A mission trip to Ireland helped
Bev Gibbon see God’s heart for the youth in Ireland.
This past July my husband Jon and I had the privilege of living out our school’s motto “Growing Christian Leaders.” Grace Christian Church of Cork, Ireland invited Chino Valley Community Church to bring a team of youth to help them host their first VBS. Their request was two-fold. One was to reach the children in and around Cork with the love of Jesus, and the other was to instill a desire into their teens to make a difference in their community. Since Ireland has one of the highest teenage suicide rates in all of Europe, this hope is much needed. Believing that teens are capable of being strong leaders, we spent five months partnering with our youth pastor and his wife, equipping and training our team of fourteen youths to run almost every aspect of a Vacation Bible School. These teens were the ones who would tell the stories, teach the craft time, perform the skits and lead in worship for an expected forty children.
Once we landed in Cork, we learned that in the previous month, seventeen teenagers from one small town near the church had committed a group suicide. Two weeks later, six more teens did the same thing. Our hearts were burdened for the teens in this area, and we prayed that God would somehow use us to offer hope to the youth at Grace. As the week unfolded, we watched God enable our youth team to connect with the teens from Grace Church. Those Irish teens were not accustomed to being in leadership positions, but as they served with our teens, they led not forty, but over eighty children through a week of Biblical truths and fun activities. Children from all faiths, including Buddhists and Muslims, participated in the “Holiday Summer Camp” and some gave their lives to Christ. Not only did our teens grow, but the Irish teens developed their leadership abilities and began to catch the vision that God can use them NOW to reach their communities for Christ. We left them knowing that God had begun a good work in all of us.
One Sunday, two months later, many on our team were tagged in a Facebook video. The teens from Grace Church were leading the children of the church in worship songs that we had taught them in front of their entire congregation. They sang “Wild About God” as they commissioned their children and teens to go into their public schools and share the love of Jesus. For many of them, this would mean being ostracized from friends and even family, but they are excited to see what God can do through them. With tears in my eyes, I praised God for allowing us to help these teens find a purpose for living. What a joy and privilege it was to play a small part in equipping this next generation of leaders around the world. That same privilege extends here at OC as we strive to grow Christian leaders from our school’s youth. Let us not grow weary in influencing our youth for Christ, but instead press, giving glory to God for the work He has done and will continue to do in future generations.