There are a few select places in the world where someone can feel completely safe and accepted. Somewhere where they can be themselves in front of other people. People that care about their futures, not to mention their eternal souls. For me, that place is not necessarily in one stationary spot, it's wherever the people in it are at.
My church youth group has become an extended family to me. Every single person in it holds a special place in my heart, and every one of them is not like the other. There's my closer circle of friends, my girls, the ones that are in my grade, and go to my school and never fail to be an ever-present aspect of my life. These girls are my rock, they're my best friends. When I look back on my high school years, all of the good times spent with them with most definitely come to my mind first and foremost.
Then there's the odd ducks, the loners, the skaters, the goths and the nerds. Yet at church, none of that matters. We still say hello to each other, we treat each other with the respect that they deserve and the respect that Jesus asks that we give. I don't know what it is about being there, but I never feel out of place, or that I have to be someone that I'm not to gain the approval of the people around me. I hope that everyone else feels the way I do, because sometimes we all need a home away from home.
I'm so blessed to have such a great group of people that want nothing but the best for me. I have an ever-present force behind me, which makes it so easy to understand how fantastic God's love is for us. He gave us the ability to love and support each other so that His love can be felt as that impenetrable force.
These people have heard my testimony, they've heard about how far I've come and most have been around long enough to see me through it. Without them, I honestly don't know where I'd be. They know my struggles and pray for me. In return I try to know everyone by name, each and every single person that comes through our doors on Tuesday evenings should leave feeling that they were welcome. In time I learn about their struggles, and so the cycle continues.
Never once have I said, "Wow, I really wish I hadn't gone to youth group today." I don't regret missing out on things I could have been doing instead of being at church. I don't regret going to church instead of being lazy and staying home on the couch, in fact, it's the complete opposite. If I don't go I feel like I missed something funny that Gage did, or an important message that Tom shared, or my friends' little brothers trying to be cool and failing miserably once again.
I have so much thanks for all of these amazing people that have changed my life. Oakland Youth Group, I owe you one.
"So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him."
"So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers."
1 John 4:19
"We love because he first loved us."