Friday, February 26, 2010

Does this look like prayer?

Does this look like prayer?

It actually didn't feel much like a prayer night.  There was mingling. Laughing. Interacting and fun.
Most of the time when we picture a prayer meeting it seems like something that may be stuff and boring.  Although ultimately important - still a bit uncomfortable.

We started off the night with some music.  Singing.  But not your typical songs.  We sang songs that were out of the culture that we could see God's hands in.  Bands like Collective Soul and Snow Patrol.  When it came to the song "Lean on me" the sound level in the room was deafening.

We moved into a time of confession.  Taking the things we wanted to say to God and nailing it to a cross. We also had a whiteboard in the room that was God's facebook on which people could write anything they wanted.  It turned into the most noisy prayer meeting ever.  It was more like a party as people interacted about life and the cross was the center of the interaction.  Every once and while your heard the nails being pounded in and that meant another amen. During this all we had DJ Chris Harrington mixing some great tunes.

The night took a different spin as we took some time to tell God about our passions.  We passed around a globe and people could write their prayers out for the world on it.  We also made a poster of the things that we are the most passionate about.

The night ended as we lit candles to represent our prayers to God.  It started off dark with only a few candles burning but by the end of the night the room was glowing.  
I loved seeing prayer.  I loved being able to grasp it and conceive it.  And to take a bunch of people who only a couple years ago wanted nothing to do with God to spending an entire evening in prayer with them really was a miracle.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Some hope from today

Today I sat on a hallway floor with a young person I haven't seen for sometime.  She is someone that can never seem to find her own worth.  I know for a fact that I can't fix her.  Nor can I try.  Fixing implies that something is taken and replaced.  Such as a part in a car.  I can't do that.  But I do hope for healing.

Today I sat in starbucks and was interrupted by a young person who is feeling so alone.  She has a hard time finding connections with friends and family.  Her eyes told a story of sadness and pain that she couldn't even attempt to communicate to me.  I was able to tell her how proud I am of some of the amazing changes that she has made in her life.  She perked up.  I hope for her to find some peace.

Today I sat with a friend that wants to help us with our work.  I had a chance to share our passion and he in turn share his ideas of how we can communicate that through the beauty of symbolism.  I hope for creativity.

Today I sat alone.  The young person I was suppose to meet never showed up.  I hope he is ok.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Is the light on?

"I want to be in the light. Not just stick my toe into it.  I want to jump in."
These are the words of a highschool student that Carmen and I met with last week.  This young person met Jesus in a pretty powerful way only a year ago.  Through a vision of him walking with her on the beach. He has pursued her in her darkest days often talking to her directly.  I know it may sound crazy, but HE DOES SPEAK TO HER.

Does he speak to you?

"I am a child of God. God is the best thing that has ever happened to me"

The young adult said so matter-of-factly (when in the past a mention of God this person would leave you with an earful of darkness and pain).  To him God did not exist.  Now something has changed.

Has something changed in you?

In both of these young people the changes have not come easy.  If being "born-again" is a phrase we want to use. Then for them the darkness was all they ever knew and with new birth you are ripped away from all you knew and the new life contains a lot of tears. Life in the womb may seem fine for a season but it is a place you cannot truly live.

Are you truly alive?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Confusion and Healing

This morning I read a sad article about a 17 year old that attempted to castrate himself because he was "dissatisfied with his identity and wanted to look like a woman".  In our own world of youth work this week we have talked with several teens about similar questions about their sexual identity.  Thankfully no one I know has gone to such extremes of self mutilation.  However I recognize the root cause of this well. 

The culture we live in has sexualized everything.  It is rare to see an advertisement, music video, television shows, or comedians that does not portray a sexual theme in their message.  I don't want to be misunderstood.  I think sexuality is an amazing aspect of being human.  It is something that should be portrayed as part of our experience.  However if someone is trying to mutate themselves to give way to the sexual pressures they are facing than we must stop and realize that something is broken.

For years the church perspective has been seen as one that condemns sexual practice publicly and seems to get caught within sexual scandals privately.  Sadly this is more true than many care to admit.  Both sides are broken.  One side overemphasizes and twists sexuality into something that unacheivable and unhealthy in a normal life (hence the reason that teens feel a sexualized pressure).  On the other side sexuality is something that is often stiffled and spoke about in hushed tones that would lead one to think that has no impact on the rest of our lives.  Enjoyed within marriage but not expressed or experienced anywhere else.

The truth of the matter is that sexuality impacts people at many different levels.  How they dress, with whom they associate themselves with, how they look at other people, and how they perceive the world around them. Some of the youth I work with have opened the doors of a church on sunday morning, shouted their sexual preferences into the open lobby of the building and then ran away.  Are there differences?  Big time.

