Since first coming to Costa Rica, Ashley and I have had plans in the works (and by in the works I just mean in our own heads) of integrating some kind of small groups into the youth program here. We didn’t want to change things all around when we first got here, but we did know that we wanted to implement these small groups on Tuesday nights. Tuesday nights have been solely a recreation night, meaning the kids can come and play foosball, ping pong, Wii, basketball or just hang out. While we have had some great experiences during Rec Night, Ashley and I have felt that this was sort of a waste of time and resources seeing how the kids can play all day at the mission anyways and that the time slot could be used for something more fulfilling. After going over some ideas with John and Maiko, we decided to keep Rec Night as is every other Tuesday, but change it on alternating weeks to a night of worship. Our plan was to take 30 mins to sing worship songs (played from YouTube with lyrics so the kids can sing along), 30 mins for some sort of small group discussions, and then another 30 minutes of free time at the end. We made the announcements of the change during several of the groups last week and put up some signs around campus with the new schedule for Tuesday night. It was official then, there was no turning back.
We came upstairs this past Tuesday night at 5 PM after having water balloon fights and contests most of the day. We would usually rest until 6 before going downstairs for Rec Night, but we went down at 5:15 to set up the sound system and the laptop to the projector. We had never actually set all these things up before, and I was a little worried we would all end up crowding around a laptop with crappy sound singing worship songs… and that would have probably been our last Night of Worship because no one would have shown up again. Thankfully, we got everything set up and waited anxiously for the first student to show up. 6 o’clock rolled around, and then 6:05. By 6:10, we were starting to panic a little bit and feel sorry for ourselves. We hadn’t taken into account before then that several of the guys that usually show up for Rec Night were at Camp Brittney and we would probably have had low numbers no matter what event it was, but it was our first time with our new program that we were in charge of and we were overly sensitive and paranoid that no one would show up. We started to plan out what the conversation with Maiko would be like in which we would tell him no one showed up to our first worship night, and then he would tell everyone during youth how disappointed he was in them, and then they would feel guilt tripped into having to go and it was just be an awkward mess. One thing has become unbelievably clear to us, if you want to know just how quickly the devil can take over and destroy something, then try and step out in faith and do something out of your comfort zone, something that makes you nervous and that you are unexperienced in… but all for the glory of God. You’ll see how fast the devil works if you let him. Thankfully, right in the middle of our pity party, Shirley walks in and sits down. We were relieved for a second, but then thought “What if she’s the only one that shows up? We can’t do small groups with only one person. What are we supposed to tell her: ‘Just read this passage and discuss it with…yourself’?” However, within a few more minutes, more students began to file in, some by themselves and some in groups, until we started our worship with 12 students. That is actually a really great number for the first night with kids at camp and all. On average, anywhere from 15-25 teenagers normally show up for Rec Night on a Tuesday night. We sang four worship songs in Spanish, a couple of which they were familiar with already and a couple of newer songs. Hopefully, we will integrate more new Christian music than the few songs they tend to play over and over in most of their ministry groups. We then had them break into groups of four students each and read and discuss 1 Corinthians 1. They took some time to read it as a group and we gave them a couple of basic questions to discuss with each other: What was your favorite verse of this passage and why? How do these verses apply to your life? And what does God want to say to you with this passage? When one of the groups was finished, Ashley walked over to them and asked what their favorite verses were. They panicked a little and said “OK, but only in front of you.” Maybe we didn’t make it clear that this was just small group discussion and not to be presented in front of everyone… but once we did, they were very relieved. We then let them do their usual games for the remaining half an hour, and thanked them all for coming as they left. On a normal Tuesday night, most kids come and go and aren’t usually that intrigued by games to stay for the whole two hours. But on our first night of worship, all 12 kids stayed for worship, small group, and games… until the very end.
The night ended as a huge success in our eyes. We planned out the details of our first worship night by ourselves, executed it in Spanish without a translator, and had a turnout of 12 students with several of the regulars out of town. I remember having a huge wave of peace and thankfulness come over me as I started singing that first song in Spanish, which was Tómalo. Tómalo is the Spanish version of Take It All by Hillsong. Ashley and I realized that sometimes you have to stop worrying, let God “take it all” and trust that He will be faithful to those that are trying to do His work. We’re very excited for what God has in store for our new Tuesday night schedule.