Here’s the honest to goodness thing about YouthWorks. It changed my life. Twice.
This is what YouthWorks is about:
They’re about Jesus, teenagers, communities, and trips. These are a few of my favorite things!
My first experience with YouthWorks was way back in 2001 or something when I was just a middle school student with no idea what this missions thing was about. We went to Chattanooga and moved stuff around in an old building with no air conditioning and played Spoons Till You Pee with some cute boys from Illinois. We learned awesome new songs like Prince of Peace and we slept on the floor for a week. Our 15 passenger van broke down and we crammed two vans worth of sweaty middle schoolers into one van.
Bless our leaders.
My second experience with YouthWorks was the following summer (to San Francisco) and kind of a drag. I have no idea if the bummers of the week had anything to do with the YouthWorks staff. All I remember is my youth pastor’s new wife being mean to me, not being in a group with any of my friends, and the other church setting off stink bombs in the sleeping rooms. Lame!
My third experience with YouthWorks was in the summer of 2009 when I went as an eighteen-year-old adult leader to Niagara Falls with the coolest eighth graders in the world. That week I learned that mission trips are much more fun when you’re the student than they are when you’re the leader. I also was reminded of this thing called YouthWorks and how I wanted to be a part of that business. During that week I thought about how much fun these four YouthWorks staff must have when we’re not there, just hanging out together in this city.
My fourth (this is getting long, but bear with me) experience with YouthWorks was Aaron Hung calling me on the phone to tell me that he was going to be my Site Director in Brooklyn, New York freaking City. (Obviously this wasn’t the first thing to happen in the process of me becoming YouthWorks staff. There were interviews and e-mails and literally months of waiting to find out my placement.) My summer in Brooklyn with YouthWorks was hands-down, straight-up the best summer of my life. (And I’ve had some good summers.)
During my time in Brooklyn I learned more about what friendship and relationship look like, which means I learned more about what God looks like. I learned a ton about myself and a ton about my fellow staff members. I learned how to take the Subway and how to use a landromat. I learned how to make meals for 70 people and how to manage just as many children. I learned about bubble tea and The Head and the Heart and sharing my story. I learned about real big hurts that teenagers cover up really well. I learned about the importance of prayer and honesty and teamwork and huggles. I learned what a comfy, cozy mess five girls, five air mattress and five girls’ worth of stuff can be. I learned about forgiveness – giving it and asking for it. I learned about parallel parking and Junior’s Cheesecake and casting the crap out of vision. I learned that I am not a fan of senior centers.
Brooklyn was so awesome I wanted to do it again. I was a teensy bit nervous a second YouthWorks summer couldn’t possibly live up to the hype that was Brooklyn 2013.
My fifth experience with YouthWorks was a big ‘un. They hired me as a Site Director! Which means instead of getting a call from Aaron Hung, it was my turn to make the calls.
“Hi Alicia, this is Suzanne! I’m going to be your YouthWorks Site Director this summer in Indianapolis!”
“Hi Michael, this is Suzanne! I’m going to be your YouthWorks Site Director this summer in Indianapolis!”
“Hi Juan, this is Suzanne! I’m going to be your YouthWorks Site Director this summer in Indianapolis!” To which Juan replied, “I’m going to be in Indy? Awesome!”
Man who knew that these three folks would change my life all over again?
My time in Brooklyn was full of the city and my fellow staff members and my precious Kids Club kids. The teenagers were like a bonus and the adult leaders were like a pair of feet to wash at the end of the week. My time in Indianapolis was chock full of some of the coolest people I’ve ever met – the teenagers and adults that came to our site every week, and the teenagers and adults (namely Jenny, the youth director) of your housing site. Seriously, you guys, those teenagers were awesome. There wasn’t a dud in the bunch! Although, there were a couple I wanted to kick in the duds if you know what I mean (Too far? Teenage boys can be punks.) but above all I loved them loved them loved them.
Today I was feeling reminiscent, so I pulled out my little YouthWorks book where I have all of my Indianapomail notes from last summer. There aren’t many – we only had four weeks of groups! – but they are precious words. In one of those notes is the story of a guy who just isn’t sure. A guy who has a lot of questions, but who assures me that knowing me – knowing me for just five days, mind you – “inspires [him] to look deeper into [his] faith.” What a blessing. What an honor.
Here’s the thing about YouthWorks. It’s not perfect because no organization is. But it’s changing lives you guys. I know this because it changed my life. (Twice!) So if you are a youth or a person in charge of youth looking for a short term missions experience or if you are a 20-something looking for a challenging and super fun summer job, please check out YouthWorks. Maybe it’ll change your life, too!