I do see a trend of loving church people trying to reconcile the differences.  Sometimes it is hard to look past the behaviors of people and move into the issues that people face.  But that doesn't mean that they dont need some loving support.  We all have issues that we need to face, to challenge, and change before the pressure kills us, or leaves us maimed for life.  It could be gambling, abuse, drinking, lying, gossip, etc etc etc.  Sexuality is not the only pressure, it just seems that way some times.

Sexuality as portrayed in this newscast shows that some deep healing is needed.  If someone hurt that core of their identity they need to be challenged to figure out what their core beliefs should be.  As a youth worker I am committed to walking some of these difficult roads with today's youth.  If anyone wants to come to try to figure out life with my team and I we accept them.  It is messy and complicated, but it's honest and in honesty many people's ideas and identities can change.  There is hope for healing.  Lets pray for it.

Also take some time to read this article, it explains a lot of the reasons why I feel called to be a youth worker. Healing the Hurts of Broken Teens

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Youth Unlimited Olympics Spectacular

We are in Langley only a few miles away from the world stage of Vancouver during the 2010 games.  We thought that we would take the opportunity to host an olympic themed night with our group of youth.  Our numbers were a bit low, but how can you compete with the free olyimpc concerts featuring Our Lady Peace?

For those that came though we had an overly chessy and fun night.  I of course took the opportunity to represent my home land by dressing in red, white and blue (as well as dominating in the competitions as is the American way).

Among all the games and competitions that we had my favorite part took place as we held a medal ceremony for our youth.  However instead of awarding their athletic achievements we took a look into their characters and gave them each a word to represent what we saw.  For some it was growth, endurance, courage, or commitment. And they may have only been the bottoms of styrofoam cups tied with a string, but the words were golden.

It was a great excuse to use the olympic mayhem around Vancouver to encourage our "kids" in a very public way.  I love them all.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Questioning Life

Allow me to introduce you to one of the most useful youth work tools I have ever seen: Carmen's Question Ball.

My coworker Carmen spent hours meticulously writing all sorts of questions upon this ball. Questions ranging from the bizarre to the brutal. (i.e. What do you have in common with a carrot? Vs If you died tonight what would you want said about you at your funeral? Etc). The way it works is you throw it at someone and when they catch it you ask them to answer the question under one of their fingers (e.g. Under your right pinky finger).

This past Thursday we through the ball around the group. We laughed at some answers, we sat in stunned silence of others. We were able to her to know eachother better. As the night moved on we spent some time thinking of more questions we could ask eachother. We collected these and put them in a hat. Throughout the rest of the evening we tackled the questions that came up.

Favorite super hero?
Favorite band?
What is your picture of God?
Why does it seem like God doesn't give a rip about me?
Why do I hate myself?

There were more. Lots more. I'm not sure anyone walked out of the room with answers but hopefully they found a place where they feel safe to ask them. Who knows we may even figure out some of these things together.
Danny Ferguson
Langley Area Director
Greater Vancouver YFC / Youth Unlimited

I love being married to April

Monday, February 15, 2010

Searching for treasure

I have a confession to make.  I am a dumpster diver.  I actually enjoy looking through garbage looking for something that can be salvaged.   Of course I know part of this comes from the fact that I like free things.  I think the best find was the day I found a bunch of mannequins. That made for endless hours of enjoyment as I left these new friends in strategic places to scare people.  Ah memories.

However, as I was walking to meet my team at starbucks this morning I realized that my fascination had taken on a new level of obsession.  It was garbage and recycling day in our neighborhood and I found myself looking in the bins of stuff thrown out by my neighbors on the rare chance that I could find something of value.

I think God must have been listening in because I heard a voice say..."This is why you're a youth worker."  I spent the rest of my walk in silence thinking this over.  I came to the conclusion that this is a very accurate description.  

For instance:  A young lady was labeled a "lost cause" by some authorities in her life, this inspired me to search for the treasure and as my wife and I befriended her we found she had an amazing singing voice and created a talent show for her to display this reality.  She began to change. She finally had a voice.

A young elementary aged boy was a handful in school.  He was the bully in school, the trouble maker in class, and the delinquent on the street.  By the 6th grade he was into some pretty serious stuff.  The officals had lost hope, but I saw potential and so I sat waiting for hours to talk with his parents about the opportunity to befriend him.  They didn't understand why I'd want to.

These are just two cases, but there are many more.  Just as the Canadian YFC / Youth Unlimited motto goes.  
"we see the hope and potential in every young person"

I cant give up.  I have to keep looking.  I will find the treasure.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Oh the places I go.

