I am the leader of a group of middle school aged youth who attend the youth group at our church. Some of these kiddos are church members, but many of them are not. In a time when everyone seems to believe that our young people are totally lost and will inevitably be the downfall of the world, I'd like to share with you what these young people are doing this summer.
In case you don't know, we're in the midst of a flood here in southeastern Nebraska. Those of us in my community are high enough that we will be safe, but only a few miles away, our water treatment plant, our electric plant, and our friends are in BIG trouble. And this trouble is expected to last throughout the summer and into the fall. Our food pantry, which normally sees 5-7 people every other week, had 37 applicants this past Monday. Even if their homes are safe on the other side of the Missouri River, their employment may be in jeopardy if they work on this side as there is no way across unless you travel north to Omaha or south to St. Jo. People who were hurting already from the economy are now devastated by this latest disaster...and we're just in the beginning phases of it.
The middle school youth group at our church normally meets only during the school year because of vacations, ball games, and other summer activities. This year, though, the kids wanted to continue to meet, when they could so I've been eating lots of pizza and ice cream delights...and listening to them. These kids have helped family members and friends move out of their homes and into their basements or garages. They have watched as whole communities have been closed until further notice. And they want to do something.
This week they changed their group name to HOPE. And their first action under this new name was to create a fund for victims of the flood. They have no idea what the funds will be used for, but as the needs come to light, they want to address them. They identified possible needs of gasoline for people who's trips to work will now be more than three hours one way, or items they can't get at the food pantry like food for their pets, or extra childcare costs while the parents are commuting. These are just some ideas they talked about the other night.
Their second action was to begin to work with the mission organization of our church to provide layette kits for babies in need. They not only want to continue meeting one evening a week to move these projects forward, they asked if they could come two other days of the week, during the day. They want to take action, not just a little action, but massive action to do something to help others.
Of course, there was also a little talk about some fun things they could do, but I was impressed that the fun also included a little mission work. As an example, they talked about contacting a church in Omaha and asking how they could help them...painting, cleaning, childcare, food pantry. Once the work was finished, then perhaps a trip to the zoo, or a concert. But I was very impressed that they planned the work part first, and then the fun. They even talked about getting some fundraisers underway to pay for all of it.
Now, tell me again about how bad the young people of today are. As someone who has worked with young people for many, many years, I am well aware that our young people are under fire from all sides. Parents are less and less able to care for them, teachers seem to have given up and are so busy teaching so that "No Child is Left Behind" that they're not getting much help there, and our churches have either cut out youth groups or have forgotten how to reach them. Kids are no different than they were when I was young. They want to know that they count. They want to know that they are important. They want to do something important.
Well, they are!