By: Ashley Eddy
It’s hard to summarize what God has been up to with the teenagers at OCC. As leaders, we make plans and have high hopes for specific things we think God will do in the year ahead. More often than not, it seems that his plans are different from ours. When I met with some of the other leaders toward the end of 2014, I knew I’d be taking on more responsibilities in the coming year. I’d be leading a breakout group in addition to the morning Bible studies, which would mean more studying and preparation during the week. I expected my faith to be both stretched and tested, and I expected to be a little exhausted, but I never thought I’d end 2015 with ten teenagers calling me “Mom.”
Our goal was to take a small step toward realizing the vision of having each middle and high school student in a small group where they could get more direct teaching, have the freedom to ask questions, and — most importantly — be known. We didn’t have enough leaders or space to start groups for everyone, but we also knew there was no use in sitting around waiting for better circumstances if God was saying “go.”
The plan was a good one: I would take a group of up to ten kids and start a group. I had already been helping to lead come-and-go Bible studies before the service on Saturdays, so I would hand-pick some of the regulars to ask about joining the breakout group to meet later in the morning.
For approximately two weeks, this plan worked beautifully. I prepared elaborate lessons that involved parallels and cross references between the Old and New Testament. The kids were calm, knowledgeable, and asked insightful questions. Then, some of the older teenagers started showing up and making things a little more chaotic. We quickly grew too large and split into two groups. Most of the more studious ones went with another leader, and I was left with a group that looked nothing like what I originally expected. They weren’t very excited about cracking open the Bible, their questions were all over the map, and I wasn’t quite sure why they kept coming back every week. Whatever the reason, I’m glad they stuck around, because they’re some of the greatest kids I know.
Each Saturday morning, they greet me with a chorus of “Mom! Moooom! You’re late!” as I chug what’s left of my coffee and hurry from my car to set up Bible study. Later, in breakout group, we spend time chatting, laughing, studying, and praying. We’re currently working our way through the Gospel of Matthew and getting to know who Jesus is according to the Bible as opposed to what we’re sometimes told about him. Group time is rarely organized, the lessons never go as I imagine they will, and we always get off topic. But I’ve learned to trust that God knows what the group needs better than I do.
In June we took a group trip to New Smyrna Beach, and my mom nervously agreed to help with the driving. I felt somewhat guilty for asking her to give up her entireSaturday to drive teenagers around, but by the end of the day she was insisting that I invite her the next time we planned something. She went on and on about how funny and respectful and appreciative and kind they all were. After that, she became “Grandma” to them.
Since then, we’ve had a couple more outings, and they’ve gone on to claim my niece as their cousin, my brother-in-law as their uncle, and my dad as their grandpa. One of the girls told me she thought it was cool how my family and I were so willing to “adopt” a bunch of teenagers, but I might be even more grateful that they didn’t give us a choice.
I’m glad God put me in this place. I’m glad he gave me a bunch of teenagers who test the limits of my car speakers, mix together ice cream flavors that should never be mixed, find humor in almost any situation, and voluntarily approach tattooed strangers in an attempt to embarrass me and/or find me a boyfriend.
Psalm 113:9 says, “He give the childless woman a family, making her a happy mother. Praise the Lord!” (NLT). Praise the Lord.
On a larger scale, we haven’t been able to do as much as we’d hoped with the teenagers at OCC this year. We haven’t had enough leaders, and the structure hasn’t worked out quite as we’d planned. Thankfully, we aren’t ultimately in control. Some weeks are hard, because being a teenager is hard, and actions and emotions don’t always make sense. Other weeks, we get to glimpse the mighty work God is doing in and through the students. My small group this year has been a constant, beautiful reminder to me that God knows what he’s doing, and he’s not through with OCC.