by Amanda Waterson
Emily first started coming to youth in grade 9. She was from a different church in our city, but because they didn’t have a youth group as such, her parents, the pastors, allowed her to come to our youth group on Fridays and attend their church on Sundays.
Emily was often in trouble at school – and not always for small issues. She very soon became an issue at youth group. During the time Emily came to youth, numbers fluctuated between 60-130, so her behaviors became quite disruptive. She was rough with others at youth and quite often physically hurt leaders. Very quickly after her arrival on the scene, youth leaders would beg Graham to ask Emily not to come to youth. She wasn’t from our church, she was disruptive, she showed no signs of changing, and she hurt other leaders. Graham, however, saw past the behaviours into the pain in Emily’s heart.
Emily started coming to LAC (Live At the Chapel – a time after youth where we connect with God) where she started to connect with God – and this is where her transformation began. Her transformation wasn’t instant, it was long and laborious.
She joined our mission teams and began traveling with us on outback mission trips. While Emily brought life and laughter with her, she still had some issues she had to work through. I remember well a conversation we had around the clothes she was wanting to wear to a Police Memorial Service once.
Emily continued to connect with God, and through her highs and lows, learned to make Him her anchor. She grew into a beautiful, loving and confident (in other words loud), leader by the time she finished grade 12. What a transformation God had done in her life – just by her connecting with Him.
Emily began Bible College with iSEE in Brisbane after she finished grade 12. Since connecting in with a church called iSEE, Emily is on team as a youth group leader and has completed two international mission trips. She worked with orphans in Uganda and joined the mission team serving there, and later helped with a new church in India.
iSEE is a multi-campus church, and Emily is a youth leader on the West Campus. This youth group has many youth who behave in a similar way to the way Emily did when she first came to youth. Emily loves these kids with a persistent, relentless love and is an absolute perfect fit for this group. She has a boldness and a confidence that is packaged with a humility and a servant heart that would bring delight to any senior pastor. She serves with a smile and the room lights up when she enters.
It would have been very easy for Emily’s youth group to ban her from youth. They had many good reasons to. It would have been easy to overlook Emily on the outback mission trips when she was younger because she was ‘too much hard work.’ But if she didn’t have a youth leader in Graham, who despite pleas from his team to ban her, continued to love her anyway, she might not be where she is today.
Emily has led many young lives to the Lord and continues to exude love and life wherever she goes. She is loving, kind and generous – but remains loud and full of life. It is a humbling and scary thought to think where she might be if her youth leaders were after immediate fruit and gave up on her.
Youth ministry rarely has immediate fruit – be encouraged, the harvest will come.