human beings, in all our brokenness and ineptitude, to achieve God's purposes. I truly hope that this proves to be the case here, as I take a step out in faith and hope to serve.