I find that the end of summer is always an emotional time, at least it is for my family. Maybe this is partially due to the fact that SupaLupaWife is a school teacher, so there’s always some separation anxiety (for her, for the kiddos, and for me too). The first week of Mommy going back to work is always hectic and chaotic to say the least, but it has also given me the opportunity to reflect upon the summer of 2016. I can honestly say that it may have quite possibly been the busiest summer of my life and rightfully so, now that we have two children in our house, as well as living into the Kingdom Building vision that is Student Ministries.
As is the case for so many Student Ministers, my summer began as we devoted a worship service to our high school seniors, the Class of 2016. As we progressed through the worship service on that May morning, I remember thinking about what a pivotal moment it is in each of these students lives. I still remember those moments in my own life, the uncertainty and EXCITEMENT of what’s to come after high school.
As June came though, it was time for my yearly pilgrimage to Annual Conference. This is the time of year that we United Methodist from all around the Western NC Annual Conference come together to conduct the business of the Church, but MORE IMPORTANTLY, we come together to worship and praise God for the amazing Kingdom Building that is taking place amongst all of our churches. This year was extremely special as SupaLupaWife and the girls were able to attend with me. In all transparency, YES we did slip away for a little family time. For the first time in all of our lives we were able to see an elk in the wild in the Cattaloochee Valley. Being an avid outdoorsman, it was better than I expected! Check out this pic:
From Annual Conference, I headed out into the mission field. This year I was able to split my time between our Middle and High School mission teams. The first half of the week I was in Bud, WV…the heart of coal country with our 9th – 12th grade students. There, our students worked with Appalachia Service Project in an effort to make homes warmer, safer, and dryer. As always, it was an amazing week for both our students and adult leaders as they served in relational ministry with the people of Bud. From Bud, I traveled to Charleston, WV (the state capitol) where I caught up with our middle schoolers. They were initially there to serve in relational ministry with organizations like the Boys & Girls Club, after school programs, etc., but the week before we arrived in WV was the week of the flooding, so many of our students were pulled into flood relief. Seeing the damage that the waters created, and the impact it had on our students was truly amazing. West Virginia, as wild and wonderful as always, truly let us experience Kingdom Building ministry. Just take a look at the smiles on these faces and you’ll see what I’m talking about:
Immediately following mission trips, it was time for a week at the beach…sounds like a great summer vacation option, right? But what about a week at the beach with 105 students and adult leaders? For twenty-six years, the church I currently serve has made this annual pilgrimage to the Garden City Chapel and Retreat Center. Even though twenty-two of those trips took place before I came on staff at SSUMC, I still feel that this trip has become very much a part of my DNA. Being completely transparent, I think it has taken me four years to finally understand just what this retreat is. First and foremost, St. Stephen’s time at Garden City is all about spiritual growth. This is the one time a year that all of our students, 6th – 12th grade, interact in worship, small groups, and fellowship. It truly is amazing to see God work in this week. Beyond that though, this is a special time for your youth group, as it is truly our chance to celebrate each year’s Senior Class and send them out into the world as Kingdom Builders.
Following mission trips and beach retreats, I had the opportunity to go with two of my great friends, Dan and Richard, both of who are on staff at St. Stephen to the Hillsong Worship Conference in Brooklyn, NY. Words can’t describe how amazing the worship was, but the fellowship was great too. To be in one of the coolest places on earth, NYC, with two Godly men…it was amazing. Plus, we got to see NYC through the eyes of my buddy Dan, a guy who lived in the city for several years. From eating quite possibly some of the best wings in the world, to literally being stampeded by a hoard of rats (I’m not sure what you call a group of rats – hoard, pack, herd, covey, gaggle???), and worshiping God in some of the most intense worship services I have ever been a part of…NYC will never be the same!
And finally, we wrapped summer up with our family vacation. This year, I was able to take SupaLupaWife and the girls to one of my most favorite places in the world, Hilton Head Island. After a long summer of traveling, all for the Kingdom of God, it was great to sink our toes in the sand and relax. Who am I kidding…we’ve got a 2 year old and an 8 month old. The only sand we sank our toes into were the sandcastles Teaghyn-zilla smashed. As crazy as it can be though, to chase a toddler and balance an infant, it was a great time. Family memories were made that will last a lifetime. It’s been a crazy summer, but what an amazing couple of months we’ve had!