When our Schenectady City Life team told me that Tina was coming on our Snow Blast winter retreat I was nervous. Don’t get me wrong, I want as many kids as possible on our retreats because I want to see every kid have an opportunity to become a follower of Jesus. However, every now and then there is a kid that is just so challenging the there is potential for them to derail and entire trip. That was my impression of Tina. Our City Life staff have been working closely with her for over a year now and every story that I had heard about her was a difficult one. She had quickly built a reputation of having an attitude and being very negative.
My first experience with Tina was on a trip that she didn’t even attend. We were in Wildwood, NJ for the heatwave conference and Tina was calling one of our leader’s multiple times a day about concerns she had with one of the other kids on the trip. The first time I ever saw her was at an event at out facility in Halfmoon. She showed up, but she was completely disengaged and had a terrible attitude. Tina comes from a very difficult background with a lot of pain and hurt. She doesn’t hide it all and it often brings down an entire room. That is why I was nervous about Tina coming to Snow Blast.
The Tina that I was expecting and the Tina that came on this trip could not have been more different. She walked into the lodge with a smile on her face and she was ready to go. Throughout the entire weekend she was engaged, and she participated in every game and activity. Not only did she participate, she participated with a smile. I asked one of the staff if this was normal and they assured me that they had never seen Tina like this.
During one of the general sessions our speaker took some time to challenge the kids. He shared the hope of the Gospel and gave kids the opportunity to respond. He asked the kids if they struggled with identity and asked them if they wanted to truly know who God created them to be. He challenged them to stand up if that question applied to them. There was an awkward pause as nobody stood up at first. Suddenly, with tears pouring down her face, Tina stood up. She admitted in front of everyone that she didn’t like who she was and that she wanted to understand who God created her to be.
Before the retreat, we asked folks to pray for each kid who would be in attendance; that they would have their hearts ready to encounter Jesus. I believe that is why Tina behaved and reacted the way that she did. Tina has not yet become a follower of Jesus, but I believe that the seed has been planted. Would you please pray for Tina and the many kids like her in our ministries; that they would surrender their lives fully to Jesus?
*Names have been changed