As we enter what some are calling “a long, dark winter” it can feel depressing and discouraging. Many have a bleak outlook on this next season. However, as believers, we are filled with hope and joy. One great way to do this, is to reflect on how God has been working this year. It has been difficult and brought many new challenges, but God is stronger than them all. He has equipped us to overcome them through His strength. We have seen this here at CEF.
One great way I see this, is by remember our summer ministry. Growing up working with CEF, I have always had fond memories of attending CYIA™ and spending the hot summer days teaching children about Jesus through 5-Day Clubs. This season is by far my favorite of the year. This year, our local chapter was blessed with ten summer missionaries. We have not had this many teenagers since 2014. Even before the name COVID meant anything to us, I had been praying for God to provide ten summer missionaries. During the shutdown, I began to wonder if God would answer this request. However, one by one, the applications came in. We were at eight missionaries and the deadline was in a week. Our ministry coordinator, Jill Lake, still had a few calls to make. In an only God kind of way, two more applications came in. All praise to God for providing each missionary!
Then came many hours of talking with our staff from across the state if we could even do our CYIA training in person. We talked time after time on Zoom, going over the pros and cons of both. Is it safe? Are we doing the biblical thing? And most importantly, is this the Lord’s will? All praise to God to allowing us to have it in person! With some new measures in place and lots of prayer, no one got sick before, during or after CYIA.
Our ten teenagers were equipped to go out and share the Gospel at 5-Day Clubs. So many small churches were overjoyed to partner with us for this. The pastors desperately wanted to have a summer outreach event, but perhaps their workers were afraid, older, busy or something else. What a beautiful thing to be able to partner with these churches to help them. God moved and brought NUMEROUS children to these clubs. Some clubs only had five children, but some were as large as 30. All praise to God for bringing children. Throughout the summer, some of those children put their trust in Jesus as Savior.
One club I attended, there was a boy who was probably ten or eleven. After attending club, a couple of days, during the Bible lesson, he raised his hand and asked “Can Jesus really forgive ALL my sins? Like even the really bad ones?” The teacher excitedly answered, “Yes, He really can!” The boy came back to learn more about this later. He told the teacher he knew Jesus as his Savior but hadn’t been living for him. He was a bully to children at school. He had said a lot of bad words and harmful things to people. The teacher shared with him that Jesus would forgive him and help him not to do those things anymore. The boy prayed and asked Jesus to help him. All praise to God for this boy’s heart change.
But children aren’t the only ones who were changed through our summer ministry. The teenagers who taught 5-Day Clubs grew. They were tested and their faith was stretched. As they worked each day, the summer heat drug on, children who didn’t want to obey or were rude, the spiritual warfare that happened (no children show up, right as you are giving children the opportunity to trust Jesus as Savior, a lawn mower goes off, someone drives by on a motorcycle or something else). But all praise to God for giving them the strength to persevere. He reminded them the fight is worth it. The teenager is weak, but He is strong and sufficient. One teenager, when she started, was rather shy and quiet. She had the a “deer in the head light” look a lot of the summer. However, she came back another summer. She began to take more leadership as she encouraged the newer teenagers, giving them tips and ideas that helped her, serving them, etc. Now, another year later, the teenagers look up to her as their leader. A leader has been molded. Not by our hands, but by the Lord’s. All praise to God.
As the news shares stories of how the future looks empty and this winter seems dark, we give all praise to God for what He did through our summer ministry. We know He is faithful to keep doing the good work in each staff and summer missionary (Philippians 1:6). We hope this is an encouragement to you as you watch for how God is and will keep working through this winter.
Article written by local director, Shane Van Donselaar