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Before leaving the city, the four teenagers were preoccupied with typical teenager things: what clothes to bring, missing their friends or a boyfriend and not having access to the Internet. But the fear of not speaking sufficient English was their greatest concern in the weeks prior to TeenStreet.
I’d often ask them, “Are you excited to go to Malaysia?” And they all would say, “Yes, I’m excited, but Molly, I’m really scared to speak English.”
And despite a weekly language lesson, my worries were rising too. Between their English and my poor attempt at Thai, there was a lot of pressure on their youth leader to translate the sessions. God had big plans for these young people, and no matter what language was spoken, it was clear He was moving in their hearts.
Like most of the groups at TeenStreet, they sat together during the first meals–comfortable with speaking their own language. On the second day, we encouraged them to sit at a different table, to talk with other teens from the country they were visiting. Shyly, and reluctantly, they went off in pairs, but when it came time for them to leave their new friends, we couldn’t pull them away. Through laughter and dancing, the ice had been broken and God was able to speak to the hearts of these teenagers.
In the evenings before going to bed, there was time to sit with the two girls and talk about what they had learnt during the day. It was so difficult to understand what they were thinking and feeling that first night, but after they had made a few friends while speaking English, I couldn’t get them to stop talking!
“Molly, my English, it’s better, right? Did you know? I made many friends today,” they would tell me, and from there we could talk about the rest of the day, and what was going on with their families and friends back home.
One of the two boys made it his personal goal to sit next to a different person at every meal. The other boy was so excited to learn about making a movie that he wasn’t afraid to go to the workshop by himself—and even went back the following day to ensure he had really understood what was being said.
The theme of TeenStreet Malaysia was connecting to the power source of God–and connect these young people did. Through visual explanations in large group sessions, worship and small group chats, they experienced the power God gives during meal times and social time; they felt the love God has for them through the friends they made. They learnt that friendship and love don’t depend on how well you can speak a language.
“I have the power of God! A lot!” said the teenagers when they returned home later that week. Overcoming their fear of the language was just one way they had experienced God's power first-hand.
Published: Thursday, 16 January 2014
Credit: OM International