Today marks 13 years since that warm summery day I made a decision that forever changed my life.
Yesterday I was sitting with a friend, and she told me that she was taught that age 14 is a significant age for deciding what you think and believe about some things. It sounds funny – 14 is quite young – but I quickly recognised that I was that age (nearly 15) when I decided to follow God.
I remember that a knowledge of God and Jesus had been in my life since I was younger through Catholic school and Sunday mass, but it was at this moment, July 19, 2001, that a revelation of Jesus and why His sacrifice matters to me really hit.
I had been going to church and youth group with my friend for a couple months. Up until that point, it was mostly a social thing for me. I really enjoyed having new friends from other schools and hanging out for fun activities each week. It was the summer before 9th grade and high school, and I thought it was a great way to segue into this upcoming new season of life.
The most important relationship, though – the relationship that has made my life what it is today – that was still coming.
Often when someone tells you about Jesus, and they ask if you want to become a Christian, they will lead you in a prayer. It’s funny because I had often repeated that prayer on a Sunday night at youth group and hoped I was “ok”.
It wasn’t until this week in July, when all of my youth group was at a camp in Georgia, that I said this prayer and actually understood and felt what I was saying and committing to. It was a Thursday night, and during this ‘Teen Week’ at Woodlands Camp, Steve DeWitt was the speaker. He was an excellent speaker. Very inspirational.
On this particular night, he gave a message about the death of Jesus, but he spoke about it in a way that I had never heard before. He talked about what actually happened to Jesus’ body as he was hanging on the cross, and how his lungs were overworked by being in that position until they finally collapsed. He explained all about what his body had to endure before he finally died. After he explained all of this, then he explained why this matters to us. What does his death have to do with us?
He talked about how Jesus’ death on the cross was for us. He made a way for us to have relationship with the Father by making the ultimate sacrifice, and God’s love for us was so extravagant to send Jesus to do this.
The whole message kind of blew my 14-year-old mind. I was just there to have friends and be “ok”, but this news, this revelation, this changed everything. After that message, I sat with my friend and my youth pastor, and I said that prayer – this time fully understanding what I was saying.
I’ll always remember that night. Camp nights are so significant and distinct. I worked at that same camp later in 2007, and that same speaker came back. It was pretty cool to tell him how much his message impacted me and my life was forever changed after that night. He was encouraged to be able to see fruit from something he was a part of … 6 years later.
Sometimes as missionaries, we go places and we speak or we serve or we tell people about Jesus, and we hope and believe that their lives have changed. That God did amazing things in their lives, and that they’re thriving now. Most of the time, we don’t get to see some of these people again to know for certain. Sometimes we do. It was exciting to meet him again and be able to encourage him and his ministry.
July 19, 2014.
13 years later, and my life is changed still. The revelation of Jesus continues to go deeper, and I remain humbled at how someone could do something like this for me…that sort of love is extravagant and one-of-a-kind! Life has ebbed and flowed through the highs and the lows of navigating the rest of high school and teenage years, university, working full-time, starting in missions, meeting and marrying my husband and remaining in missions now. Knowing God, though, has made it possible in the fullest, most complete way I can imagine.