The Republic of Ireland (Eire) is the only English-speaking Catholic nation. While Catholicism is a major influence over the country and culture, few have a living relationship with God.Read More
I will admit I was nervous. The last time I went with a team to a school for a retreat day programme, my first group of kids were not pleasant. I could barely hold their attention, and their indifferent and hostile attitudes did not help my cause. So going into another long day with a programme called ‘Who Is Jesus?’ I was a bit nervous how I would handle it all.
The first group was around 55 kids, not too many, but enough to make each small group eight kids. The second group was closer to 70 kids, requiring a bit more effort to keep everyone’s energy reasonably in check. I silently prayed for a way to connect with these kids, to draw their interest. Each programme was nearly three hours long, and it could get quite difficult were we to lose their focus.
Thankfully, the kids were happy to be doing anything besides their normal studies. They stayed quiet during the videos and while a leader was speaking to the group. But it was the small group time that I worried about the most.
In the past, I have worked with two kinds of groups: those willing to talk and those not. Those willing to read the Bible and those who are not. Our goal is to simply get the students thinking, to see that they can read the Bible for themselves; some of them have never even touched a Bible before. Some are curious and want to look up verses for us, while others shrink away and cross their arms as though the Bible is about to explode.
There was at least one student from my two groups who eagerly volunteered to find and read the first Bible verse for me: John 3:16. Even though my first question was about who God is, both groups latched onto the fact that believing in God means eternal life. From there, we sprang into amazing discussions with deeper questions than I expected from their age group. In both groups, we did not look up any other verses but spent most of the small group time asking and answering questions about Jesus and the Bible. It stunned me that these kids genuinely wanted the answers.
Will everyone go to Heaven? Why are there so many different religions? Do we really have any proof that God is real? Is the Bible exciting? Couldn’t some of the Bible be exaggerated? Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
Then it was time to share my testimony. I do not have a tragic backstory like some people do, but know that I had some less-than-ideal moments in my younger days that might resonate with these young minds. I also needed to share the gospel as blatantly as I could. So I pushed the point that I used to be a terrible liar, and that my lying tongue was destroying my relationship with God. As I shared, I tried to look around and see if anyone was connecting with what I said. While almost all of them were making eye contact and listening to me, I could not tell if I had connected with any of them on a heart level.
During our first programme, we offered the kids Bibles to take home if they wanted. We had offered this at other school programmes, but no one came forward. We suspected today would be the same.
The kids in my group turned to me: Were the Bibles free? They could keep it? Did they need to sign anything to receive one? When I explained that we were giving the Bibles away with no strings attached, their faces lit up.
After the programme, as most of the kids were swarming out of the room, some came to the front to ask for a Bible. We handed out all 12 of the Bibles from our box, including the ones that we had been using in our small groups! More kids wanted their own Bible, but we did not have any more. We promised to bring Bibles the next time we came to the school. Three of the eight kids in my group left with a Bible in their hands.
My second group asked many of the same questions as the first group. More of them were interested in looking up a Bible verse, even if it was on an app on my phone. They had not read the Bible for themselves before, but they wanted to now. They asked the hard questions and did not shy away from my questions in return. We found common ground in our mutual respect for each other’s time.
As we were getting ready to leave, all of us climbing in the van, two students came running across the parking lot. This was outside of school, after the programme and they were excited. They each asked for a Bible. Still having no more Bibles with us, we promised to bring more during our next visit.
Once our team was all buckled into the car, we started sharing thoughts, comments and stories from the day. Another team member from told me that a girl from her second group had cried the whole time I was sharing my testimony. Someone had cried! That had never happened before, but clearly God was working in that young heart. It gave me hope that maybe I had gotten through to at least one student.
We watched groups of students leave the school and load onto buses or walk down the street. Our leader just smiled.
“There’s something happening in this school,” he said. “It’s a miracle that we get to be part of it.”
Published: Friday, 24 November 2017
Credit: Hannah Rueber