Gaining Through Losing
By Mark J. Cardenas
I love movies.
Like other forms of entertainment and art, films help us imagine possibilities beyond what we know and see. They also allow us to take a hard look at the things around us or force us to reflect on realities within us.
One time, I was watching “The Lord of the Rings and the Fellowship of the Ring.” It’s about how the most unlikely group of friends and strangers was formed to carry the heavy burden of destroying the magical Ring of Power in the flames of Mount Doom and restoring the rule of good and light in Middle-Earth.
There was a scene inside a mountain where the hero, Frodo, was talking to his mentor, Gandalf. This conversation captured how they felt about the heavy calling placed on their shoulders. It went like this:
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
I love how this isn’t just a quotable quote. It reflects many of our experiences during this pandemic. In many ways, it also paints a picture of our youth ministry in this season.
You see, it’s been challenging for us. Some disciples with their families went ahead and joined other churches, while others simply have gone silent.
It’s not just the members, though. All of our leaders, shepherds, and volunteers felt the impact of the pandemic isolation.
“But just like other epic adventure stories, despite the arduous journey, the terrible terrain, and elements the heroes had to weather, glimmers of hope are always the silent, sometimes hidden, always-present thread.”
We bless the journeys of those who decided to move on and join other churches. We lament over those who have lost their way in sin and dissociated. In all these, we grieve unto the Lord for the feelings of loss that go with them.
Sometimes I ask the Lord, “What now, Abba?”
But just like other epic adventure stories, despite the arduous journey, the terrible terrain, and elements the heroes had to weather, glimmers of hope are always the silent, sometimes hidden, always-present thread.
I see hope in the new chapter our ministry is about to embark on as we transition to Forward Youth. The past 2 years had been a time of intent listening to God and where He wants to take the gospel among the coming generations of changemakers.
I see hope in the committed Coaches and Shepherds who persevere in discipling the youth. Their leadership has been marked by struggle and tears in this pandemic. O, how much we’ve grown stronger as we learned to lean on God’s grace, especially in community!
I see hope in the new crop of Apprentices. They heard and obeyed God’s calling for them to be trained as Shepherds themselves. Mentoring them has been an absolute joy, seeing how they grow in humble confidence.
I see hope in fresh opportunities to partner with communities and schools around us to reach the youth for Jesus. Even when things don’t seem to bear fruit, God is at work in the harvest field.
And I see hope in the young people who remain. They continue on the path and find unique ways to be salt and light, sometimes simply surviving, other times thriving. Through them, there are friends and family who have been exposed to the gospel and in time, will bear fruit.
“I see hope in the young people who remain. They continue on the path and find unique ways to be salt and light, sometimes simply surviving, other times thriving.”
Many endings have come and will still come. But God’s primary invitation is to remain faithful to the calling of enjoying Him forever. This is so that we can build changemakers who will disciple youth to do the same in their families, campuses, and communities, even online.
I wish these losses–these endings–did not happen during my time. But this wasn’t meant to be my preoccupation. Instead, we remain faithful and steward well the time and calling Abba has given us.
Together, we remain. Onward, Forward Youth!
Thank Abba with us for:
6 Coaches (Core Multiplying Leaders) co-shepherding the youth ministry through leadership among 20+ volunteers
5 Apprentices (Shepherds-in-training) initiating and facilitating Connect and Conform activities like Sunday Small Group where 12 individuals regularly participate
20 Shepherds meeting with their Connect Groups, Life Groups, and Life Communities
Please intercede with us for:
Sunday Small Group: Open small group happening every 2 Sundays at 2:00 PM led by the Apprentices where youth can grow in their knowledge and experience of God through community
Connect Events: Will happen once a month on a Saturday starting August where youth can invite their friends and build relationships with one another through fun activities
Transition from Youth@111 to Forward Youth this middle of the year
Fresh opportunities to serve the community through partnerships with campuses as they slowly go back to hybrid or in-person classes this coming new school year.