Gateway: Living

Helping teens discover Gospel’s message can have lasting impact

I recently attended a dinner in the home of a sailing family.

I see this as good since Jesus seemed to have an affinity for sailors and fisherman. Present at the table was this family’s only child, now a young woman. Her face light up as she recalled that her family began sailing when she was 5 years old and at that young age there were jobs for her on the boat.

This woman, now in her 30s, could remember the various duties she had on the family’s boat depending on the stage of her life. At 10 years old, she knew she had to sail with her parents because her skills were needed in order to operate the boat.

Well they probably could have sailed without their 10-year-old laboring on board. Yet at the time she was convinced otherwise.

A friend told a similar story about family camp-outs. A blended family of six, once they arrived at their campsite, each child had their own duty, from unloading the car to unpacking the camp kitchen. There was no question about anyone being left at home because everyone had a job to do.

We recently returned from a Youth Mission Trip to LapWai, Idaho, the capital of the Nez Perce American Indian Reservation in Idaho. Imagine a group of teenagers up at 6:30 in the morning to prepare meals followed by cleaning up. Then off to worksites to paint in the heat, care for young children, sit with the elderly and pack food boxes. They slept on the floor cheek to jowls.

Did I mention we had one bathroom (a room with one toilet and one sink) for males and one for females? Oh, and there were about 50 of us staying in this space called “The Cave.” It was kind of a miracle that no one ran off.

Not only did they stay, they kept their eyes and hearts open to the struggles of others. We were able to work and serve at this community’s request. The trip’s organizers were invited to LapWai because they so honor the community members lives, beliefs and dignity. We were part of a larger whole where our gifts and skills were needed.

The young people, especially, were shown that each us is a contributing member in God’s kingdom.

One young man later mentioned how hard it was to leave his friend’s lake house with jet skis. He did not want to work in 90-plus degree heat and hear churchy talk.

Funny thing ... it turns out the week in LapWai was the high point of his summer.

The Gospels do not offer specific tips for raising teens. Maybe the training is in what Jesus taught the disciples, the disciples who some scholars believe may have been in their late teens or early twenties. Jesus taught: feed, heal, and clean — wash one another’s feet.

Possibly one of the best teachings — whether religious or otherwise when it comes to youth — is they need to make a contribution to those they love and those who need love.

It’s the kind of contribution that is remembered years later — maybe around the dinner table or possibly standing in line waiting for the bathroom.