Being a youth worker puts me in a lot of interesting places. I've been to the bowling alley until the wee hours of the morning. I've driven the streets looking for run-aways. I have sat alone in the stands watching curling matches and basketball games. However this week I went one place I had never gone before because of my job: the Barbie isle of Walmart. it was my honor to help a young lady shop for a gift for her younger siblings that she rarely gets to see.

Danny Ferguson
Langley Area Director
Greater Vancouver YFC / Youth Unlimited

I love being married to April

Monday, February 8, 2010

Hey What's Up?

Three simple words, "Hey Whats Up?" sent to me over a text message.  When I read this I realize it is message that is asking more than the obvious. 

It is asking if they still belong. 
It is asking if someone still cares. 
It is asking to be asked about their life - their day. 
It is asking to be remembered.
It is asking if they can be prayed for.

I don't respond to every text message I get, but this one from this individual will get an answer because I know what they are going through and I know what their three word question means.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Spiderwebs and Sunshine

It was her birthday so I bought her a drink at Jugo Juice and sat and listened to the latest happenings from her life. As I sat and listened I realized that she was only fifteen when I met her two years ago. In that amount of time I've seen her change a lot. After all she went from being an atheist to being baptized on my back porch. Even though life isn't easy on her I am proud of the woman she is trying to become. So as she finished up telling me about the present I asked her in one word to describe the past year. She instantly said, "spiderweb". When I asked what that represented she told me how of you look carefully at a spiderweb it is difficult to find any smooth lines and stuff gets stuck in it. When i asked her what word she would choose for the upcoming year she said sunshine. As in warmth, bright, and happy.
Those are words of hope. Of challenges. I hope her hopes are perceived this year as she continues in her journey of faith and relationship with God. Join with me as I cheer her on.

Danny Ferguson
Langley Area Director
Greater Vancouver YFC / Youth Unlimited

I love being married to April

Thursday, February 4, 2010

super powers

I've been working with youth for fourteen years now. Throughout the years I've learned a few things about interacting with young people that I've never met before. First impressions are important right?

One of the questions I ask frequently is "If you could have any superpower what one would you choose?" in all the times I have asked that question I has never heard this one before. What made it even better was the fact that it came from an 11 year old kid at the elementary school. His answer: not flight, invincibility, laser vision, nor invisibility. It was:

"super cologne: so i could get all the ladies."
Danny Ferguson
Langley Area Director
Greater Vancouver YFC / Youth Unlimited

I love being married to April

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Signs of our weaknesses

I was at the Vancouver International Motorcycle Show a couple weekends ago. Growing up I was never really into bikes. That may have something to do with my dad forbidding me to have anything to do with them. However I have found a beauty in the craft of motorcycle engineering and even the culture surrounding these two wheeled machines. I actually keep a motorcycle ad up in my office that proclaims "life is about the journey not the destination" that reminds me so much of my life with God. I am excited about the final destination but I don't want to arrive there too quickly. It also helps me remember that the good news that God has sent me to proclaim to people is not about a divine life insurance plan of getting into heaven when they die, but about living out the kingdom of heaven in our day to day lives. We as Christians don't always communicate that clearly. We have good intentions in our efforts of talking with people about God but it isn't always received in a way that allows others to see the good part of the news we call good news.

That was highlighted again for me when I found this helmet sticker there amongst the displays at the bike show. In case you can't see the picture that I attached to this post it reads, "born ok the first time". Which of course is a response to a phrase along the lines of "you must be born again". Now Jesus is the one that said that phrase recorded for is in John chapter three of the new testament so we can try to justify out own use of the phrase in the conversations we have with people. In the original context Jesus is responding to a religious leader inquiries of how to join his understanding of God and religion with Jesus' habits and attitudes. He recognized Jesus as being from God but didn't agree with how Jesus was living out his life. Jesus basically told him that he would never understand unless he would leave the safety of his paradigm and way of life. philosophically being reborn into something completely new. this religious leader sees this as impossible as climbing back into his motors womb as an adult. A visual that is neither pleasant nor to be taken literal. This leader basically felt the same way as the person who would purchase this sticker and put it on their helmet. I can't do that.

So the issue here is that while Jesus was speaking in a very specific way to an individual we have put in very non specific ways to the masses. we almost oppress others into listening to our reasoning about rebirth when Jesus himself said that reasoning couldn't be made until the rebirth process had already happen. I know you can't reason a baby to be born it just has to happen in its time.

So I'm not about forcing decisions upon people but rather waiting upon God and waiting for signs of labor. After all if birth happens too early in the pregnancy the child will not live. Let's stop worrying about the destination and really enjoy the journey.
Danny Ferguson
Langley Area Director
Greater Vancouver YFC / Youth Unlimited

I love being married to April