I'm tired right now - really tired. I returned from four days in Pittsburgh that were absolutely exhausting, but absolutely energizing. I want to tell you about my trip with the hope that you might begin to think creatively about how CPYU can serve you and your community.
The vision for this trip was birthed several years ago by some folks at the North Hills Reformed Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh. As they began to examine how to best utilize CPYU's presence not just as an event, but as a ministry tool, God opened doors for a relationship between the church and the Pittsburgh Alliance Against Drugs - a non-sectarian organization headed by some wonderfully passionate and energetic folks who want children and teens to be spared from the scourge of drug abuse and addiction. Working together, the church and the Alliance planned an aggressive schedule for my visit. As the plans were put together, other folks and institutions joined the effort, and what resulted was an absolutely amazing few days that are already serving as a springboard for further ministry in the Pittsburgh area, particularly in the public schools.
Here's what we did. . . .
Their preparation was amazing. They set up a website, scheduled interviews on major radio stations in the area, and blitzed Pittsburgh with publicity. In addition, the folks at the church prayed diligently, something that was very, very obvious during my time in town.
On Thursday morning I spent several hours with a large group of 8th grade students who have been indentifed as peer leaders on their respective public school campuses. Students came from over 15 districts, along with their teachers and counselors. I challenged and equipped them to think critically about their media choices, taught them how to process media through our brand new Minding Your Media 3(D) Media Evaluation Guide (based on character and virtue), and then sent them off with a charge to make a difference among their peers by teaching them to do the same.
We packed up and headed over to Eden Christian Academy, the second-largest Christian School here in Pennsylvania. My good friend and CPYU Board Member Sam Siple is doing an amazing job in leading an institution that is committed to teaching students to engage God's world from the perspective of a Christian world and life view. I spent the afternoon with all the middle and high schoolers, along with a large contingents of teachers and parents. What did we do? I used our faith-based version of our 3(D) Guide - How To Use Your Head To Guard Your Heart - teaching them how to make God-honoring media choices from the perspective of mindful critique as opposed to mindless consumption. It was a refreshing group of kids who are trying to find their way through adolescence and into a Godly adulthood. What a privilege it was to be with them!
By the way, with both of the aforementioned groups we focused on evaluating and discussing Katy Perry's new hit video, "Hot and Cold." It's well worth talking about!
That evening, I spoke to a large group of parents, educators, and community members at the Pine Richland High School Auditorium. This non-sectarian presentation on numerous aspects of contemporary youth culture led to lots of good discussion afterwards.
The next morning was a highlight for me. Orchard Hill Church graciously offered their state-of-the-art building to the Alliance for a resource fair, presentation on youth culture, and a panel discussion. Members of all youth-serving sectors were present, and I was told to enlighten them not only to trends in today's youth culture, but to offer distinctively Christian responses. I love opportunities like these! We ended the morning with a panel discussion, featuring members of the Pittsburgh area drug treatment community (Doctors, Social Workers, etc.), along with yours truly, a pastor, and a Biblical counselor. Again, my discussions afterwords were quite fruitful.
But the day didn't stop here. I was back to the North Hills Church for a six-hour afternoon and evening presenation on "Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture." The great majority of those present were seminary students, who we trained in cultural exegesis.
A short night of sleep (sort of!) was followed by a five-hour faith-based presentation at the North Hills Junior High School Auditorium on Understanding Today's Youth Culture. Again, it was a wonderful time of interaction and conversation.
Here's an interesting story from Saturday morning. . . . and it shows just how God answers our prayers. As I walked into the building I was following a group of back-pack clad students who were being quietly led to Saturday detention. . . that's right. . . . The Breakfast Club. One female student arrived late for detention and was not allowed in. On her way out of the building she stopped at a prayer booth. This had been set up to offer folks who were struggling with a variety of spiritual and relational issues to write out a prayer request, which the folks at the church were committed to praying for. The church then promised folks they would follow-up with them in two weeks. After filling out a card and requesting prayer, the young girl left. She returned a few minutes later with her father, who also spent time at the prayer booth. Their circumstances - a sister/daughter addicted to heroin - was what led them to return. Now, the church has a great opportunity to do ministry in a family with deep need! But it didn't stop there. When the detention was over, two of the boys who had detention stopped by a booth for a crisis pregnancy center and entered into a one-hour conversation with the director. They too, left the building. But they came back. . . . .with their parents. . . . who also entered into conversation with the director.
The needs of the world are great. I am grateful for the folks in Pittsburgh who have developed a deep vision for meeting those needs in obedient response to the One who has given them life. And, I'm especially grateful to the God of great surprises who always does more than we could ever imagine or ask for.
I'm back in Lancaster right now. The weekend in Pittsburgh is a memory. Still, God is there and is at work, using our meager efforts to further His Kingdom and bring glory to Himself.
I'd love to be a part of this kind of thing elsewhere. How about it? Can we serve you?