When the word “teen” is typed into a Google news search box, most of the hits that come up are some pretty sensational news about teens. Tragic accounts of bullying by and to teens in schools across the nation is prevalent, teens committing suicides has recently grabbed the attention of the media. Teens committing horrific crimes cover the headlines. There are accounts of teens being victims of senseless and cruel crimes that make the news every day. Then there’s the media attention of teen moms on reality shows. All this makes one wonder about the state of teenagers in our nation. What’s going on?
What doesn’t hit the media headlines are the stories of the teens who are great – which can be translated to mean – nice, wonderful, amazing, awesome and one of my favorite descriptions is, tremendous! I had the privilege of hosting our yearly event in San Antonio, Texas for a group of 16 of those great teens. All of them were 17 years old, or close to it. It was the Discovering Discipleship Program, which Activated Ministries once again generously helped sponsor. These teens came from across the nation and beyond (most came from California, Arizona, Texas and Missouri, with several from Puerto Rico, Canada and South Africa). What a varied group we had this year.
The 12 days of classes, workshops, discussion groups, sports (volleyball became the favorite), funny and crazy group games, outdoor movies, barbeques, excursions were all designed to reach two goals with these young adults. As they enter their last year of being a teen and will then step into the reality of adult life, this event provides opportunity to discuss the future – their future. It was a unique opportunity for our counselors to connect with the teens and the teens to connect with each other and build lasting friendships in a setting of openness as we discussed many topics of a spiritual nature as well as personal issues that all teens face such as; relationships, education, friendships, parents, career and acceptance.
Each of the 16 teens has a story to tell. In every class I told them how wonderful they were, because they are! Most of them have been involved in volunteer work and helping others, and as Christians they realize their responsibility to be an example of God’s love to others. They took it seriously when we talked about their future and how they can give and share what they have with those in need. These are the type of teens I’d like the world to know about:
What I found amazing about Chloe and her friend Amie, who attended from Johannesburg, South Africa, is that they are involved with a non-profit organization that regularly visits very poor townships in South Africa. They give donations of food, clothing and school supplies to the needy children. Both are instrumental in working directly with the children, and they also go to schools to help give HIV education to the students. They told us some heart wrenching stories about the children they minister to on a regular basis.
In the final presentation of the public speaking assignment that each attendee had, Rachel explained her thoughts about life and serving God, as well as her desires to study and do something to help others. But what really spoke to us all was when she explained that she had not wanted to attend this event because she was busy with life and didn’t know if this event would be of interest to her or if she’d get along with her peers. With a beautiful smile, she told how it was undoubtedly one of the most wonderful things that had happened in her life.
Elena, who works at her family’s restaurant in Canada, surprised us all as she played the piano before our class and in the evenings we joined her in song as she played some well known tunes on the guitar. She told us how special she felt being there with everyone and was so glad she attended. Her smile and bubbly personality brought a lot of energy to our small group.
Karen has a serious back problem and has to wear a brace most of the time, but that didn’t stop her from being a very active participant in all of our sports activities. She brought life to the event with her joyful laughter, and gave us many moments of comic relief with her humor. She showed us all that even with a serious physical problem, you can be happy and have a fun, exciting life.
I would love to tell each of their stories and see these amazing young men and women highlighted in the media. These are the stories that need to be told. I hope that over the next few years I get the opportunity to see how they grow into their adult lives. I’m betting that they’ll go far and continue to be even more remarkable as adults than they are as teens.