Next week I take a group of over 50 teenagers to the Momentum Youth Conference. This will be my 23rd year going to this specific youth conference. That makes me feel really old ... although I'm still in my prime. :) Anyway, I'm a big fan of history. Love reading about it. Love thinking about it. And, I love experiencing it. Thinking about my 23rd year of Momentum got me thinking about my first years as a student. Below are a few pictures.
This is me just out of 8th grade and at my very first Momentum (then called Brethren National Youth Conference). I'm the stud on the left. I flew to Estes Park, CO, with one other person from my church ... Ron Sheranko. That's not him in the picture. Ron was one of my very best friends growing up. He's currently a pastor and he taught me so much about ministry and serving others. I remember this first year so vividly. I was at the conference because I qualified to be on a national Bible quiz team. I think I answered 1 question that year. :) But, what I specifically remember is encountering God in a way I never had before. There was genuine worship. There was heart felt sharing and openness. We were in CO, so I was able to see the mountains, walk in them, and experience God's creation first hand. This year, 1985, was pivotal in shaping my relationship with God. Ron and I came back from the conference with a greater heart for ministry and the two of us would go out every Tuesday night walking door to door asking people if we could pray for them and talking to them about Jesus. We were two teenagers, too naive to know this wasn't "normal" and passionate about fueling the fire God had placed in our hearts.
This picture is me in my second year at Momentum in 1986. We were in Bemidji, MN. This is the group I traveled with. So many fun memories with those people. I'm the kid on the left giving the "rabbit ears" ... even in 1986, it was a classic. What stands out to me from this year is I had a counselor named Scott. I had never met him before and have never seen him since. I received one letter from him after that conference. But, he said something to me at that conference that no one had ever said to me before. He said that he noticed some "special" in me ... a heart for God and a heart to serve. He said he felt like God had big things in store for me and that I was given some special gifts. He reminded me that Jesus said to whom much is given, much will be required and encouraged me to let God lead my life and use the gifts He's given to me. Even though that was over 20 years ago I still remember that conversation and where it took place. No one had ever said anything like that to me before and it was the first time that thought was placed in my mind that God could possibly be leading me to ministry.
This picture is in 1989, just after my senior year of high school. It's actually at the same university we'll be at this year for Momentum, Eastern Kentucky University. So many thoughts flood my mind as I look at this picture. Why am I in the fountain? Why am I wearing green and red and it's not Christmas? (No wonder I could never get a date in high school. haha). What could I be saying that's so interesting that 4 other guys seem incredibly focused on me and I'm saying it to a crowd of other people? I had just finished up a summer on a missions team called Operation Barnabas and my heart was full of a desire to serve.
That was over 20 years ago ... so much has happened in my life since then. There have been some great victories and some hard defeats. But, through it all, going to Momentum has consistently challenged me to grow and keep God at the center. I look forward to spending time with our teenagers this year and greatly look forward to hearing from God again. I feel like this is going to be a powerful week and would appreciate your prayers for me and the teenagers that will be going with our group.