It was Election Day, and I was working in the DL Campus Coffee Shop, a church-affiliated establishment on Front Royal’s Main Street. A confession: I don’t write in this café because of its Jesus posters and religious music but because it’s quiet, the staff is pleasant, and patrons generally avoid bellowing into their phones as if their listeners were deaf.
There I was, tapping away on my laptop. Except for some older students gathered together on the sofas across the room—I assumed they were homeschoolers, given it was the middle of the day—the place was nearly empty. It was nice and quiet, just the way I like it.
And then those kids started to sing.
The hymn, as I discovered later, was “It Is Well with My Soul,” and their beautiful rendition stunned me. When they finished, I applauded and then introduced myself to several members of this group, including their adult leader, pastor Mark Hopkins. He explained that these young people were part of Encounter Revival Ministries, an evangelical team committed to a year of study and travel. They were in Front Royal for a week of services and singing at a local baptist church. Impressed by their smiles and general good cheer, I asked Mark about arranging an interview with some of them.
Two days later, I sat in the Rivermont Baptist Church Fellowship Hall with Mark and four of the young men and women who are part of the team. Lexi, who is Mark’s 17-year-old daughter, graduated from a Christian high school in Roanoke, Virginia. Jackalynn, 18, graduated from a public high school in Aspers, Pennsylvania, where she was class president. Nate, 20, hails from Bucyrus, Ohio, and is in his third year with the team. And Joey, 20, calls Honesdale, Pennsylvania, his home.
As we chatted, I learned that the group travels mostly in the fall and spring, staying with families from the churches hosting their visit. During the winter, they remain in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where in the summer they help operate a camp for young people.
My goal for this interview was to discover what they wanted from life. I fumbled as I searched for the right words to that question, but when Lexi answered, she gave me the very expression I needed. “My biggest passion in life is to be a missionary,” she said. “My brother and his wife are missionaries in North Africa.”
Passion for life! Those were the words I wanted.
“I don’t know about my passion,” Jackalynn told me. “I’d never thought of ministry until I joined the team, but I can see myself doing something there. I love children, and I love Jesus.”
Nate is the team’s youth evangelist who speaks to teens during their revivals. He credits these travels and studies with helping him prepare for future ministry work, possibly in missions. “I want to do the most important thing in life,” he said. “I want to share the Gospel.”
As for Joey, he said, “I might want to be a pastor, but whatever I do, I want to show people love. I want my door open. I want to show love to people in an age when love is wax cold.”
Our time together ended a few minutes later. They began preparing for their next event, and I returned home.
And my takeaway? I’d gotten what I had hoped for: a moment of staving off doubts about the future. These bright, cheerful young men and women who were living their faith, discerning their vocations, and offering love to others uplifted me, at least temporarily, from the sadness I often feel for our country and our future.
And so, when the days and years ahead seem to portend nothing but storms, black clouds, and fierce winds, I recommend looking for hope in some level-headed youth. People like these are increasingly rare, and moments like the one in the café should be cherished. Seek out some young people who have their wits about them, who believe in virtue and truth, and who know how to laugh and smile.
Their company is better for the soul than sunshine in January.
Image credit: Pixnio-Marko Milivojevic, CC09 comments