Anyone who has visited the Justin Building while it’s full of teenagers, music, and strange games can attest to the fact that it has its own brand of magic. In the outside world, this magic can also be called “chaos.”
This summer has been full of this specific magic. In fact, we just returned from a weeklong mission trip based at Lyle Lodge, during which we sweat profusely, did good work around the community, and may or may not have taken a tree to the face. Prior to that, 39 middle schoolers took over the Justin, played with kids, and did some intense weed pulling. Even before that, we took a group of teenagers to Camp Barnabas in Purdy, Missouri, to hang out with some incredible special needs kids for a week. Relaxing summer, right?
Our summer theme was centered around the Sermon on the Mount and the particular section I was given to speak on dealt with storing up your treasures in heaven rather than Earth. My lovely co-worker/friend Matt defined it to me as “pieces of heaven,” and it stuck. Throughout these trips, I was reminded why the Youth Group has always been my piece of heaven. By this, I mean the people within the Justin who make it come alive–the teenagers. They are loud, tend to get into things they’re not supposed to, and on more than one occasion have made me sigh and say, “This might as well happen.” They are also, however, full of selflessness, humor, and boundless love. Experiencing them as a teenager in the Youth Group myself was one thing, but being able to come back and see them from an older, more outside perspective has been an unexpected gift. After spending nearly an entire month with anywhere from five to approximately 40 youths at a time, I can honestly say I’ve never met such an incredible group of people.
There are middle schoolers whose rowdiness and already tight-knit bond remind me of my own first years in the Youth Group, as well as freshmen and sophomores who are just stepping up into leadership for the younger kids. The group I can say with confidence I am the most proud of, however, is the juniors and seniors who I knew as little middle schoolers when I was graduating. They are brilliant, kind, and probably some of the funniest people I know. Getting to come back and see how much they’ve grown has been one of my favorite parts of this job, as well as a perfect example of what the Justin brings out of people–the generosity, empathy, and love that comes from being a piece of heaven. All that chaos, the magic that inhabits this place, is unique to middle and high school kids. At my university, we have a saying: “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it; from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.” I’ve found that’s the most apt description of the Justin and the people within it.
I have cherished my time here and look forward to when I am next able to experience some of that signature Justin Building magic. Until then, I will hold on to the fact that all the eggs are broken, grab some emergency Cheez-Its, and continue to celebrate Alpha Chad.