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HOPE 365 Toolbox - Weekly Devotion - Lessons from a Youth Ministry Volunteer

Weekly Devotion - Lessons from a Youth Ministry Volunteer

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Hellos, Goodbyes, Faith, & Miracles

Lessons Learned from Hope's Youth Department

By Sandy Haines

Neil and I have been volunteering in Hope’s Jr. High Youth department for about six+ years now. Transplants from Southern California, we raised our family in a sunnier, hotter, and dryer version of Hope Church/school. All three of our sons graduated from Orange Lutheran High and our little church & school (Hephatha Lutheran in Anaheim Hills) was our church home. It was so hard when Neil and I were transferred (Boeing) to leave our immediate family (parents, children, grandchildren) as well as our church family. Yet, we trusted the Lord to take care of them and to take on this new chapter of our lives.

This change was not easy. I was feeling really lonely and Neil was busy at work. After a career in the IT field, Neil encouraged me to pursue more volunteer opportunities and unlearn bad habits from too many years of intensity.  So, I prayed that the Lord would find a place for me at Hope. That Sunday, Jonathan Kopecky (and family) was introduced to Hope and I clearly felt the Lord telling me to go introduce myself and volunteer to help him. I offered to build databases and create spreadsheets. Instead, he asked me to finish painting the youth room. So for the next few months, I masked, prepped, and painted.

Three wonderful things happened:

  1. The Youth Room is a shortcut to the church office, and ANYONE who is involved in the church takes that shortcut. So many staff and church members stopped and introduced themselves. It was a fantastic way to become comfortable and get to know our new church community.
  2. Frequently, my son’s girlfriend (now wife), who at the time was not a Christian, would call me and ask some very intense faith questions. I remember lying on the ground, painting floorboards, having this serious conversation. When we were done talking, I noticed that Jonathan was sitting in the corner, praying for us. That is a precious memory that I will have for ever.
  3. The third thing? I FINISHED PAINTING. Then Jonathan asked if Neil and I would volunteer in the weekly Junior High Youth meetings and help lead small groups. I thought “NO WAY”. We don’t do things like that. That is waaaay to much for us. And yet, we told him that we would pray and try it out. And here we are, the “grandparents” of the youth department, sharing “highs and lows”, swapping “dad jokes”, playing zombie tag, praying, and sharing the Lord. It can’t be beat.

Then COVID happened….

Jonathan really stepped up and created some awesome videos and worked hard to keep connected via Zoom. But as we all know, it is so hard to keep relationships going when you can’t meet face-to-face.  And yet, these kids hung in there and made it through. But I was struggling. Chicken tag (ask a youth about it) gave way to online games, and Neil and I just didn’t fit in. The last video games we played were Mario Cart and Wii bowling. The age gap was becoming more obvious, and Satan started working on us.

“We’re too old for this, we aren’t having any impact, maybe we should let someone younger take over.”  These were the discussions we would have.

Notice how I didn’t mention that we took these discussions to God? Nope. We were making the decision without Him. Still, Jonathan kept reaching out to us. Then we prayed..

Youth started back up “in person”, and the Lord renewed us. Ever since we have gotten back together, our personal discussion time and studying the Word has been “water in a parched land” -  in short, divine. Then, the Holy Spirit moved, and the MIRACLE happened.

For the last few years, I have had problems with my hands. That “intense IT career” left me with carpel tunnel issues and fingers that painfully locked in place (trigger finger). Lately, it had gotten worse. I had to wear braces on my hands, else they painfully became numb. Lately, I couldn’t use a knife to chop while cooking, stopped playing guitar, and was having a hard time even typing. I wore my uncomfortable braces to youth and Makenna asked me about them. I explained the problem, and in “youth leader mode”, tried to make it a teachable moment and stressed the importance of ergonomics. Then she said the words that touched my heart.

“I will pray for your hands.”  And that was that! 

All week long, her sweet words stuck with me. I thought that maybe, she uttered a quick prayer, then totally forgot about it. I was so wrong. She actively prayed for my healing. The next week, I saw her and she asked me how I was doing and mentioned that she had been praying for me. That’s when I finally noticed the miracle. My hands had been healed!

I take my braces off while I am getting ready in the morning. Then I have to put them on or else my hands fall asleep or start aching. The pain had gotten bad enough that I NEVER forget to put them back on. Except for that day. When Makenna said she prayed for me, I noticed that I was not in pain. Both my hands were completely pain free. The tendons that were inflamed (and heading towards surgery) were restored. More importantly, the Lord humbled me with the amazing faith of this lovely 8th grade prayer warrior. I didn’t have the insight (faith?) to ask for my own healing. But she did.

Pastor Peter’s sermon this last Sunday was about Hellos, Goodbyes, and waiting for the Holy Spirit. One of the verses came from Luke 23:26-37:

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself!”

It made me think. The disciples were in pain. They were suffering, frightened, and desperately in need. Then Jesus was…just…there… among them. And he touched them, he loved them, and he pointed them towards the Holy Spirit.

In a much smaller way, I had this. I was alone in my pain. Then a beautiful young lady brought in Jesus and it freshly pointed me back to the Holy Spirit. 

And in praise of the Lord and his continued desire to renew us, here is a song from my "Jesus Jam List" that always makes me smile: Awakening by John Waller.