Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: YOUTH (04/04/19)
TITLE: Far Out and Right On!
By Barbara Lynn Culler
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Every Wednesday night, teens sat knee-to-knee in the social hall of the small church on the hill, hungry to hear about God. A few haughty church members frowned at the hippie-like long-haired boys in purple corduroy pants - but the kids kept coming, in part because of the amazing adult leaders who showed unconditional love.
During my senior year, I participated in the youth choir that went on ministry and evangelizing tours, and those trips became prominent touchstones in my teenage world.
Our group was called “Spirit Sound,” and we looked totally rad: girls with hair parted down the middle, clad in long, red checkered dresses, blended well with shaggy-haired boys in black and white. Our musical repertoire consisted of contemporary tunes mixed with beloved hymns, and usually ended with a heart-tugging song. The gospel message was presented, followed by some form of altar call. Decisions for Christ were made both from the audience and from the kids themselves.
For our inaugural trip during Easter break of 1973, the church bus, overflowing with kids and adults and followed by still more in private cars, headed to Arizona. Providing our own food supplies cut down on expenses, and everyone was assigned daily chores. Teens and adults crashed in sleeping bags on church floors. Girls and guys were always appropriately separated, though pranks inevitably occurred
Our first locale was a small mission on an Indian Reservation. I can still recall feeling the joy emanating from the people as we worshipped with them in their tiny chapel that evening.
The next morning, we were broken into pairs to go door to door inviting people to our concert that night. I was coupled with “David,” a guy I did not really know, but we clicked and were soon inseparable. Of course, the adults always kept a close eye on all the couples.
Our schedule included kid programming in the morning and concerts in the evening of each city we visited. We had plenty of play time as well. I remember one morning we awoke to find snow on the ground in Flagstaff. No one was prepared for wintry weather, but we enjoyed frolicking in it before heading off to spend the day romping on a simple water slide in the hills of Phoenix.
Our final two nights were spent in Lake Havasu City, and during the long journey home I relived how David and I propelled a paddle boat on the placid lake beneath London Bridge the previous afternoon.
In late summer, a second trip led us through Central and Northern California, though I have more memories of sight-seeing than of the concerts and kid groups. We ate pastries in Danish-themed Solvang, played in the surf of Pismo Beach, toured Hearst Castle, camped in Placerville, and wandered in San Francisco. One of our crazy youth leaders drove our church bus through the zigzagging Lombardi street. What a thrill!
Still a couple, David and I had fun. One of our stops was at the state capital in Sacramento where he managed to pluck a rose bud for me from the Reagan Rose Garden. It remained pressed into my Bible for many years, though we broke up the following year. We remain friends to this day.
That little church on the hill disbanded a few years later, but I treasure my time there. Our youth leaders loved unconditionally and helped us grow in many ways. On top of dealing with hormone-driven teens and all our angst, they redirected our erroneous ways, taught us how to share our faith, and modeled how to minister to others. One pastor had a slogan that he flung at us whenever the whining started:“Adjust and Cooperate.” That motto carried me through many life challenges.
I truly believe that all kids need to be in a Christ-oriented youth group. My experiences during the Jesus Movement, especially the choir tours, influenced my life choices into adulthood. In the slang of the 1970s, they were far out and right on! Those times were cool and awesome, and I felt loved.
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