Originally published on the Youth Page in the Explorer (Summer 2013 edition).

On May 15, I spoke at the Wednesday night program honoring our Christian educators, especially Diane Shoemake, for their service to our church. Mrs. Shoemake reminded the audience that the real reward comes with serving an area of the church about which you feel passionate. I have been helping Chester with the youth group since the spring of 2012, and I know the rewards that come with spending each Sunday evening in their company. Additionally, I had the pleasure of spending even more time with the youth on their mission trip last summer, the theme of which was being a light to the world. Some of the youth have talent in the area of music, others in dance, various sports, or in the act of listening and caring for others, but all show their light to the world every day. They have certainly been a light to my world this year; as they have spoken with me on Sunday evenings, texted me during the week, and contacted me on Facebook to share with me the joys and sorrows of their lives as well as to comfort and support me when I am having a bad day.

I was able to tag along on their trips to visit churches and religious institutions of various denominations, and was able to observe some of the “Ask the Doc” series in which they were able to submit questions about their physical and mental health, as well as legal questions for several lawyers and judges from our congregation. The youth of today struggle with bullying in their schools, terrorism in their country, and the stress of an increasingly competitive academic life as well as the added complication of technology. Yet, they still seek love and acceptance over all else, much like youth of other generations. When you get a chance, tell the youth how talented they are, and in what ways they bring light to your lives. This congregation did that for me growing up, and I am attempting to pay it forward. It has been a pleasure watching them participate in all activities, but especially those of service to otherssuch as serving dinner to our CARITAS guests, to those at Freedom House, and even at the Christmas celebration for those with polio hosted by Henry Holland. As we welcome a new youth minister in the future, I know that this group will stay as strong as they are talented and compassionate. They have certainly been Christian educators to me as they remind me to trust God with his plans for my life.